Friday, July 18, 2014

The Definitive Top 10 list of Photographic Clichés

I picked this for the double meaning of the word "refuse." 

The only list you will ever need on this subject.*

10. Anything photographed at the so-called "golden hour." The light here is soft and golden and can produce long, dramatic shadows. It is used so often that we may now consider it a cliché. Avoid at all costs.

9. Daytime after or before the golden hour. Only neophytes, tourists, and lazy people shoot during this time of harsh light. Some pros use it to dramatic effect or compensate with hella flash, but that's already played out.

8, Night photography. Seriously, it's been done to death. Cities, landscapes, especially with light trails, or starry nights in the background - Zzzzzz.

7. Nature. Including pets and wildlife. Flowers, landscapes, sunsets, etc. Go ahead, google it.

6. Man-made. Machinery of all kinds and the paraphernalia needed to house, lock, link, and otherwise support said machinery- industrial, transportation, household, etc. After Metropolis, what else is there to say on the subject?

5. Architecture, sculpture, and other works of art. Come on, you're taking credit for another artist's work! Oh, and let's call this 5a - Staging a work of art à la Cindy Sherman or Sandy Skoglund and photographing it as the final product of the art.

4. Color, especially extreme oversaturation, HDR, and desaturation. Selective desaturation goes without saying.

3. Black & White It's the oldest kind of photography (not counting camera obscura here), so it's had a lot more time to develop (no pun intended) into the high form of cliché that it is today.

2. People - where to even begin? Babies, toddlers, youngsters, tweens, teens, adults, old people. Selfies. Locals, celebrities, people from other cultures. Weirdos, extreme normalcy, hippies, hipsters, characters, family, strangers, people on the street, people at work, homeless people, people doing silly things. Pretty, ugly, indifferent. Head shots, full body shots, environmental portraits, weddings, ceremonies in general, sports, dance, parades. Individuals, couples, groups, crowds. I've seen enough people to last the lifetimes of all the people I've seen in photos.

And the number one cliché is

drum roll........
1. PHOTOGRAPHY! Saw that one coming I'm sure. Let's face it, we're nearing the point where every person on earth has a camera and an itchy trigger finger, snapping along throughout the day and posting on social media. Here's a quick rule of thumb in case you forget all the clichés listed above that you must avoid - if you are pointing a camera at something, anything, at any time of day or night, and snap a picture, it's a cliché. Simple, eh? Photography is dead. Long live photography.

*This post is a tongue-in-cheek (obvious, I hope) response to all those cliché lists out there. I have a bad tendency to walk around with this list in my head of cliches to avoid shooting, which ultimately leaves me with nothing to shoot. 


  1. Great post. You got me giggling here.

    It's hard to avoid cliches sometimes, isn't it? I get photographers block sometimes. Actually, I haven't been out with my camera recently with any excitement in my blood. I get bored with 'street photography', especially now that it seems that everyone with an iphone is s street photographer.

    And... street photography is just stuffed with clichés. I should do a list for a post on street clichés.

    I wonder if there is anything left that isn't a photography genre? I might take a series of photographs of close up internal views of electric kettles! Surely nobody can be doing that yet.

    Anyway... good post and very well written.

  2. Thanks Bill, and I look forward to your list - and the electric kettles! Sounds similar to something I was thinking about, if I ever get around to it.