Top 15 Photography Clichés Everyone Hates

Any photographer who wants their work to stand out has to offer something unique to the viewer. The following list contains ideas, poses and editing techniques that probably aren't too original and should be avoided. If I had known this when I started photography, I probably would have found a signature look sooner.

Before you read please take note that photographers knocking other photographers is not ok and not the intended purpose of this article. This is why I dug through my own photos that I took within the first 6 months I owned a camera. With that being said, everyone has to start somewhere and I am thankful for the way my photography journey panned out.


1. White vignette. This was meant to fix lens vignette issues, not some cool effect.

2. Selective coloring and that dizzy angle is SO cool... said no one ever.

3. Photographers with profile pictures taken in a mirror using a DSLR is probably the least professional thing you can do.

4. HDR is cool... until you go overboard.

5. Forming heart with hands. It's cheesy. Just stop.

6. Baby froggy pose. (No example for this sorry. If you have one feel free to share yours in the comments)

7. Railroad tracks may provide nice leading lines, but it's cliché.

8. Smooth skin using blur tools. Far too many people never see the light when it comes to this point. Skin texture has to be retained. If the creators of photoshop knew people would do this they probably would never have invented the blur options under the filter menu. 

9. Watermarks.  A photograph needs a watermark like a toilet seat needs spikes.

10. The jumping wedding party shot! (No example for this sorry. If you have one feel free to share yours in the comments)

11. Jumping pictures period.

12.  Holding a frame. (No example for this sorry. If you have one feel free to share yours in the comments)

13. Adding a frame.

14. Here's a 3 in 1. People on their phone, one foot up on wall pose and boring bricks.

15. Doing a photo shoot of your lens caps.


In case you were wondering, I have since kind of changed my style. Feel free to follow me on 500px, Facebook or Instagram!

What else is missing in the article? Feel free to share down below. 

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Eric Alter's picture

Sunset photos of people with the sky in the background and painfully obvious flash fill illuminating the subject. Every photographer does it to prove than they can master the skill of balancing ambient and flash, but it's been done to death!

Eric Duminil's picture

Whatever. It looks good (almost) every time.
And for people who can't afford big lights, it's the only time of day where you can balance sunlight and flash.

Alex None's picture

Uh, maybe they aren't doing it to 'prove' they can balance flash and ambient. Maybe they are doing it... to take a portrait with the sky in the background.

Neo Racer's picture

You can't do it because someone has already done it!!!!! And then..we're all screwed lol

Savi You's picture

I'm curious how you would expose for the sunset w/o a flash?

Bill Irwin's picture

Yet customers absolutely love it when I do this for my Beach Family Portrait customers.

Mo Pla's picture

The last one got me :D
Always shoot the lens cap of a new lens (with that lens - obviously) !!!

2 days later drop that cap and it rolls into a river (actually happened to me twice). So you can hang that "test" picture on a wall with a black band on the edge :P

Austin Rogers's picture

Wow dude. These like actually hurt to look at. ;)

Good read!

Henry Shutter's picture

That lens cap shot is almost as lame as your old 'Minolta on a battered Pelican case' shot. Nice work.

steven spaulding's picture

hi i'm steven,

and i've come to admit that i've done a few of these :S

this is the photographers anonymous support group right lol.

Adam Bender's picture

Most of those are unfortunate rights of passage for amateurs until we realize how brutally horrible they are! Funny list to go through since I've done most of them at one time or another. It's a great feeling though, when you've realized that you no longer do those things. In a sense there is a feeling of 'making it' from a creative standpoint.

Brad Delaney's picture

Just as well we love your work now ! Having said that, who doesn't cringe when they look back at some of their old work and i must say they are a few of these cliches lying around ! Good on you for sharing !

Ralph Hightower's picture

4. HDR. I don't mind HDR if it is subtle. But when one goes overboard, it looks like a freak of nature!
7. Railroad tracks. That's just damned dangerous and trespassing unless the track is abandoned and turned over to public use.

Nathan Hamler's picture

I love how everyone is always quick to point out the "danger" of shooting on railroad tracks? When was the last time you were near a railroad track and couldn't see/hear/feel a train coming from a LONG way off? We're not in europe hanging out on bullet train tracks...but yes, it's

Tony Carter's picture

yeah, you would think it would be obvious (and I agree with you), but there were a handful of photogs in the U.S. this year alone that were killed messing around on train tracks. Google it. (they unfortunately made the news)

Jayson Carey's picture

Slates for Sarah. You might want to look that up.

