Ep 65: What are photography cliches and why you should avoid them to make your photos stand out

Ep 65 artwork

We’re all guilty of shooting the odd cliche from time to time. Whether it’s that selfie on Instagram, a photo of your shows, the shot of the hipster couple, the cute guy at the gas station… Cliches have their place and, sometimes, they even work! But what do you need to do to ensure your shots are original, so that they stand out from others and really help your portfolio shine?

In this episode, Gina and Valerie discuss how to recognise a photography cliche, which ones to avoid, and how to turn them around so that you bring your own authentic mark to your images.

#ginachallenge #cliche

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Show notes


Michael Goh’s amazing night-time photography.

Michael says:
Compositionally – I’m going to waffle on a little with this post. With my milkyway panoramas – trying to express the feeling of being out there shooting the milkyway in a dark location. The milkyway is pretty large, so wanting to emphasise the scale. A panorama helps to do this. A diminutive (hey I’m 6’1″) human form also helps to emphasise the scale. Since I’m shooting with an ultrawide (15mm) and it’s a panorama – I’m actually only standing about 12m away from the camera. Another item that helps with a connection is not making my identity clear – allowing people to put themselves into the role of the figure in the scene. I can make my identity less clear by either having my back or turning away so you can’t see my face. I learnt a bit of this while researching for a book cover that I did. In a dark location, you can see the whole milkyway arch – so I know where to stand to create some balance between myself and the milkyway core in the image. The title of this image is – Solitude -. Just a little more background on this image – it’s a salt lake in Western Australia. The bright light under the milkyway core is a crescent moon which lights up the landscape and helps bring out the textures in the dry salt lake.

milkyway panorama

Above: Shot by Michael Goh

Interesting link

From Dan Barker’s awesome blog post about becoming a wedding photographer:

“When you find something that lights a fire inside of you, it’s all you can think about. Any free time I had, including tea breaks, lunchtimes, whenever, would be spent researching and learning as much as possible.

“One thing I’ve learnt lately is that your tea goes cold more regularly when you’re doing a job you love, because you’re so engrossed in what you’re doing; loving every minute of it so much that you don’t even want to sit down and take a break. And that’s the way I believe work should (and can) be for everyone!”

You can read the full post here

Photography cliches: Why you should avoid them like the plague to make your work stand out

noun – a phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought.

“Last, but not least, avoid cliches like the plague.” William Safire

Best place to research photography cliches is Instagram

  • Coffee art
  • Selfies
  • Food
  • Hot dog legs
  • Hipster couple
  • Hipster anything

What are the main offenders of newbies and how can we make them better

  • The selfie
  • Mirror selfie
  • Overhead selfie
  • Pouty selfie

Check out this post: 40 Creative Photography Ideas

Other cliches

  • The sunset
  • Selective colour
  • Funky angles
  • Fake lens flare
  • Homeless people
  • HDR

Fashion photography cliches

  • Romantic girl with flowers in her hair in the forest (add smoke or mist for bonus points)
  • Retro Motel/gas station/diner
  • Holding balloons
  • Stepford wives
  • Girls in heels/sexy outfit working out/riding horse etc

Food photography cliches

  • Dirty dishes
  • Blurry vignette
  • Chefs laughing off camera
  • Chef action shot
  • Overhead shot

Portrait Photography Cliches

  • Using props like signs, scrabble pieces
  • Demi Moore style pregnancy shot
  • No smile hipster shot
  • Feet only
  • Hand making a heart
  • Backlit dress in the window
  • Couple holding a frame
  • Bride groom jumping
  • Rings in flowers
  • Vintage
  • Mason jars
  • Country weddings
  • Baby on a road in the country with a sunset behind them
  • Person leading another person by the hand (shot from behind)

Editorial photography cliches

  • Behind the scenes shot
  • Laughing off camera “candid” shot
  • Slightly out of focus shot
  • Fake at home shoots
  • Mum holding baby in the air
  • Family cooking together

Stock photography cliches

  • All stock shots are cliche
  • Team meeting
  • Vintage anything
  • Handshake shot
  • Keyboards
  • Roadsigns

Cliche in Commercial and portrait photography

  • Desaturated grunge
  • Joel grimes montage
  • 3 light v montage
  • Anything bespoke, hipster or artisan
  • Beards
  • Flat lay/things organised neatly and shot from overhead
  • Baby on a road in the country with a sunset behind them
  • Person leading another person by the hand (shot from behind)

Post production

  • HDR
  • Selective colour
  • Over saturation of backgrounds
  • Fake sunflare
  • Frequency separation overkill
  • Clarity overkill
  • Over saturation

How to make your work stand out

  • Stick to classics
  • Focus on composition
  • Story telling
  • Imagination
  • Personal projects

#ginachallenge #cliche


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Gina Milicia is one of the most widely known and respected photographers in Australia. She is the master of capturing that ‘magical moment’... READ MORE

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