What Photography Trends We Should Wave Goodbye to in 2022

What Photography Trends We Should Wave Goodbye to in 2022

There are fads that come into fashion that then become passé and others that become overused clichés. Some things we do are just unethical. Here's what should be abandoned this year, and drone owners won’t be pleased. 

Instagram Stylizing Filters and Lightroom Preset Equivalents Are Out

Over the last decade, the application of filters on Instagram and elsewhere has become a quick and easy way for photographers to change the way their images look. These were never high-quality edits. Nevertheless, the look produced by these filters then became trendy and, consequently, the bread and butter of Lightroom preset creators.

Those filters and presets now look dated. That faded, low-contrast look with blue toning was never going to be anything other than a fad that would soon look become as obsolete as tank tops. Now, thank goodness, their end is in sight.

Horrible filters are, thankfully, becoming obsolete.

The Sins of Skin Smoothing, Body Resizing, and Skin Whitening

There are also, of course, some filters that are damaging to self-esteem. Those are still popular and, sadly, are likely to remain so. It’s time to ditch them for the common good.

Skin-smoothing was a technique employed by portrait photographers long before Instagram was a twinkle in Systrom and Krieger’s eyes. Even before the days of commercial digital photography, fashion photographers would airbrush skin in the darkroom to give it a flawless, plastic look. For decades, we’ve been aware of the negative effects on the mental health of these techniques – especially to young women – yet they are still prevalent. The idea of beauty is perverted by this mockery of reality.

Of course, there are times when minor corrections of skin blemishes are appropriate. I removed an acne spot from the face of a bridesmaid when processing a wedding shoot. That went unnoticed by everyone apart from the bride, who thanked me for doing it. If I had left it, everyone would have been reminded of it for all time.

Resizing and thinning faces and bodies is also a damaging trend that, again, places unrealistic expectations on young people.

Over-smoothing of skin can have a negative effect on mental health.

Even more damaging is skin lightening. It’s well documented that in the 1950s, the great jazz singer and pianist, Nat King Cole, was pressured into whitening his face with powder when appearing on TV. Even now, cosmetic skin lightening and bleaching happen with huge detrimental effects on health. Despite the growing condemnation, some photographers still use digital techniques to whiten the skin of people of color. It’s time this racism was stamped out.

We should get used to how natural skin looks and celebrate bodies of every size, shape, and color.

Give Up Overblown HDR

Is this still a thing? Sadly, yes. Although those horrible, over-processed images of a decade ago seem to have mostly faded away, they still appear in their death throes.

In a few circumstances, HDR does have a place. For real estate photography, interior details can be improved using the technique. Also, when shooting contre jour and wanting to get the details in the shadows and not blow out the sunrise or sunset, it can help too. But, with the advancements in sensor technology, the dynamic range of contemporary cameras is such that it is unnecessary to combine images of different exposures in most circumstances. Furthermore, standard dynamic range images look better than artificial, hyper-real HDR photos.

Overblown HDR

Stop Vandalizing Your Images With Watermarks

You spend hours planning and implementing the perfect photograph, removing all unwanted distractions by careful framing. Next, you pour over the raw file, gently adjusting it to get the very best results. Then, you spoil that perfect photo by watermarking it with a distracting, wiggly signature.

What is the purpose of that watermark? If it’s to advertise who took the photo, then you have already done that by posting it to an account owned by you. Or, do you do it to stop others from using the image? If so, then that won’t work; a single stroke of the spot removal brush in editing software will erase that as easily as a bridesmaid’s zit. Is it, then, to prove ownership if someone plagiarizes the photo? So long as you have the raw file, embedded within the metadata is your camera and lens’ serial numbers and other identifying information too. If someone is determined to use your photos illegally, then they shall. You can find your stolen images with Google’s image search and Tin Eye, then send them either a takedown notice or a big invoice for the image's usage.

If you still want to do it, look through the collections of any great photographer. They don’t deface their images with signatures.

