Photography Cliches

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Photography has fashion trends, just like any other creative industry. Some enterprising soul will be playing around and come up with a new look that catches on and, before long, the world is awash in copycat photos. Some of these techniques will continue on long after the novelty has worn off and become almost a visual cliche.

Sometimes that’s okay. It’s good to be aware of the over-done photography trends, even try a couple shots of your own just to see how it works for you. Do be cautious not to let them turn into a staple of your portfolio. If you want to stand out as a photographer, you have to develop your own unique style.

Here are some techniques to try but be careful including in your portfolio.

Color Isolation

Selecting one element in a photograph to leave colored and gray scale the rest of the picture. This is a post-processing technique that works sometimes but tops the list of overdone visual tricks.

color isolation photo

Color Isolation

Instead try a variation of this technique that’s a little less cliche which is to isolate one color instead of one colored object. A picture where the greens stay vibrant and everything else is gray scaled. It’s a lot harder to do but can yield some very interesting results.

The Dutch Angle

Also called the Batman Angle or Dutch Tilt is when you hold your camera at angles between portrait and landscape in order to get more a subject in the frame. Sometimes it works if you’re trying to challenge visual perceptions of your viewers, more often it creates a general sense of unease that’s overall unflattering.

dutch angle

The Dutch Angle

Change lenses, shift your perspective, try a lot of things before employing this technique which was used extensively in the old Batman TV show (hence the name). It’s old, it’s over-used and there are frequently better options.

Garish Watermarks

The height of vanity combined with a healthy dose of paranoia. In these days of metadata, digital watermarks and search engines like TinyEye, keeping track of image use on the internet, it’s not all that difficult.

photo watermarks

Photo Watermarks

You don’t need to plaster your images with obscene watermarks in an attempt to get your name out. It detracts from the picture and makes you look insecure and loutish.

Over-Saturated HDR

High Dynamic Range photography is an interesting technique but sometimes the pictures come out looking over-saturated. It’s also one of those techniques that’s been done to death lately. Yes, absolutely learn how it’s done. It’s a good study in controlling contrast and color depth, but don’t rely on it as a staple.

over saturated hdr

Over-Saturated HDR

If you want to be a freak about anything color related, be a freak about flesh tones. For natural looking portraits nothing beats quality natural skin tones.

Heavy Vignetting

Nothing screams “amateur hour” quite like heavy vignetting, whether it’s a genuine artifact or done in post processing, an even greater sin.

heavy photo vignette

Heavy Vignetting

Crop tighter or buy a frame. Good photography doesn’t need this type of trick to get people to focus on the subject.

Writing On Pictures

Another distracting amateur move that not only adds little to a photograph, it robs the viewer of their ability to interpret the meaning for themselves. Instead of encouraging people to think, you’re telling them what to think.

This is right up there with bikini clad women holding assault rifles for making your photography scream “trailer trash”.

writing on pictures

Writing on Pictures

Quality photography stands on its own and doesn’t need any help eliciting emotion from the viewer. Avoid the temptation to grab them by the nose and drag them where you want them to go.

About the Author:
Peter Timko writes for Proud Photography ( – an online photography school.

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  1. Dee says:

    A pet peeve of mine is photographers putting beveled edges on their photos…that’s beginning photoshop and makes their work look so amateurish.

  2. Len says:

    Amen! And you might also add attempts to show water in motion by using long exposures. Moving water does not look like milk.

  3. Tiberman Sajiwan Ramyead says:

    Peter – aS a two-year DSLR beginner, I am not too sure I agree with your observation on that shot under Heavy Vignetting – or rather I personally like the shot with the central pool of light – call the darker area vignetting or whatever.
    Perhaps we could understand your message if you could put up the same shot minus the vignette.

  4. How can I say AMEN!!!!! any louder, especially on the isolated color. When we worked with film it was difficult to do. Now it’s easy and soooooo boring.

  5. @Tiberman Sajiwan Ramyead In the case cited above it isn’t that the photograph was vignetted, it is that the vignette is very much stronger than it needs to be. We have seen so much of this type of thing over the years I’ve been in photography. When it was trendy, fifteen years ago, I thought it was ugly. Still do.

  6. Monica T says:

    About vignetting style, we need something different. Everything looks boring when it was introduced for awhile now

  7. I LOVE the fact that the image in the advert in the top right corner advert is a Over-Saturated HDR image! lol. Fail.

  8. Tracy says:

    I do not understand why HDR gets such a bad rap for being over-saturated, because you can choose how much saturation to add when you’re processing it. So it’s not the fault of the HDR process, but rather the fault of the person doing it.
    I agree that some HDR photos look pretty icky, but don’t immediately write off the whole thing because some nuts used bad judgment.

  9. Gnolf says:

    Agree to most of them except vignetting. This looks rather cool compared to a frame. Frames are for accountants and librarians and other people who think an look in square dimensions.

  10. Dave parker says:

    You know what is really annoying? Lists of techniques consider boorish to the seasoned photographer! Ignore this friends, experiment and don’t give a damn what others might think! Haha

  11. flashfs says:

    I have to agree with @Dave parker on that one. I would prefer seeing photos that worked and didn’t, within the same topic, not just ‘dont do this because many people do’.

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