Eight Ways To Avoid Photography Clichés
Taste is a subjective concept in photography, as in all the arts, but if you have ever seen a ‘tacky,’ over-processed image, you will spot bad taste instantly. Here are some common pitfalls to watch out for in order to ensure your images are as tasteful and sophisticated as possible…
1) Don’t oversaturate
While bold primary colours can look great, oversaturated psychedelic colours can be a real no no. Common areas where you tend to see this are in sunsets, or in blue skies.
The golden rule of image editing is that less is more, so increase the colours incrementally. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback or a second opinion too – the more you stare at something, the more you get used to it, but somebody seeing the colours for the first time might rightly question your judgement!
2) Avoid HDR
HDR is still overused, though thankfully it’s also becoming a very dated effect, so you see it less and less. As with colour saturation, when used sparingly HDR can help images to look sharper and more detailed, but when it’s ramped right up, the images just look ‘too’ real.
Unless you like your images to look dated and unrealistic, HDR effects should be approached with caution.
3) Be careful with on-camera flash
Another tacky effect is full-on flash indoors – the subject looks brightly exposed, like a deer in headlights, while the background is murky (often the full-on lighting has removed all gradation of tones in the face of the subject, too).
Either bounce the flash off a wall or ceiling, or consider using some kind of flash diffuser to soften the effect.
4) Avoid eye contact in nude/boudoir photography
Without wishing to sound prurient or old fashioned, if you encourage your model to look at you provocatively when you are doing nude portraits or boudoir work, it looks tacky, like low-rent ‘glamour’ photography.
Unless you want images that look like something from the worst tabloid, try and avoid eye contact in every shot.
One of the more tasteful ways of photographing nudes is to concentrate on the outlines and contours of the body rather than always including the face and eyes in there. I’m reluctant to dictate ‘rules,’ but this is one that makes sense.
5) Be careful about ‘shocking’ subjects
Michael Freeman, a My Photo School tutor, raises an interesting point in his famous book, The Photographer’s Mind.
You can sometimes offset the effect of quite shocking and some would say disgusting subject matter – he uses the example of calf foetuses on sale at a Thai market – by applying nice lighting. However, I still think most people would recoil at the subject matter.
Unless you are deliberately setting out to shock or make a point, be careful how you handle distasteful subjects – don’t photograph them gratuitously, as you run the risk of turning people off your photography full stop.
6) Try to avoid cliché
Another sign of poor photographic taste is photographing subjects in very cliched and predictable ways. Beauty spots at sunsets, seascapes using very long exposures, ‘gritty’ street photography in black and white – the list goes on.
While these images may show you have got the hang of a particular technique, any viewer with more than a passing knowledge of modern photography will soon be stifling yawns.
Try to add your own creative stamp to your photographs, rather than just copying approaches you see praised in photography magazines.
7) Expose yourself to ‘good’ taste
If you talk to a lot of famous photographers, they are happy to acknowledge the debt they owe to other photographers, and admit they are standing on the shoulders of giants.
So make sure you too are regularly looking at images by the great photographers (and other visual artists) and question why you think an image works, and what you like about it.
This not to say you should slavishly copy a famous image – who needs another Mona Lisa? – but you can develop a sort of database of great work in your head that you can refer to and draw inspiration from. See what is winning competitions too, and read the comments of the judging panel.
8) Get feedback from authoritative sources
As mentioned, it can be hard to judge taste, but getting feedback on your images from a respected source will give you some pointers. Rather than relying on the local camera club, put your images up for scrutiny from a national photographic organisation, such as the Royal Photographic Society,
The Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers, the Master Photographers Association, and so on.
Aiming for a distinction or entering a competition is a great way to see if your images are as ‘tasteful’ as you think they are! Tell Us What You Think!
Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 9 is a follow-up version of Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 2013. Some videos still feature the previous version’s screen, however the shown functions remain unchanged in the new version. Use the free-hand tool to draw lines and shapes, With […]
Available light is as expressive and a whole lot less expensive than store-bought light. The available-light strategy makes a lot of sense for many photographers for several reasons: Good light is usually easy to find, it comes in all varieties (flat, contrasty, bright, or dim), […]
There’s no right or wrong way to compose a photo. However, there’s just something inherently pleasing when curves are included in an image. When you look at a photograph your eye naturally wanders around it. Curves are a good way of deliberately guiding the eye […]
After many years as a keen amateur photographer, I decided to start a small landscape photography business called Lakescenes which I ran alongside my main job as an IT Manager. As business increased, I found myself working long, but rewarding, hours just to keep up […]
Rob Sheppard is a naturalist, nature photographer and videographer who says his favorite location is the one he is in at any time. He is the author/photographer of over 40 books, as well as a well-known speaker and workshop leader, and a Fellow with the […]
Gary Hart has photographed California’s natural beauty for over 30 years. Gary’s photos and writing have appeared in many publications, most recently Outdoor Photographer and Sierra Heritage magazines. You’ll also find his images in greeting cards, postcards, calendars, and many galleries and private collections throughout the world.
Originally from Poland, based in London UK, Jaroslav has background in Fine Arts, degree in Architecture, and wide array of experience. Being an Architect taught him how to be resourceful and to solve complex problems with simple, yet innovative solutions. Constant passion for graphic & […]
I love the texture of old heritage photos, particularly those that have been kicking around for some years and which have managed to accumulate folds and crinkles. While it can take many years for a printed photo to develop this sort of quality, luckily Photoshop […]
Five of the world’s top Olympic sports photographers talk about what it’s like to shoot the biggest sporting event in the world. Getty Images photographer Streeter Lecka puts it best: “The Olympics are unlike anything you will ever shoot in sports,” he says. “For professional […]
Camera makers are trying everything to revive the tanking market of low-end shooters. Their latest gambit? Insanely long zooming cameras that reach across vast swaths of land. But zoom is just another sweet-sounding spec that could leave you with crappier pictures. Way back in the […]