Fake Film Grain

Grain produced by high-sensitivity film can look great. Clean digital images look fantastic too. Adding grain that tries to emulate the look of the film is creating a lie. It’s trying to turn the digital artwork from something genuine and worth celebrating into a poor imitation of film. In doing so, the photographer is declaring that the digital image is less worthy and film is better. If that is the case, then surely, the photographer must shoot with a film camera.

Okay, so adding grain can hide a multitude of sins, including making soft images look sharper, especially after removing digital noise. But contemporary sensor technology and the outstanding noise reduction software that’s now available, like On1 NoNoise, make that technique redundant.

It’s Time to Put the Drones Away

Drones come in for a lot of bad press. When used properly, they are a useful tool, a cheap way of obtaining aerial photographs. For farmers inspecting their crops and building managers surveying inaccessible roofs, they are ideal. However, news reports highlight no end of incidents from invasions of privacy, to endangering air travel, and causing harm to wildlife. Despite this, most drone users do fly them responsibly.

From an artistic, creative viewpoint, they've become a gimmick and are used unnecessarily. It seems that every television program has distracting interference of unnecessary drone footage. They rarely add anything to the content of the program and say little more than: “Look at me, I’ve got a drone.” In film production, cameras should be used so that the shot is immersive, and the tools that create the images should not be obvious.

Event photography has become plagued with drones too. Shunning Robert Capa’s advice about getting close to the subject and every wildlife and portrait photographer’s insistence of shooting at eye-level, we now look down on our subjects from far away, making them look insignificant.

At a wedding, the drone footage rarely represents what the couple remembers of the event; they were literally — if not metaphorically — at ground level. They were not flying dozens of feet in the air the venue. Furthermore, their favorite photographs will be of them, their family, and their friends because of the emotional human attachment that photos bring. Drone footage is more about the photographer pleasing themselves with unique shots, the video graphics equivalent of the boring drum solo at a prog rock concert.

Unless there is a specific need for a drone image or footage, please leave it in the box and concentrate on high-quality photography and videography instead.

Avoiding Unethical Photographic Equipment

This is something I have vented about before, but cheap, mass-produced DSLRs and compact cameras are short-lived. Furthermore, photographers soon outgrow them, and so they are replaced. Consequently, they then end up with more plastic and electronic waste in landfills, polluting the environment. It’s time that manufacturers concentrate on producing quality products and abandon the cheap, plastic, low-quality trash. Then, we photographers should boycott those who don’t make that change.

Similarly, we should look at where equipment is made. Considering whether the manufacturing base is in a country with an open democracy or an oppressive regime with poor human-rights records.

What Do You Think?

Of course, some of these opinions are subjective, and if you are happy using Instagram filters, then it doesn't matter.  But, do you agree or disagree with me with any of these thoughts? Is drone footage overused? Should signatures filters be assigned to the bin? Can you see digital effects becoming obsolete?

Perhaps you have techniques that you once employed that you would rather be forgotten because they are now tacky clichés. Or, maybe you make purchasing decisions based upon ethical considerations. Let me know in the comments.

Happy New Year!

If you're passionate about taking your photography to the next level but aren't sure where to dive in, check out the Well-Rounded Photographer tutorial where you can learn eight different genres of photography in one place. If you purchase it now, or any of our other tutorials, you can save a 15% by using "ARTICLE" at checkout. 

Ivor Rackham's picture

Earning a living as a photographer, website developer, and writer and Based in the North East of England, much of Ivor's work is training others; helping people become better photographers. He has a special interest in supporting people with their mental well-being through photography. In 2023 he became a brand ambassador for the OM System

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In this period, people want constant upgrades. To avoid unethical equipment, why not make a model that has a longer lifespan and concentrate on firmware upgrades. Then make a replacement model when there is more than a small incremental hardware upgrade. Of course this requires longer repair support.

Agree! I've made this point before. Cheap cameras have low shutter counts and that corresponds with poor build quality and therefore a short lifespan.

Is that comment applicable to readers of Fstoppers? We're mostly buying the best cameras we can afford, and if the top manufacturers outsource to China or Vietnam, we don't have much choice but to go along.

99% of all HDR photos have been overblown!

