A unique piece of photographic art or the popular choice: what do you prefer?
We all want our photographs to be appreciated, loved, even just ‘liked’ - so we need them to stand out, be noticed, be different. We all have a choice - whether it’s about what art we put up on our walls, or what photographs we take. Do we go for something popular, the safe choice? Or find something unique, something a bit different - and run the risk of someone criticising our choice?
One photographer’s art is another photographer’s cliché… There are literally billions of photographs taken every year, so you would think it must be getting pretty hard to come up with something new that hasn’t been done before.
This week one of my online photography groups suggested a topic for us to shoot that, to be honest, I hadn’t heard of. So I googled it - and discovered lots of images, videos, how tos, etc, etc. But what I found was that very quickly all the images started to look the same to me. Sure the colours or perspective varied a bit, but essentially they were all so similar that I was soon feeling bored.
What was the topic? Macro shots of dandelion seeds standing in liquid. But I can name lots of other photo subjects that are similarly popular but have been done so much they have become boring… how about the glass globes in landscapes, the light orbs at night, writing with sparklers, selective colour in a black & white image, over-the-top HDR, the jetty/lake combo… the list is long.
That got me thinking. When I take groups on a workshop or photography tour, we are all in the same location at the same time with similar gear - yet we are always surprised at how different everyone’s photos are. So why are these clichés all the same? Sometimes it’s that a simple subject without much real variation just doesn’t wear well with repetition (dandelion seeds). Or it’s using some form of gear or processing to trick up what is basically a very ordinary image (HDR slammers, I’m looking at you!). Or it’s following someone’s video instruction to the letter rather than creating your own take on a subject or technique.
So I tackled the dandelion seeds - firstly in the popular ‘macro of tiny seed in water/milk with droplets’ way, but then I ignored the standard style and studied the seed head to create my own approach to it. Examples of both approaches are here… (caveat - these are all what I’d call quick and dirty shots - not a lot of time in prep, shoot or post, but they are good enough for examples!).
So, over to you… do you find those subjects are clichés, or do you love them and find them inspiring? Which of my photos do you prefer? Do you have other clichés you hate?