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

Ivor Rackham earns a living as a photographer, website developer, and writer. Based in the North East of England, much of his photography work is training others; helping people become better photographers. He has a special interest in supporting people with their mental well-being through photography.

Log in or register to post comments
Previous comments

This pictures are absolutely beautiful :)

This might turn out to be the best post of 2022.

Give up drones? Watermarks? I hear the howls already.

Can I just add... sky replacement?

You certainly can!

Hello Ivor. Watermarks.Suggest you qualify when to apply one, perhaps based on the audience that will be reviewing your studio's photography. We did a school graduation (college). The photos had a WM about the size of your example photo only less opacity. The viewing gallery received nearly 700 logins. With only 29 orders. I was totally disappointed. One of my staff who was not involved in the gallery creation, loged in, recropped the image (eliminating the WM), took a screenshot and posted it to their phone. And here is the kicker. The school is completely dedicated to the arts. You had creatives stealing from a creative. There you have it.

Yes, photos will get stolen. I know from experience, there is a lot of ignorance out there about copyright ownership. But, it's also done deliberately with disregard for the law. When mine get misused, I send an invoice for the sale amount that embedded in the metadata.

Am I confused, or are you stating there's a way to actually embed a "sale amount" in the metadata? If that's possible, I'd love to know how to do that. As I mentioned earlier, I have no problem sharing my work - if it's requested nicely - but to have it show up on someone else's social media with the implication, "Oh yeah, I was just passing by the other evening and decided to snag a quick photo..." Man that chapped my hide. (Yes, I'm good at hiding it, I know. LOL)

Great Article as always Ivor. I'm also over the hipster filters... but I always secretly appreciate them because it makes me stand out! Happy New year

Happy New Year, Michelle. Thank you for commenting, :)

One day, could you comment on mineral photography. There is so much lack of definition and there is no uniformity regarding the background. And those pesky shadows, ug. Many times the pic looks artificial, as if it was overerly touched up.

What is mineral photography?

I don't know what mineral photography is, either. In fact, I have never seen the term, "mineral photography" ever in all my life, until I read Frank's comment.

It must be important seeing as he created an account just to comment about it.

Frank, if you would like to expand on that, please send me a message, and I'll consider writing about it. If it's out of my area of knowledge, I will share it with other writers.

I appreciate the article, what I disagree with is where you decide what is appropriate for artistic creativity. It is art no matter how you look at it, if you dont like it, don't look. I don't appreciate the negative connotation of pushing bounderies and finding your style. Clearly your old school, I respect that but this is a digital age and your having 2 worlds colliding of Cinemaphotographer and Photographer. I call them a Hybrid shooter, and being one I will voice myself and others like myself. To all never stop show us what you see, it is never wrong, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Simple GoodVibes!!NoBadDays!!😎✌

Plenty of “art” is absolute hot garbage. You’re clearly from the participation trophy generation that was taught that everyone was special no matter how mediocre you are. I don’t agree with all the points in the article but just because something is “your art and vision “ doesn’t make it good. This “good vibes no bad days” Gary V, hustle Drivel is just an excuse to avoid confronting and improving your flaws. We all have shit days. We all suck at stuff. And some ppl are shit photographers and shoulder quit their day jobs. No need to front.

Hi Johnnie, I hope I made it clear at the end of the article that this is a subjective point of view. It's also published as opinion. I'm more than happy for people to disagree with me. If you are happy with your work, then that's all that really matters.

Christian, I agree that we all can and should continuously improve in art. There's always more to learn and no end point in that learning. The more I learn, the more I realize how little I know.

Excellent article ! Thanks

Thanks, David

This is sort of a "get off my lawn" article. Can't all just get along instead of finger wagging at what people like to do in an allegedly "creative" craft?

•A drone is just as legit as a wide angle or super telephoto lens. Just a different look. And it is expected in commercial work.
•People used to use different films for different looks the accurate Kodachrome colors were different from the eye-popping Velvia color and the WS Ektachrome was warm and fuzzy compared to cool bluish regular Ektrachrome.
Plugins are today's film choices created by and for people who have never shot film
•Fake film grain or added noise is sometimes helpful to tone down the ridiculous amount of detail in a photo taken with a hi-res camera using a modern ultrasharp lens. But is it ok to use a filter on the camera to diffuse or soften the focus? Unless people go back to shooting film how can digital trends become obsolete?
•Don't buy unethical cheap mass produced cameras? That's sort of elitist, we all can't afford bespoke Leicas :^) that will last forever either in the display case or actually when used.

Instead of say what other photographer should not do , maybe and article about what trends you think should be embraced?

Happy 2022 y'all

I don't read it as scolding photographers about what they shouldn't do - it's more about what's been overdone times ten, and we're tired of seeing.

Hi Mike, this is just an opinion, and it published as such. I also make it clear that you or anyone else can disagree with my subjective point of view. As Jim says, it's about stepping away from the cliches.

As is my reply...it was a good article as it brought up valid points for discussion.
When does a trend or style become a cliche?

It's funny you should ask that, Mike. I have an article about that almost ready to send for publication. Watch this space!

Cool, I'm looking forward to it.

That's great! I very much enjoy articles on these types of topics. So much better than gear-related articles.

Great article Ivor, could not agree more with you and many of your readers, especially drones and overdone HDR . As you mentioned, drones do have a legitimate role, especially in search and rescue, fire fighting, law enforcement etc where precise overhead imaging can be a huge asset to ground based resources. But for creative imaging, drone footage is just plain boring. And along with HDR we might hope for an end to make believe costumes and themes referred to as GOTS, Game of Thrones Syndrome which unfortunately appears to dominate fstoppers these days. Overly dramatic overly saturated images that appear to be created by a rogue branch of overly medicated costume designers has hopefully exhausted creators and viewers alike.