Just bought a "new," for me, camera that fits my needs now: Fujifilm x30, first produced in 2014.

It ain't the machine, it is the user...

That's true, Paul. I agree with that.
HDR can be done well, but often it burns my retinas! Thanks for commenting.

NFT's hopefully, a get rich quick scheme for the early adopters with no concern for the people who will lose their money.
Supersaturated instagram landscapes. , I think they lead to unreasonable expectations of the locations themselves. They are beautiful as they are naturally, they don't need fake skies and unnatural enhancements.
It's not really in the interest of companies that manufacture for consumers for their devices to last for a long time. This is what is destroying the earth but its hard to see it stopping. Our lives are full of junk we don't really need especially in the first world. We all need to look at ourselves and our behaviour,

Oh good, glad someone else added NFTs.
So many great photographers I followed (past tense) on Twitter do nothing but shill for one another nonstop in this small self-serving circle and it’s exhausting to see. I’m all for art and expression and using new technology to protect your work but man this a whole new level of gross exploitation.

The problem is people are actually making money and in some cases like a lot of money with NTF’s, but Yeah, am with you 100% even tho I have never even bothered looking on Twitter to see what is going on.

Pretty much I had a friend that is boys with a super cool big time Instagram influencer dude explain to me what that guy puts into the whole Twitter world you described above. He also explained to me what is that same guy did to gain all his followers along with his clout in that whole Instagram influencer lifestyle thing that is most definitely a thing. Basically, I pretty much sat there shaking my head the whole time slightly shocked, but not really shocked saying no thanks to putting in 5 hours a day sucking people off on Twitter in hopes that I will be cool as well and people will buy my NTF’s. Even crazier is even with the 5 hours a day spent dealing with Twitter the same guy also finds time to be very active on Instagram all day long so in total he probably puts in 12 plus hours a day on social media alone.

What I guess is even crazier is that there definitely people who spend even more time with all of it I am certain of that!

Thank you for addressing the whole NFT thing. If they have done ANYTHING, the whole NFT scene has come to create a "have's vs. have-not's" society among photographers. I have wrestled with the Twitter thing and have contemplated attempting the whole NFT scene myself, but I can't see the point in prostituting myself or my work in an attempt to gain someone's approval. I like my photography; my wife and family enjoy my photography. If no one ever pays me a cent for it, I'll still do it because I enjoy doing it. That should be what photography is about, but I'm seeing people on Twitter go out and specifically invest hundreds or thousands of dollars in camera gear just because they think they can sell a digital image and make a buck. It's a crying shame...

Absolutely agree with what you say, Hector and John. Thanks for adding to the conversation.

Agree on the NFT point. If anyone is confused about the financial strategy behind these I highly recommend artist Brad Troemels "NFT report" for an entertaining analysis grounded in the art world on NFT's.


People who follow trends end up producing images that you forget within 5 minutes.

Just look at all the Adamus and Kenna clones; great work, but it doesn't stand out at all. Like-scroll on; like-scroll on; like-scroll on.

The majority will keep following the trends that will get the likes, and what others do really has nothing to do with me. That's not sour grapes, it literally has nothing to do with me.

Great thoughts thank you Ivor. One point is that in TV/Film drama production the drone has an important role as an objectifying pov in the process of transitioning from one sequence to another. In time based imagery the relationship between frames is just as important as the quality of each individual frame.

I can't argue with that, Bryn. But it's when it's used for no useful purpose, just added for the sake of it that annoys me. When it is well done, it doesn't become a distraction from the flow of the movie or documentary. It's just when it's added as a gimmick, it becomes an annoying cliche.

Here in the UK, the Queen gives a speech on Christmas Day. The final scene was a military band playing, and it finishes with a shot from an ascending drone. It was completely superfluous, unnecessary, and obvious. (I'll probably get arrested for treason later!)

1. In a well done HDR nobody knows it was an HDR. You don't seem to know the difference between HDR and tone mapping / luminosity blending. Maybe connect with Gary McIntyre and he can teach you the difference. HDR is a way to capture wide dynamic range so, by definition can't be bad. tone mapping and luminosity blending are how one uses that wider range. Gary has MANY images that are captured via HDR. Are you saying he should stop?

