Photography Trends so Bad They Became Memes

Photography is undoubtedly the art with the lowest entry point. You can just pick up your phone and snap away. With billions of images created every day, they sometimes follow trends. Many beginner photographers start following pages on Instagram that “repost bangers.” However, those bangers are very far from what photography is about. In this article, I will talk about some of the worst photography trends that have become memes.  

Foreword

Art and trends don’t mix. Great artists create their own trends. Photography is not about following trends and producing work that gets lots of likes on Instagram. Pages posting generic portraits of young women have more followers than Annie Leibovitz. Is there something wrong with that? No, it’s what the people choose to like. However, generic portraits of young women say very little about the creative possibilities that exist for photographers worldwide. These trends are goofy, but it's also sad to see them so popular. 

Lensball 

Oh, baby, this needs no introduction. When lensballs came out, they offered a strangely unique view of pictures. While everything in the ball was in focus, the rest of the frame was all bokeh. However, as more and more people jumped on the bandwagon and made the same generic picture of a lensball, the whole idea got quite boring. That said, there is nothing wrong with using a lensball, but there are perhaps a few things wrong with taking the same picture over and over again. 

Oversized Glasses + Girls + Neon or Christmas Lights = Banger

It’s easy to see why this one is so popular, as it has the two ingredients needed for a photography trend: beautiful women and creamy bokeh. Neon lights offer the unique bokeh with red and blue contrast against each other, and the beautiful woman stands there with a stare as boring as boredom itself. She’s not enjoying the portrait and couldn’t care about the bokeh probably.

Lens in Front of a Landscape

I think this one was started when YouTube landscape photographers became popular. Sure, holding a lens and showing how the image is inverted in it can be interesting. For a few times, that is. Doing it over and over again to show the lens is rather repetitive, and there’s not much you can think of to change this up. But, how about putting the lens on a camera and photographing a landscape with it?  

Woman Looking Back at You While Holding a Hand at an Exotic Place

I feel like all couples have a photo like this. To be quite frank, I can’t quite understand the point of the image. Sure, exotic location, sure, your partner, but why leave them out of the frame?  

Feet Dangling Over the Edge of a Building

By far, the most dangerous one there. Often done on roofs of abandoned buildings, this photo is two things: far too dangerous and possibly illegal, as trespass rules can be strict, morbidly strict. 

Half-Naked Woman in the Back of a Campervan Next to a Unique Landscape or Cliff

Not only are camper photos some of the most Instagrammable things to exist, but with the addition of half-naked women, those images become unstoppable likes collectors. The campervan lifestyle, in general, fits in with the belief of being truly free and independent. Of course, that is if you're happy to give away a proper workspace and the ability to take a bath for the sake of taking photos with lots of likes.  

Faux Old Ladders With Hollywood Lights Against a Canvas Backdrop

Painted backdrops are a very popular yet expensive thing. They are, actually, very popular both among amateur and professional photographers. I made one myself. However, because they are so popular, the images with them are often ill-executed. Simply sticking a backdrop behind the subject and taking a picture is not good enough. To take a good picture with such backdrops, you need to control your light very well. Sometimes, to add an antique feeling, some put a painter's ladder or a big Fresnel lamp in the frame. Yeah, we get it, you want Hollywood. But unfortunately, that is far from what Hollywood portraits are. If you want a movie look, you could use a Fresnel to light your model. This would look very cinematic and more like Hollywood. An overhead umbrella is also helpful.  

TikTok's With "Stranger" Photoshoots

“I’ve asked this stranger for a photoshoot.” 

“At first, she (always a she, isn’t it) was reluctant.”

“But then, she finally said yes.”

“Check out these bangers.” 

Proceeds to show oversaturated photos of girls against Christmas lights with lensball in a familiar location holding hand with a Hollywood light. This needs no explanation. I don’t think strangers would allow you to steal their time for more than two seconds, so the people in the video are fake, and it is creepy if those are real people. 

Speaking from experience, I am aware that stranger’s portraits are a whole movement in street photography, and I’ve done them myself. I think it defies the meaning of portraiture, as a portrait should show a personality, not a human who dressed fancily. Before taking a portrait, the person is best studied, understood, and admired. Then, and only then, is the portrait a work of art and not a “banger.” 

