8 Photography Clichés to Avoid (and What You Can Do Instead)

Sometimes we’re so focused on getting the perfect photo, that we forget to make it unique. Does a gorgeous sunset truly never get old? It might be pretty, but pretty can also get boring, especially if so many others are posting the same thing online.

We’ve rounded up the top photography clichés to avoid if you don’t want to fall into the trap of playing it safe. And we’re going to give you some cool, but simple, ideas for what to do instead.

1. Unnecessary Black and White

Black and white photography is interesting, aesthetic, and timeless, but that doesn’t mean it’s suitable for every scenario.

Color is part of the composition, and since black and white means lack of color, you are removing an entire element that can help shape the story and vibe of a photo, which can leave a viewer feeling “meh”.

This is why black and white shouldn’t be done thoughtlessly. The style should serve a purpose, and whether you’re doing it in-camera or in post-production, it takes experience to master.

You also certainly shouldn’t rely on black and white to fix bad color photos. Rather address the possible root causes; lighting, exposure, and white balance, or fix it in post with color correction.

Do Vintage or Retro

Vintage and retro are in; you can’t go wrong with these styles. Chances are you went for black and white to recreate that old-timey feeling when black and white was a photographer’s only option. Well, a vintage effect will wind back the clock.

See our guide on how to make your photos look vintage. If you want to do black and white the right way, read our black and white photography guide for beginners.

2. Sunsets and Sunrises

Looking at a beautiful sunset or sunrise is almost addictive, but they’re also some of the most popular types of shots you’ll find. Unless sunsets are your niche, or you have a way of making your sunsets stand out from the crowd, it’s a little cliché.

Use the Sun for Silhouettes, Long Shadows, and Reflections

The sun gives us silhouettes, shadows, and reflections; take advantage of this.

Silhouettes are mysterious, and you can also get creative with funny poses. As long as you nail your angle, long shadows will add a serene or ominous element.

The sun will bounce off any reflective surface. Go for the ones that show the most detail when the sun is rising or setting, such as still water and buildings with laminated glass windows.

3. Light Painting Cliché Shapes and Phrases

Light painting in itself makes for an interesting shot, but most people choose to paint their names, a heart shape, or an “I love you”, making it a cliché within this niche.

Thanks to long shutter speeds, this is probably one of the most fascinating and fun ways to create a photo. So why be boring when you have the opportunity to paint anything you want?

Paint a Light Man

Set a long exposure time on your camera, get into a comfortable position, and drag a flashlight or light brush over your body. The results might look a little creepy, but very cool! And you can switch up the colors of the light to match your chosen style.

See our complete light painting guide for the right camera settings and additional equipment.

4. Running Through a Field on a Sunny Day

We all have that friend on Facebook who opts for a field on a sunny day whenever they do their annual professional photoshoot. Granted they look stunning, but you can admit it’s a little boring.

Grass or flower fields on a sunny day are supposed to evoke calmness and happiness. It’s a wonderful setting, but to make it interesting, you need to add a little something extra.

Wait for It to Rain

The easiest way to make your field pictures more aesthetic is to simply wait for it to rain, or at least wait for overcast weather. Who doesn’t love melancholic and moody shots? They evoke calmness in their own way. Here’s the gear you’ll need for a rainy day shoot.

Beach shots can be beyond romantic, and what better way to capture this than two pairs of footprints side-by-side? Even a lone pair of footprints can make us feel longing or calm. The only thing is, it’s overdone.

Look for Crab Footprints or Take Macro Shots of the Sand

Give the natural inhabitants their chance to shine. If there aren’t any crabs on the beach, highlight the very thing you’re walking on by taking macro shots of it. You can include the ocean in the background to fill up and balance the composition.

The Eiffel Tower at night, faux-leaning against the Tower of Pisa, and posing with the Statue of Liberty—we’ve seen it a million times.

We get that you’re excited to share your traveling adventures with friends and family, but thinking outside the box can really “wow” them.

Look for Unique Perspectives

There are many ways to make tourist attraction photos more interesting. Shoot at an unusual time for unique lighting, wait for the weather to change, take a walk around the attraction for a different angle, or make it black and white. See our full guide to making your tourist pictures stand out.

7. The Mirror Selfie

The mirror selfie will likely never go out of fashion. It’s the perfect way to show off your outfit or a cool background, or just post your mood. But considering how many of us do it, it’s difficult to make it fascinating.

Use the Mirror as a Compositional Element

Instead of pointing your phone or camera at the mirror, set it up on a tripod (out of view of the mirror but pointing at it), get yourself in the mirror’s reflection, and take the shot. Technically, it’s still a mirror selfie, but it’s different from how everyone else is doing it.

You can also pose next to the mirror and look directly at the camera (as long as the mirror doesn’t reflect the camera). Now, the mirror is the second subject in the frame.

8. Fake-Enjoying Food

This one is not just overdone, but having a fake element in your shots could strike the wrong chord with viewers.

The fake pose is undoubtedly to create fun and drama, but no one actually gets this overjoyed when eating something tasty. You can create a much more authentic food-related photo.

Be Natural

The solution is simple: don’t tell your subject to pose, capture them in their natural element as they’re enjoying the meal. To make it more aesthetic, take a medium-size eye-level shot from the side.

And be mindful of the background. This would be the perfect time to create some background blur with Photoshop if it’s at a busy restaurant.

Make Your Pictures Stand Out From the Crowd

Nobody is stopping you from photographing cliché scenes if that’s your comfort zone, but you’ll need to have realistic expectations for your audience’s reaction. A little effort goes a long way into making a unique and captivating photograph. Try the alternatives we listed here or put your own spin on them.

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