Bill Irwin's picture

"When was the last time you were near a railroad track and couldn't see/hear/feel a train coming from a LONG way off? "

I'm sure the film crew was thinking the same thing when they started shooting on the railroad tracks. Unfortunately for them, one of the members of their crew was killed because they unfortunately didn't hear the train far enough away to give them time to clear the tracks.

I would never take a client who wants to shoot on the railroad tracks. I would give them alternative places to shoot or if they must do this, find someone else.

ri sw's picture

Photographers and their subjects get killed on train tracks every single year. Because of the way the physics of sound works, in many cases you won't hear the train until you're halfway to heaven.

Mokhtar Chahine's picture

i am surprised you guys left out "half naked" body shots hoping for a quick access to gain fame/followers.

Mokhtar Chahine's picture

its enough to know you considered it. Because its getting out of control. Your work is genuine Dani.

David Vaughn's picture

I wouldn't even classify some of what he's talking about as nudes. I know several people who like to take tactless photos of pretty women because

1. Pretty woman in various stages of semi-nudity (including bathing suits, sweet jesus the bathing suit shots)
2. Camera
3. ?????

Chilehead Craig's picture

Especially when it's used to advertise for photography workshops.....

cece cuenat's picture

So funny. I always figured those shots were taken by guys that didn't get to see half naked bodies, any other way.

Mbutu Namubu's picture

Everybody should give Dani some major respect for poking some fun at his own early work!

The cynical side of me thinks that there's nothing wrong with shooting a cliche as long as the photographer KNOWS ahead of time that it's a cliche. In fact, shooting cliches can be very practical in business for appealing to naive clients in unsophisticated markets.

On the other hand, cliches become truly cringe-worthy if the photographer actually thinks he's being creative instead of just shooting a cliche. According to this standard, a completely un-scientific analysis of the current state of the photography world might find that about 95% of both amateur and professional photography is worthy of cringe.

Sebastian Mikita's picture

Dani, impressive progress! :) When did you start shooting? I'm curious, how long did you practise to do what you do now. :)

Alex None's picture

#16 - making lists on the internet in lieu of actual writing

Archag Tchorbadjian's picture

" including "10 signs you will not make it as a successful photographer" Buahahaha Dani +10

Sergio Tello's picture

Guilty as charged on three of these. Good thing they will never see the light of day.

Sergio Tello's picture

That's because of people like you who warned me beforehand. You learn by your mistakes, but there are some lessons I don't need to learn.

Eric Mazzone's picture

#3 doing it in a suit that's NOT fitted. It looks like c**p! If you're going to wear a suit, get one either custom made or at least have a real tailor fit it for you and wear it well. Have at least two of them at that.

Jason Ranalli's picture

Doing this with your own photos was a pretty classy way to present this, Dani. And beyond that...amazing how far you have come. I think we assume that the folks who have work we look up to have been shooting like that out of the gate but that's clearly not the case...hard work and practice take you where you want to be.

However, I'll somewhat disagree on the watermark thing - there are times when it works and is needed if done tastefully - just like a toilet seat needs spikes sometimes(not PS'd BTW).

Jason Ranalli's picture

Definitely agreed...hope your holiday was good.

Erick Rodriguez's picture

I also felt that your opinion on the use of watermarks was redundant. I use watermarks on my images using a graphic with it's opacity adjusted and not the "typed" watermark. Maybe a little more insight would help in understanding your point.

Hafiz Zainal's picture

watermark is important. but i only watermark on my photos that deserved it.

I had a friend who couldn't care less with watermark until he saw his photo in a magazine.
Printed as an AD.

Neo Racer's picture

*FU* Im doin watermarks. Sorry.

Tony Carter's picture

LOL, actually Dani still puts watermarks on his current work, although they're much more appealing now, so I'm guessing that he is referring to GRAND, OBTRUSIVE, watermarks that just happens to have an image behind it, lol.

james darden's picture

Mine used to be kinda of large but not in the center or spread across on the diagonal like I've seen. It was centered on the bottom and somewhat faded. Recently (several months ago), I've made it quite a bit smaller and put in the bottom corner. I boosted the transparency so it doesn't just jump put at you as well.

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