Thanks, Michael.

There are good arguments for all Items mentioned here ....

But the one Thing we should really stop is whining over each others equipment or Camera Brands other than your own one 🤔

Just be suprised what's new and how technology evolves....

To give us here the most Important....

Beautiful fotos from Forum Members...
I don't give a 💩 on what camera or lens Brand it was made with...

Just on the how you did itand what inspired you

Wish you all Good Luck & Lovely Light

But to be on Topic ....
... Stop overblown HDRs

Hi Peter, that's a good point. All cameras are capable of taking great pictures, and some are better suited to an individual's needs. For example, someone I know enjoys using the Canon 5D family of cameras, but I find them really uncomfortable to hold and, despite them being long, my fingers cannot comfortably reach the buttons. So, what's right for him isn't for me, and probably vise versa.

Happy New Year

I heard a nice quote on TWIP by Frederick von Johnson in the early Days Photographers did not have time for social Media nor Gear Talk...

They justvhad time for photography and getting better at it 🤗

That is interesting, Ivor.

Nowadays my main body is the 5D Mark 4. My hands and fingers are not at all long - they are exactly average in size. Yet I find that the 5D series of bodies are a bit small. I mean, they work okay for me, but I much prefer the larger size of the 1D series because my hands are more comfortable holding a larger body.

Two friends of mine have switched from Canon 1D series to Sony mirrorless, and the complaint they both have is that the Sony cameras are just too small and that they are uncomfortable to hold and operate because of the smaller size. But they love the focus tracking ability and the image quality, so they have decided that the uncomfortably small camera size is something they will live with.

Yes, we are all different!

No more PhotoPills please! I'm so sick of giant moon and sun photos!!

What in the world is a "photo pill". You do realize that this is a term that most of us have never seen or heard before, ever in our lives, don't you?

Seriously, it's the most widely used landscape planning app there is ... if you haven't used it then I'd recommend trying it

I'll look it up. but keep in mind I am not a landscape photographer, so it may not be of much use to me for my wildlife work.

Great point...I'm kind of sick of PhotoPill images too, IG is overloaded with them. Although I still use PhotoPills sometimes ...

Ha ha, I heard someone say the same thing about black and white!

I agree with many of these points with the possible exception of drone photography. I have no doubt it's over-used and over-done in many arenas. But as an architecture photographer, I can say that it really adds value to telling the story of a design in a way that photos taken on the ground can't. Think homes with solar arrays, homes with fabulous water views, buildings whose design is a direct response to the immediate surroundings, etc.

Comment deleted by OP

I just de-res everything I upload. If people want to download 0.8MP images, good luck to them.

That's what I do, too, because I think that watermarks just look so unprofessional.

I'm not a fan either.

Related, I've been told I should sign my prints. i don't really want to do that either.

Sign your prints, William. It's a point of pride in your work. I sign all of my prints that are 11X14 and larger. Fact is, I've gotten additional print orders from locals that see one of my prints in someone's home or office. There is nothing wrong with being proud of your work.

I am proud of my work; I just don't see my identy as being relevent to it. But yes, the ability to identify the photographer and generate sales is pertinent.

Regardless, the gallery owner wants it, so that's what they'll get.

Yeah, the local gallery here required me to hand sign the prints that they would show at exhibitions. It made me cringe to ruin the clean aesthetics of a beautiful print by scrawling my name on the face of the image. I would make it as small and obscure as possible, but it still made me cringe. I felt like I was ruining the beautiful print by signing it.

This last time they wanted a large metal print for one of their exhibitions, I brought it in to the gallery, they gave me the pen that works on glossy metal, and ...... I just couldn't do it. I thought, "what if this doesn't sell, then I am going to be stuck with a print with an unsightly signature ruining the nice clean look."

And so I simply told the gallery manager, "I just can't do this anymore."

She allowed me to leave the front of the print blemish-free, and to sign the back side of the print instead. That was such a relief!

Never again will I deface a beautiful print by signing my name on it. It isn't about me, anyway. The image itself, and the subject portrayed in the image, are what matter, not the photographer who took the image.


By the way, the aforementioned image that I wouldn't sign did sell! So now the gallery will probably be okay with me not signing, because they know that they can still make their money without the artist's sig.

I'm probably going to closely match the background colour, so it can barely be seen. Idk, I just don't want to do it, for the reasons you articulate, Tom.

Tom....the photographer does matter. I know you do great wildlife images. Without your work, those images would never happen, not with your vision. You have to invest in your equipment, time to do the shooting, processing, and printing. Nobody else does it exactly like you. I see your point about your name getting in the way of the image. I use a silver or gold paint pen and pick the least obtrusive color for a specific print. Done properly, it compliments the image, not hurt it. I see it as a professional touch to a hard earned image.

Thank you, David

This article is right in line with articles I've read giving us a heads up about what subjects have been photographed to death. So, you plan a trip to to Arches National Park. You see the very heavily photographed arch with the Sun peeking through. You don't photograph it because it's been shot so many times? How about that trip to Churchill to see the polar bears (I am fortunate to have done it)? Do you sit on your thumbs because these beautiful creatures have been photographed millions of times? How about jumping spiders? Sunsets?

Ivor's article is thought provoking and well written. But one opinion isn't worth more or less than another. I hope that other photographers don't let this sort of written word influence their work. That would be a great way to remove the joy from what we do.

More comments