2. So really no drones? Nobody should use a tool that is essentially a tall tripod to get an angle that is better than what they could get from the ground?

It's not even worth getting into your other points. You clearly have some idea that there is one way of doing things and any other artistic expression has to be wrong. I personally choose not to do most of these things but I make my own choices. Looking down on artists who make other decisions is the mark of someone who thinks very narrowly.

I totally agree, specifically to drones. Sure some people who hire drone photographers at their wedding do it to “flex” but hopefully others use it for actually what the last person said: an impossibly tall tripod with an incredible view of an amazing event.

In many settings my drone is my favorite stills camera: moreso than my A7riii or my Fuji.

It's the overblown HDR that is, thankfully, dying out. As I said, as a technique it still has its uses. Also, I don't say no drones, when it is a specific technique that's needed, then it's fine. Where they add value to a shoot, and they can, then they should be used. It's just when they are used as a gimmick that they are not specifically needed to add value, I think they should be left in the box.

Thanks for the comments.

Well it IS an opinion piece, no?

Gawdy HDR? Some of my best selling prints are just such photos. You just have to know who to cater to. I'll keep making them since they sell. And I also do HDR stuff that you would never know are HDR. The prints look absolutely natural. Gotta' know your clientele.

That's fair enough, David. Thanks for adding to the conversation.

You bet! I know that the gawdy HDR stuff isn't for everyone, but I process the stuff with people like carguys, machinists, airplane lovers and the like.

Jesus! MY EYES!!!!!

A good pair of sunglasses helps. I've probably sold three dozen of this print in different sizes. Mostly carguys and wives of carguys. And let me add, I print these on metallic based paper...kinda' like Kryptonite to purists. I aim to please those that buy prints from me, not other photographers. Gotta' have a thick skin to post stuff like this on a photography site.

If it's paying the bills then that's awesome, carry on!

I once lived in an apartment complex where the management decided to decorate the lobby with some newly purchased large canvas prints. They were the most hideous looking HDR landscapes I'd ever seen. Had that Photomatix look dialed upto 11, complete with digital artifacts, bleeding colors and fringing.
To everyone else they were awesome pieces of art! Apparently chosen as a result of a vote amongst residents.

Shows what I know!

I draw the line at the gawdy stuff beyond the example I posted. I did a whole series of churches when I lived in Louisiana. All were HDR, BUT, they were natural. No heavy tone mapping, naturally blue skies, etc. What it did was made the intricate detail stand out better than a single frame.

David, definitely not my cup of tea, but if you have a market for similar images, then great work. Like any art, photography has a broad spectrum.

Personally I find 99% of HDR photos to be hideous, but that said if you're actually getting sales from them, well... Bloody good job!

As you say, it's about catering to the target audience :-)

Your last statement is the bottom line: "Know your clientele." Some people will absolutely SWOON over the heavily saturated while others may think it looks "fake" or artificial. Knowing your audience - and working to keep them happy - is what counts, regardless of what others might say or think.

I’d like to add one more to your list - bad strobe photography. Severely underexposed for no reason background and dull softbox look bug the h3ll out of me. It usually comes as a bundle with excessive and unnatural skin smoothing.

Good point, thanks, Tammie.

I kind of agree on the drone front, the images themselves are all getting a bit samey... especially in the area we both live Ivor, there isn't a day goes by without my Instagram feed having some new aerial shot of the North East coastline.

As far as HDR goes, I think the technique needs separating from those gaudy images, HDR is a valid editing technique if done right, and lets be honest our eyes see in HDR so how else are we meant to capture images that represent that (if thats what we are trying to do).

I don't often bracket shots but since I got Capture One 22 ive been experimenting with some old RAW files I have on my drive, below is a re-edit of one of my shots from 3 years ago. 5 shots bracket with 1 stop between each shot.

Nice work, Stuart. I hope I got across that it's the overblown HDR that should be confined to history. It does have an important place when used correctly.

