chantal stone photography: the blog

March 29, 2007

On ‘Clichés’…

Filed under: Lists,Photographers/Artists — chantal @ 10:18 pm

So… in my previous post, I mentioned ‘photo cliches’….or so-called clichés. What makes a cliché anyway? Something that is over-done? Like I said before, I think certain subjects are photographed often because they are beautiful and interesting, and for whatever reason, artists are attracted to them.

A while ago I came across this. It’s a list of so-called ‘photoblog clichés’ from the Wiki. And it’s true, if you browse enough photoblogs you’re going to come across many, many repeating themes and subjects. It can be a little redundant, but each photograph is still unique, creating with a unique eye…by someone either practicing a newly learned technique, polishing an old craft, or simply creating something new out of something familiar. (I gotta admit though, I’ve seen more than my share of random junk on beaches, over-saturated against an HDR sky!)

Here’s the list:

Photoblogging is generally undertaken by amateur photographers. It is often the case that photobloggers shoot the same subject and these subjects have become known as clichés within photoblogging. A list of such subjects includes:

  • Flower macros
  • Pigeons
  • Squirrels
  • Shopping trollies
  • Eye macros
  • Disgarded / ripped chairs
  • Mannequins
  • Graffiti
  • Sunrises
  • Sunsets
  • Funny signs
  • Homeless people
  • Zoo pictures
  • Aquarium pictures
  • Pictures shot and then modified with stock Photoshop filters
  • Pictures with Photoshopped tilt shift
  • Pictures with Photoshoped holga effects
  • Images shot with a holga (just because you used a holga doesn’t make it good)
  • People in clown makeup (or some other silly costume)
  • Fall foliage
  • Pretty clouds
  • Empty roads
  • Abandoned factories
  • Abandoned buildings
  • Peeling paint
  • Barns
  • Children finger-painting
  • Bubbles
  • Long exposures of the beach at night
  • Seagulls
  • Swans
  • Ducks
  • Water reflections
  • Couples on the beach
  • Your cat
  • Any cat

..and many more besides.

At the end of the list, there is a link to, where Eliot Shepard talks more about the subject, offering advice to anyone interested in entering Jen Bekman’s Hey Hot Shot! competition. His list of clichés include:

  • Diptychs or other multiple presentations where the photos do not have a direct relationship to one another. Steer clear of juxtaposition for its own sake.
  • Parking lots, lonely shopping carts, gas stations
  • Floral still-lives
  • Suburban emptiness
  • Eerie night photography
  • Beds: empty, unmade, and so on
  • Moody (nude) self-portraiture
  • Meditations on illness or death of a family member
  • Shoes and feet
  • Loosely edited street photography
  • Exuberant Photoshop experiments (Just Say No)
  • Rigorously documentary travel photography

*SIGH* Looks like I need all new material.



  1. I think it’s reasonable to discuss cliches and think about them when photographing, and certainly in a photography class. It’s worth thinking about how one can take a cliche shot in a way that brings something new to it. But…

    We are at the point where literally almost every shot has been taken before.

    As a musician, I come back to similar situations in the music world. I think these are legitimate comparisons, as both arts have so many similarities.

    There are a finite number of musical pitches we can hear. As such, when a composer moves from one note to another… that interval between notes HAS been done before. Not possibly, but definitely. Should the human race stop composing?

    Harmonically, there are chord movements that have been found pleasing to humans in general. Does that make them cliche because a composer purposely uses chord progressions that he or she knows create a positive response? I hope not! Blues and jazz often depend upon these cliches.

    Great jazz improvisors certainly want to be creative in how they make their choices, but the best purposely “quote” previous music, and their music is more meaningful because of these shared past experiences.

    If I come across a beautiful sky, certainly one of the most photographed subjects, I’m still going to photograph it, share it, and…

    enjoy it!

