Everybody is a photographer — Part 2

How to be original: the don’ts


As already told in part 1, digital photography has allowed everybody to express him/herself. Taking photographs has never been easier and cheaper. You don’t need anything but your phone and a bunch of apps and thus express whatever you want. As any other mass phenomenon, quantity and quality tend to take different paths. The bigger the number of photos, the more the average quality gets lower. This doesn’t mean that no one can excel or just be himself. In a crowded scenery the only way to set yourself apart is to be original and this means only one thing: do not follow what everybody else does.

Your point of view

Photography means basically to have a point of view. Technically the camera is the tool to express it. Just like that. This is easy to agree on and to understand. Nonetheless you should at least have it, let’s forget the tech stuff for a while. Equipment, skills and so on are important but not so much: I see tons of “beautiful” images taken by extremely skillful photographers that are utterly boring. The thing with many beautiful photos is that they’re quite different from good photos (as I explain here) and often don’t express a personal point of view. That’s why we can see millions of very good images on Instagram that look almost like the same thing, over and over.

If to photograph means to express a point of view, having the same one as millions of other photographers means to not have none.

There are billions of photos out there. Facebook alone manages more than 657 billions uploads a year. Can you imagine so many pictures? I can’t but they have to be whola lotta images. This might be discouraging because the chances that someone else had already taken the same image as you is highly probable. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.

Let’s think about that:

One good thing about photography is that if you put a glass of water on a table and ten photographers around it, you’ll come up with ten different photos. Ten points of views, exactly.

Why so many pictures are similar? Because there’s plenty of them and not everyone is a photographer, at least not that kind with a point of view. That’s why so many people follow trends: because it’s like following a known path. You will never get lost, but you can’t find new meanings and new visual landscapes as well.

It’s important to know the trends.
In order to avoid them.

I always push people to know the trends. It’s important to know what works in the visual world because it gives back the temperature, the climate. This is the kind of photo everybody likes and that is what nobody cares about. Thus, when it’s understood, it’s easier to avoid those directions where everybody’s headed. Remember?

Photography is a point of view, not everybody else’s point of view.

Trends

Those are the most common photographic trends (mostly on Instagram): some date back years ago, some are quite old but still strong today, some are pretty new.

I’m just listing them, I’m not blaming and criticising. Those below are pretty good compositions then. The fact is that the repetition of the same kind of photography kills the medium. Instagram or social networks are full of people. It’s obvious that many of them end up doing the same thing: it’s easier to copy than to be original, it takes less time, the result is sure. Let’s see it however from a different perspective: instead of many people copying each other wouldn’t it be great if most of them just express themselves?

Warning: the following are just hand-picked images found on Instagram or Unsplash. I’m using them just as samples.

1. Levitating people

This trend was new 5 or 6 years ago. It was funny and magic at the beginning but soon became really boring. Needless to say, there’s anything magic in it but just a simple trick, as shown below.

From PetaPixel

2. Centered subject

“Person stands on a rocky trail in a grassy pasture near the mountains” by Davide Cantelli on Unsplash and Caspar David Friedrich, “Wanderer above the sea of fog

This kind of composition — I presume — comes from the famous painting by Caspar David Friedrich, “Wanderer above the sea of fog”. It’s kind of heroic. At the beginning. The fact is that it’s a blocked composition and it tends to get boring after a while. It’s always effective but it doesn’t say much in the end.

3. Laydown

Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

Often used to shoot objects, clothes, books, breakfasts, food. Ok, we got it, move on.

4. Holding hand

“A person’s hand holding up a small yellow flower” by Kawin Harasai on Unsplash

The name says all: it’s a hand that is holding something on a beautiful background. Sometimes the background is white and that’s all. It’s based on a central composition which is fine: it always works. The problem is that a billion pictures like this might be way too many.

5. Follow me

It all started, they say, from an idea by Murad Osmann who launched the #followmeto project with his fiancee. Again: good and well executed idea, but it might be annoying after 94 billions shots. Avoid it, it ain’t original at all.

6. Cliffhangers

Do you really wanna die? I guess so. This is basically people on cliffs. With a big, scary void under. Sometimes they fall down, sometimes they die. Is it worth it? Considering that thousands of people have already done the same thing? I don’t think so.

7. Drone photography

Drone photography has just begun. Drone images are supercool because they come from an unusual point of view. This is true at the beginning, then it got boring. Why? Because it’s hard to connect with those images. They are always beautiful, always WOW but fail in the end because the viewer can’t find any connection with them. It’s hard to recognize anything, they’re pure geometry most of the times. Lots of people find geometry as anything but cool. (by the way, there’s at least a photographer you should check out because he’s pretty original in this field: his name is Costas Spathis).

8. Selfie

Exactly, stop it.

9. Tent

“Light in a green tent surrounded by silhouettes of trees on a starry night” by Sayan Nath on Unsplash

Nice. The spirit of the true explorer, the natural life and the stars above you. Many of these images come along with a sky full of stars and everybody who’s living in a city knows very well that the best way to see the stars is absolute darkness. Again: it’s scenographic and nice but not original at all.

10. Orange and teal

Photo by Zach Reiner on Unsplash

This is not a specific composition but rather a post-processing technique. It’s based on a very peculiar toning that renders the sky as teal and the hot colors as orange. It was fashion in 2017 and it’s still running strong. If you want to be updated go for it, if you want to be original, avoid it.