Hi Ivor, fully understood and agree with your point. My observation was more generalised around the use of the term to even describe those weird looking shots, I’d prefer if they were given a different name altogether, as often beginners get told HDR is bad with no context added so it becomes a kind of joke phrase.

I'd add obsessing about shallow/thin depth of field. Thin DOF can be a creative tool, but it would seem that some are trying to take pictures of bokeh, not subjects. Hopefully the current obsession with bokeh goes the way of spot color and sepia tone.

Lol, I love the sentence about people taking photos of Bokeh and not subjects 😂

Totally agree. Both shallow depth of field and bokeh have been obsessed about for far too long. Why would people insist on shooting wide open all the time? On social media many people make opinions about lenses based on wide open rendering (bokeh) and sharpness across frame. I own lenses that are technically bad in that regard but still have bags of character.

Great comment, Stu.

Here are my 5 things photo-review sites should stop in 22:

1) stop talking about speed when reviewing computers for photography - we were working on large photo files back with G-4s - review how easy the color calibration and wether it stays true over time

2) quit reviewing gear days after it was released like you can truly asses any gear within a week of use

3) quit with the work for free articles on how to become a professional (career orientated) talk about writing up specific licenses, talk about saying no to bad deals, explain how to turn those conversations from free to yes we'll pay

4) I agree about the drone shots being over done talk about explaining to requesting clients how Joe Blow isn't charging the same because he probably doesn't have insurance - follow up on the horror stories when it turns out weeks later it actually wasn't a drones fault

5) quit celebrating all the bloated gear clearly aimed at driving up prices. Yes I'm looking at lenses with ridiculous large apertures, SS external drives, platinum plated tripods, etc. Sure some may need them but not the general audience. It seems the more review sites celebrate the more it is perceived as the required norm driving up price while reducing reasonable options

I liked many of these suggestions. I added two to my list for upcoming articles to write! Thanks for sharing

Years ago, Craig, I read two magazine reviews for a Canon DSLR - I can't remember what model it was now - one gave it a five-star rating and the other a two-star slagging-off. The five-star rating was right next to a full page advert for the camera. Canon didn't advertise in the other magazine. Interestingly, both magazines came out of the same publishing house.

I recently read a camera review in the UK's Consumer Association's magazine, "Which?". Some comments in the review were, at best, just the reviewer's opinion.

At Fstoppers we have very strict guidelines about reviewing kit, and I know we cover both expensive gear and that at the budget end. With cameras and lenses, we do have to put them through their paces and have a minimum number of images we have to shoot. I think this site is far more stringent than many others.

Plenty of others do read them, and so there is a demand for reviews of expensive gear, learning about setting up a business, and SSDs. I guess the approach would be not to read the reviews of equipment that doesn't interest you. Personally, I far prefer reading interviews and educational pieces, as I learn much more from them. When I read kit reviews, it isn't when it is published, but when I am seeing a new piece of kit.

Thanks for the great comment.

I’m just a hobby photographer who enjoys learning from this site. But I do work professionally as an advertising writer and producer. I wish I had a quarter for every time I’ve heard someone bring up drone shots when we are discussing ad concepts. I’m not inherently against drone shots, but it isn’t itself a concept. The concept is the story, not the execution. What are we trying to convey? What do we want the viewer to feel or to understand? How would I explain the gist of it in a sentence or two? Once we have that, then we can talk about how high the camera is. At one time, we may have been able to grab a certain amount of attention with a drone simply because it was novel. Not anymore. In my line of work, the execution has to serve the story — not try to stand in for it. I sort of feel that way about professional photography, too, whether it is commercial, landscape, or whatever. I could also make similar statements about the creative process in making movies, music or many other things.


I completely agree with you about the Instagram filters. But I think they have already been out of vogue for quite some time. I mean, I look at hundreds of photos on Instagram every day, and hardly ever see a photo that had a filter applied. I think that fell out of style about 5 years ago, so no need to hope that people "wave goodbye" to it in 2022, because nobody uses them anymore, anyway.

