Photographic trends are created by software or camera technologies that push the limits of what is optically possible, i.e., high dynamic range, ridiculously high ISO sensitivity to light, software mimicking a tilt-shift camera, instagram filters, film emulation presets, and the list goes on…
Often new photographic techniques become trends when photographers, engineers, camera companies embrace these effects and use them in their workflow. Before you know it, they become the flavor of the year and trickle down from the pros to amateurs.
These photographic trends often become played out, overused, and can make us resent when we see too much HDR, or software-enhanced bokeh. I equate it to hearing a catchy new song, loving it, buying it, listening to it on repeat for days on end until you grow to detest its very existence. Then it becomes an earworm. You stop listening and then all of a sudden you hear it on the radio, a friend plays it, and the song becomes a mega hit you can’t escape.
There are many photographic trends that have made their way in and out of popularity in the last decade or so, and I thought it would be interesting to pick on some of the biggest offenders in popular photography today that have become like earworms.
Here’s my list, but I’d love to hear what you think is played out and overused:
I often cringe when I hear or read the term “creamy bokeh.” The shallower the depth of field and the quality of the out-of-focus elements in the frame makes for the ‘cream bokeh.’ It seems to have become the benchmark from which a lens purchase has to be made when buying a prime lens with a fast aperture, or using software or a filter that adds unnatural blur into your images.
Whether it’s lens-based or software, the trend seems to be running rampant, and it is still a popular practice for blogs that test and review cameras and software.
Bokeh for the sake of bokeh is still popular, but it seems as though the new trend is to use a smaller aperture. I for one am a proponent for the smaller depth of field. I like my images with “creamy sharp focus.” 😉
That one yellow flower among the ugly weeds. A woman in a crowd wearing a red coat among the sea of black-and-white people, etc., etc., etc.
I never liked this trend, and it doesn’t seem to be around much anymore, but it used to be everywhere. Camera companies offered this as an in-camera feature for point-and-shoots and entry-level DSLRs, but luckily it never took off and I am glad!
RAW processing can often lead a photographer to take their sliders too far. A bridge too far in this case is processing images and lifting up the blacks to a point they cease to even exist. The drained image has no contrast and looks like someone sucked the life out of an image.
Lifting the blacks sometimes isn’t the answer to make your image look better. Start with learning how to take a make exposure first. 🙂
High Dynamic Range is certainly played out, but the look is still very present out there in the world. HDR refers to the increased dynamic range of an image by combining multiple images at different exposures (over, under, proper exposure) and stacking them together to create a photograph that is closer to what the visual spectrum of the eye can see. Great, right?
Photographers embraced this by taking multiple images and stacking them together in photoshop. People went crazy for the trend years ago and created how-tos, software, and endless articles on the subject. It amassed into an endless stream of how great HDR was, and it became ad-nauseam.
It even started becoming an in-camera feature for point-and-shoots, DSLRs, and smartphones, and is still present online.
Film Emulation Software/Presets
I am guilty of using film presets and in-camera film emulation settings like Velvia with my Fuji camera. The rise of Instagram has bred an entire new generation of photographers taking amazing pictures, but often relying heavily on filters.
Film emulation software companies like VSCO have provided photographers with a way of processing their images into a more filmic look, and to be honest, I love them.
I think when you can use a film filter subtly in your photos it can look amazing, but when you take a bad photo and try to make it look ‘artistic’ by slapping a filter over it, it never works. It’s like trying to shine a turd into a diamond.
Take a good photo, process it, put in some elbow grease in post and learn photography. Filters can be a crutch, or a godsend to busy photographers to lessen their workload.
Overly Processing Your Images
Overly saturating your images, adding too much noise, sharpening your images to the point that they almost look 3D, or the many other sliders you can play with when processing a RAW image can ruin your image.
Sometimes adding too much to the photo to make it look ‘better’ can often make them look ridiculous. Whether you’re going for realistic or otherworldly, there is a point to which you can process your images to look bad.
Being subtle is a virtue in photography.
Selfies in a bathroom, selfies in bed, there is nothing more cringeworthy than seeing the dreaded ‘duckface,’ the shirtless meathead flexing, or the artsy girl trying to look coy looking off into the distance while visibly holding the camera.
Oh yeah, and selfie sticks. Why is this still a thing?
What did I miss?
I know some of these are nitpicky, and some still have their merits like film presets. I would love to hear what you think is a photographic trend that needs to stop, or that you feel is being overused. Email me at adam @ precise – moment . com and I’ll amend the list as needed.