Closing Thoughts

I wrote this article to highlight some of the trends that are plaguing photography now. A year from now, they will be different. One thing will stay the same, though: the idea of following viral trends to go viral. Art shouldn’t be about following trends; if anything, art should defy trends. As a commercial photographer, I have to follow trends to a small degree. It is important to differentiate between trends that are akin to you copying the exact image and trends that inspire you to take the idea further. In my work, I follow a trend of having contrast and vibrant color, mainly because I predict the advertising world drifting that way. I am also following this rising vibrance trend because that is what I like. Ultimately, what you like, find creative, and different should be your trend. A TikTok banger shouldn’t. 

What do you think about these trends? Are they the first step to creativity or are they the worst thing you can do to creativity? Did you ever make a “banger” yourself? Share your experience in the comments! I love reading them. 

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24 Comments

Nic Kuvshinoff's picture

It occurs to me that your article about avoiding imitating trends significantly is "imitating" or copying the point of @insta_repeat which is an IG account that accumulates collections of the same picture.. .

Nick Rains's picture

Does anyone seriously care what is happening on IG? People having fun, no need to over think it.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

--- "I wrote this article to highlight some of the trends that are plaguing photography now."

Now? I think you're a little behind. Many of those examples have been around for years and years. Maybe even as far as 2015-17. I haven't really noticed those trends anymore.

Dale van iersel's picture

they are all still happening now, doesn't matter when a plague begins if it's still going! Lucky for you, your insta algorithm mustn't be showing that crap to you

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

The only people seeing them (plague) are ones looking for them. And, what's shown to you is dependent on you mostly. IG algorithm is not showing me that crap because I'm not following crap. I don't go around hunting down "trends" just so I have something to complain about. LOL

I don't visit IG Explore page much, but, just to give you an idea. They'll mostly show me editorial/fashion and sometimes more sexy/risque stuff. Below are just examples. No crystal balls and dangling feet here.

Stephen Kampff's picture

I feel like kids in 30 years will think back to a retro '10s fairy light IG vibe, in their photography. Maybe it'll replace Quasars in music videos who knows.

Illya Ovchar's picture

Yeah, just like Polaroids and film photography have made a huge comeback with Gen Z.

J.d. Davis's picture

File under:

Epistolary Trends so Bad They Became Memes!

Mike Shwarts's picture

How about matching titles and photos?

"Woman Looking Back at You..."
No one of them is looking back.

"Feet Dangling Over the Edge of a Building"
Yeah? That's not a building. You could have wrote feet dangling over edge of a high place.

Alexander Petrenko's picture

What happened with examples after « Half-Naked Woman »?

El Dooderino's picture

Yeah, I was kinda wondering about that myself...

Hans J. Nielsen's picture

I'll just leave this here

https://youtu.be/Nn-dD-QKYN4

Look at this Instagram (Nickelback Parody) 2012

Jay Turner's picture

Newer trend: portraits with people touching their faces for no known purpose, BONUS: retouching skin so it looks plastic and fake and then trying to charge for a 'how-to' tutorial.

Illya Ovchar's picture

So true! I might do a rant on that later haha

J.d. Davis's picture

NO, don't - really do not!

Studio 403's picture

I figured it out! My camera is more self absorbed than me.

Charles Mercier's picture

Huh? These are/were trends? Why would any serious photographer here on fstoppers care? We've either seen it and won't do it or haven't seen it and still wouldn't do it. (Actually, the photo of the gal holding the string of lights in the upper right was not great but still pretty good. )

Mike Shwarts's picture

I didn't look closely at them. It is pretty good. The lights aren't made to look random. They are a leading line which makes for a stronger photo. The shot in the lower right is similar with a train of lights as a leading line. Plus it combines the cliché of the woman looking back over the should at the camera. Instead of holding the photographer's hand, she is holding the string of lights.

TIMOTHY HUNOLD's picture

Ahh yes, the Vanity Fair set of old lights and ladders. You also forgot the over gelled stuff and bokeh'd to death hipster

Illya Ovchar's picture

haha, I love the faux-Leibovitz stuff.

Charles J's picture

As do I. When done well, the movie/photography set-as-environment image can add interest without taking away from the subject. Fresnel lamps are often grounding; acting as motivated lighting while introducing a different yet natural color temperature to the portrait.

I also enjoy the use of oversized leather storage trunks and dated props to bridge classic elegance.

https://fstoppers.com/photo/339430

Benjamin Hines's picture

Add another one, "woman in tight fitting outfit in front of a waterfall, etc" to get likes. That's so much a cliche now.

Illya Ovchar's picture

Yes! Is it about the landscape or her? We will never know...

Lee Sei-Macfhearchair's picture

'Photography is undoubtedly the art with the lowest entry point'

My one dollar pencil and sketchbook beg to differ 😁