Same for HDR. I agree that HDR is usually horrible to look at, as it pains the eyes and insults the intelligence. But the obvious HDR look went out of fashion a long, long time ago, like back in the early 2000's people had already had enough of it. I rarely see it used anymore, except in "digital photo art", where people are not even trying to pass it off as a true photo.

I need to follow some new people on IG, Tom! Happy New Year,


I'm not sure what types of people you're following, but the vast majority of the people I follow on Instagram are those who are very serious wildlife photographers who shoot the types of images that you can expect to see in National Geographic types of publications.

For those of us in this genre, the use of Instagram filters and similar gimmicks would destroy our credibility and actually cause us to be a bit of a laughing stock amongst our very serious, accomplished peers.

Sadly, I follow a number of fairly decent photographers on Instagram who do use pretty awful custom made colour presets. One makes the colours far too saturated, a few others insist on that overused annoying blue tone and there are many still going for the ‘warn’ sepia brown look.

Maybe we follow the same people. Thanks!

If there is a trend in photography I'd like to see end then it's the theme where photographers tell other photographers what's right and what's wrong. I see this so often in a lot of places What gives one artist the right to tell another artist how to create art ? If you don't like what you see then just ignore it and move on. Rather than telling the world it should change I suggest turning that finger around and spending some time evaluating what you need to change to improve your own art.

Yup. There is no right and wrong in art. As I said at the end of the article, all my opinions are subjective.

Ivor Rackham asked,

"But, do you agree or disagree with me with any of these thoughts? Is drone footage overused?"

I actually love to see drone imagery - both stills and video. I actually wish that I could see more if it in movies, documentaries, travel videos, etc.

I love seeing things from a different perspective. Almost every image I see is taken from the "regular perspective" that we see life from on an everyday, every minute basis. Hence, it is refreshing to see images taken from a perspective that lies outside of my normal view of the world.

There are two other reasons why I really enjoy drone imagery:

It is often strikingly beautiful! Some of the images I see of nature, taken from a bird's eye view high above the ground, are just gorgeous! And they are showing me a kind of beauty that I do not get to see in my real life experiences. It is so interesting and even fascinating to see what things look like from above. The patterns created by erosion in landscapes such as deltas and deserts come alive when seen from above, in a way that we would never even notice from our regular perspective of seeing things from the ground. I absolutely LOVE seeing things from a perspective that is very different from what I am used to seeing. How refreshing for the eyes and the mind, to see things in a new and different way!

The other reason I love drone imagery is because it provides context. It shows me an area and its surroundings, so that I have a fuller understanding of the area being discussed.

I am a map guy. I have dozens and dozens of maps, and regularly look at them and study them to learn about new areas and to learn more about familiar areas. Maps show an area from an overhead view, which is something that I relate to very easily. I understand things easily and clearly when they are showed to me from an overhead view.

I also spend a good deal of time on Google Earth studying the terrain in areas that I am interested in visiting. It helps me to identify key wildlife habitat, and also to get a feel for the lay of the land. In areas that I have spend a lot of time in over the years, on foot, I can learn new things about those areas by looking at a drone image taken from above. It amazes me how I can spend so much time in an area - years and years - and still not know so many things about it until I see it from high above!

I should mention that one of the things I do for a living is landscape and hardscape design. And of course in those fields we draw plans from an overhead, or "plan" view. So for most of my life, both from being a map addict and from my design work, I have been very accustomed to looking at the earth from an overhead view. This is the view from which everything makes sense and is shown in broader context. Seeing things from my perspective down here on the ground is often confusing and I miss seeing so much of what is around. Seeing things from above makes everything clear. No wonder I want more drone footage!

By the way, I do not even own a drone, and have never used one, so what I have written is not based on any bias developed from personal gear preferences.

I agree, drone footage can be great when used in the right circumstances. I am also still beguiled by the different perspective. But I worry it is becoming over-done. Lots of samey footage that is poorly executed, and used where it isn't necessary.

Plus, as I mentioned, they are a very useful practical tool. (I don't own one, either.)


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