Photography is a visual art form, and just like any other visual art form, it’s difficult not to fall for clichés. Most photographers are guilty of standing at the exact place, at the exact time, and making the exact composition that they saw by some photographer they admire. Yosemite National Park’s Tunnel View, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Torres del Paine, Antelope Canyon—these are a just a few of the most photographed iconic locations around the world. Have you been at these places and taken the exact same image as others before you?
Don’t feel guilty. These are famous sites—and for all the right reasons. But the problem is that being famous comes with a price. These places are also some of the most visited in the world and the most photographed. As such, they’ve become clichés.
But on the flip side, when you come to an iconic location you know that you’ve come to a fantastic spot. These places give you ample opportunities to make great images. You know that you have at least one variable out of the equation: location.
As a photographer, it’s now in your hands to produce something that transgresses that border by finding a unique image. When you do that, it’s like leaving the shore behind and heading out into the unknown. You’re never quite sure what you’re going to get. That decision—to leave behind a sure shot image for something even better, but not so certain—can be a daunting one to make.
You could easily end up wasting an entire day while others make breathtaking sunset images from the parking lot. To clear any misconceptions, that’s exactly what happens a majority of the time. That’s a risk. But a risk worth taking.
Many of the iconic locations that we know of today have been discovered by photographers who have dared to take that risk, dared to tread the less beaten track, and in the process stumbled upon places that have become famous today.
On a personal note Joshua Cripps shares a story of how he ditched the comfort of shooting a breathtaking sunset at Yosemite and decided to hike up the mountains for something even more breathtaking. He eventually got this image:
While most photographers would have been happy with that photo, Cripps didn’t quite feel he had what he hoped for. So he continued on his hike until he found another location, and this photo was the result:
This image happens to be one of Cripps’s best-selling and most recognized photos.
The lesson here is simple. Keep pushing your boundaries and keep testing your skills. It’s the only way you can make better and less clichéd images.
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