    Comment by Andy — March 30, 2007 @ 8:56 am | Reply

  2. Andy…..

    Well said! And I totally agree.
    My thought is: no two snowflakes are alike….no two sunsets…no two ______.
    I feel that if I approach any given subject with fresh eyes and a new perspective—even if its something that’s been photographed a million times, it still will be new. That’s the hope anyway.

    Whether these so-called clichés are good or bad is another discussion….I find it interesting nonetheless. The idea challenges me to always seek new perspectives.

    Comment by Chantal — March 30, 2007 @ 9:05 am | Reply

  3. The only other thing that I can add is that I agree! It’s funny how this pattern repeats itself in various forms. I develop software and, after 20+ years in the business, I’ve seen it all, truly. Solving a ‘new’ business problem is just doing what you’ve done before, this time with different tools.

    I think I’ll still keep appreciating the animals, sunsets, flowers, trees, people, etc.

    Good article, Chantal.

    Comment by paul — March 30, 2007 @ 11:59 am | Reply

  4. Yeah well in the end it’s all been done. There’s nothing to create. There’s only different POVs. And that in truth is the difficulty faced by the artist, to push the emotion.

    Comment by DAVE — March 30, 2007 @ 12:26 pm | Reply

  5. But I’ll admit to really hating cat pictures…

    Comment by DAVE — March 30, 2007 @ 12:27 pm | Reply

  6. After reading these lists I wondered, just what the hell is there left to photograph, unless of course one is on the staff of National Geographic and can jet off to remote locations for wildlife and or 3rd world cultural images. I say just shoot what you want and do it the best you can.

    Comment by John — April 1, 2007 @ 6:07 pm | Reply

  7. I know John….it’s all been done before. All we can do is bring a fresh perspective…see things with “new eyes” 😉

    Comment by Chantal — April 2, 2007 @ 2:47 pm | Reply

  8. As a photoblogger, I have covered almost every one of those cliches. Am I bothered by that? No!

    Some of them I have purposely avoided, especially the tilt-shift PS trick as the PBing community was becoming saturated at one point so I didn’t want to jump on the bandwagon. However, I felt it was an interesting concept and one which I may try one day (hopefully when everyone else has stopped doing them).

    When you look at that list there are good reasons why most of them have been overdone, not least because, as photobloggers, we are trying to put out shot every day (or nearly) so, unless you have unlimited budgets, we are stuck with what we find around us every day. Occasionally, we will take a trip out and we know that we will want photos, so we go somewhere that will yield a good selection (like zoos etc).

    On the cat thing, I am a cat lover and do love taking photos of cats, I don’t post many of them though but, when I do, I get lots of comments (usually the ‘aww cute’ type of thing) and a lot of PBers like getting lots of comments, so it becomes a positive feedback issue. Oh and the same goes for squirrels too!!

    I always try to see everyday things in unusual ways, some times it works, other times not, but I will continue to take photos of what I like and publish them on my blog and if I slip into the odd cliche, then so be it!

    (oh and you’ll NEVER see an HDR image on my blog, and if you do, you have my permission to come round and slap me in the face!!)

    Comment by Neil — April 12, 2007 @ 5:18 am | Reply

  9. Thanks for the comment Neil!

    Comment by Chantal — April 12, 2007 @ 7:58 am | Reply

  10. […] or a window. Doors and windows, along with images of cats, lighthouses, and lone trees are classic cliches of photography. But cliches become so because there is an inherent draw to these subjects. Windows and doors are […]

    Pingback by What Andy Saw » Blog Archive » Entryways - New Orleans — April 24, 2007 @ 2:33 pm | Reply

  11. But cats are still cute. =)

    Nice list. I agree with what you say. But isn’t photography about *expressing* yourself?

    Nowadays everyone’s forgotten about that… Everyone’s Photoshopping their stuff to make them look ‘unique’ and pretty but all I can see is splashes of colour that don’t mean a thing.

    It doesn’t mean that it’s a bad thing, but some people have a tendency of over-doing it. -____-;;


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