My lucky guess is it somewhat irks you that these days every other person with a camera calls herself or himself a photographer. Seems unfair that some spend years learning all those cool tricks and techniques while others just take a few mundane shots, start promoting their art right from the get-go, and get popular in narrow circles.
So, is all the time and effort one has to put in to become a professional photographer worth it if others get an equal share of “fame” without the struggle?
My answer’s a definite yes. To start with, photography is so much more than the climactic button press. It’s a form of art, a new language with an alphabet you need to know in order to read and speak freely and comprehensively. Only then will you be able to formulate new concepts in the language rather than just going on repeating the same idiomatic sentences from times long past.
And, in fact, it’s pretty easy to differentiate between a photographer and an imposter after a brief glance at the portfolio. You’ve probably noticed how the same topics, same kind of shots with different watermarks show up in portfolios all over the web.
So, let’s discuss the so-called clichés almost every photographer’s portfolio already contains, and find out whether your portfolio needs a makeover.
1. Flowers, fall leaves on the ground, pets, even pets wearing sunglasses.
Okay, so your gram has a nice garden with roses, leaves do turn yellow in the fall, and you love your dog. It’s all very sweet and in good fun but ultimately, like my first photography teacher Albert used to say, we need to distinguish between “photo album” photography and the real kind.
2. Railroads or postcard-y panoramas and landscapes.
For Leo Tolstoy, trains were a real issue, symbolizing the death stare of urbanism and the inevitable collapse of technological innovation. For us, well, it’s not that serious. Besides, we all had our hipster times. It may be time to move on.
3. Heavy vignette (this includes white vignette, too).
When a professional photographer sees this, his or her brain immediately labels you as an amateur who just found out you can play around with brightness and saturation. Same goes for Bokeh.
4. Selective coloring on a B&W background.
We all have those subjects or objects that brighten up the sordid environment of the everyday but taking the sentiment so literally verges on tacky.
5. Abstract patterns, street art or frames.
Are you a photographer or the PR manager of a certain graffiti artist? They say everything is a copy of a copy but your photos don’t have to be images of images. Shoot something worthy of filling up a frame.
6. People jumping or running hand in hand, footsteps on sand or snow.
Aren’t they tired already? Let them stop and catch their breath. Good. Those people need to finally get somewhere. Thank gods for Google Maps.
7. Selfies, your own reflection elsewhere.
It’s a part of the photographer’s job description to pretend to be void of mere mortals’ narcissism. Also, adding text to your photos may not be the best idea either. Images are an act of defiance against the particularity of text. If you can’t express yourself through photography, write a brilliant book instead.
8. Splashing water or sand back with your hair.
The first 10 times you see something like that you’re like, “Oh, cool”. The next 50 times you go, “Oh, ok”. The 100 times after that are usually just a tad less interesting. You got the point.
And showing a heart with fingers is something The Beatles did a long time ago, except more expressively.
9. Dutch angle.
Unless the shot specifically questions the photographer’s level of inebriation that is.
10. Empty music halls.
Those raise too many questions about the circumstances under which the photo was taken and almost no question about anything else. Tell us if you’re friends with the music hall’s management and we’ll leave you alone.
A bonus cliche, just for you: Too much HDR.
I know you came to object, “But HDR was invented for a reason, right?” Sure, but same goes for sleeping pills. Don’t swallow a whole pile of them. Trust your sense of measure, reader.
To prevent accusations of radicalism, here’s a disclaimer: Sometimes each and every one of these definitely work in a shot. In all other cases, hope this article was helpful enough to prevent your future “sins.”
Any other clichés you’ve noticed? Feel free to share those in the comments below.