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.

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Previous comments

Thanks for the comment, David. As I said, it's all subjective, and it's just food for thought. However, I haven't actually made any suggestion in my article that we should not photograph particular subjects. After all, no two sunsets or polar bears are identical.

I know you hadn't mentioned photographic subjects. I should have been more clear. I was just pointing out the parallels between the two subjects. I've read articles and a ton of internet posts that discuss 'worn out' subjects. Typically, a post will start something like, "I'm tired of seeing so many pictures of [choose your subject of the day]." I attribute some of it to 'internet boredom' or some attempt at covert trolling.

We will never figure out human nature....never.

Not a huge fan of these finger-wagging articles - I don't know why we can't all just take the kind of photographs we like without being judged by gate-keeping purists. I know, I know ... "it's just my opinion". And since you asked, here's mine.

Your choice of HDR photo in this article is not over-blown, it's slightly over-saturated. If it was overblown we'd see all the details in the shadows, but we cannot. Also not everyone has a recent camera with a sensor capable of capturing a massive dynamic range in a single exposure. Some people are happily using equipment that is 10 years old or more and lacks a decent dynamic range.

Signatures and watermarks have their place. I stopped putting them on my images a while ago, but your argument that you can track all copyright violations and charge perpetrators is something that most photographers have neither the time, nor the inclination for. And if you try to go through an agency such as Pixsy you soon find out that most copyright violations cannot be pursued, or the case fizzles out or take place in China where you have no recourse to financial reparations whatsoever.

Is film grain that's applied in-camera a lie too? How about the effects of the infra-red blocking filter that sits on the sensor - is that a lie? My X-T4 can simulate film-styles in-camera - is that a lie? There is no such thing as a 'clean' digital image - they are all a lie - a digital facsimile of a scene whose rendering is entirely dependent upon the camera, the sensor, the lens and the accessories used.

Drones are simply flying cameras. They can be used as creatively or as "unnecessarily" as any other camera or camera accessory. The camera on a drone has its place just as much a telephoto on a DSLR. Yes, an entire wedding shot with a drone would be stupid, but using drone shots in addition to those created by the worthy Capa-like photographer on the ground are a great way of showing the whole scene - not just some cheesy shot of the sunlight shining through the bride's veil shot on an f/1 prime. Furthermore, are you seriously suggesting that the output by the BBC natural history unit, showing for instance the migration of wildebeest across the Serengeti, could be best captured by a camera on the ground? Also - your statement that there is "no end" of cases of invasions of privacy etc is nonsense. There have been a couple of incidents worldwide but most turn out to be nothing to do with drones. Oh and take a look at the voyeur websites in an incognito browser window and tell me how many intrusive photographs of naked women were shot on a drone and how many with a DSLR and a long lens - should we ban telephotos?

Re: unethical photographic equipment and landfill - didn't you previously suggest we should all get rid of our drones? Also - if we all upgrade to modern cameras with the latest Sony sensors and massive dynamic range - surely the old ones will end up in land-fill.

Thanks for taking the time for commenting and sharing your opinions, Andy.

If you cannot see the details in the overblown HDR, you might want to get your screen checked.

When you say "something that most photographers have neither the time, nor the inclination for." Someone I know makes a living from chasing copyright infringements for photographers. I would never suggest that photographers should not do this as it becomes accepted practice. Making people realize it's unacceptable is important. There will always be unreachable websites, but it's possible to get these blocked by search engines.

I get your point about all images being a lie, it's something I regularly lecture on, but neither digital nor film photography, nor what we observe with our eyes, is an accurate interpretation of reality. My point in the article is that digital photographs pretending to be analog, or oil paintings, or line drawings are poor imitations of the real thing.

You say there were only a couple of invasion of privacy cases worldwide. Nevertheless, Google brings up 8.6 million results on the topic. I don't think Ohio City wouldn't be bringing in a law to prevent it if it were not an issue. Of course, I am not suggesting they should not be used at all, which your counterargument implies, just not use them when it's unnecessary.

I'll take your word for it about the voyeur websites. I have no intention of visiting them. Neither did I propose getting rid of drones altogether, nor sending old cameras to landfill.

Thanks again for joining the conversation.

This was a great read. I myself am a beginner, I had an old film camera in my early teens and have dabbled in it ever since. However, the "smart" phone came out it has been easier and cheaper to just use it. I have refrained from buying a digital camera for two reasons.
1- unable to afford until recently and no knowledge of which one to buy.
2- I have been discouraged by all of the over processed photos I come across and never thought I would be able to compete.

I prefer a photo that is a natural as possible to really show what I was seeing and felt at the time. I truly love all photography (favoring nature and landscapes). Now I'm retired and have the time on my hands, would anyone be willing to give me a push in the right direction for a camera?

Hi Autumn, my advice is to get into a shop and get your hands on one. If you ask a photographer, they will nearly always recommend what they own. They all do similar things, and so ergonomics is really important; find out what fits your hands. There are a few other considerations. For example, are size and weight are an important factor? If so, then going for something smaller and lighter may be best, so look at the Micro Four Thirds cameras of Olympus and Panasonic.

All the brands make great cameras. As a general rule, the more sophisticated cameras of each manufacturer's range will last longer; the build quality is better, and you are less likely to grow out of it.


Buying good quality lenses, as opposed to kit lenses usually supplied with lower-end cameras, will make a bigger difference to your photography.

Do consider buying a second hand camera with a low shutter count. Most of the big retailers sell them.

Thank you! Something lighter in weight is preferred, quick focusing and the ability to shoot longer distance. I guess a camera I can multi task with! I love to go on hikes and sit in my woods. I will definitely be looking at 2nd cameras!

Loving this post!!! Hopefully, all of the mass-produced cheap cell phone photos will go by the wayside as well (sometime soon) and people will begin to see the value in professional photographers again soon!

Maybe they will, after all there are still farriers :)