2018's Image Concept We're Seriously Sick of Seeing

2018's Image Concept We're Seriously Sick of Seeing

Thanks to apps like Instagram, there are some concepts that we've seen literally thousands of times, and at this point, they all blur into the same bland flavor. 2018 felt like the year of the lone person standing by waterfall, and seriously, we're sick of seeing that same shot over and over again.

We've all seen the shot before: it's a solitary individual often wearing a brightly colored coat or article of clothing composed standing alone near a waterfall, often walking towards it (where are you going?) or looking towards the sky with arms outstretched. We get it, you're out alone communing with nature in the hippest way possible. Is the waterfall itself not good enough without your Instagram-worthy solitude? When did something epic like a huge waterfall become the standard-issue background for everyone's standard-issue Instagram feature account?

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Person centered against full frame waterfall

A post shared by Insta Repeat (@insta_repeat) on

I'll say it louder for the folks in the back: the waterfall is good enough without you in it. Nature can be beautiful, emotive, powerful, and epic. Nature is still worth sharing to your Facebook page and your Instagram without a person striking the same lone adventurer pose. Take the time to feel the waterfall, enjoy its beauty and its power. Be the lone traveler with a heart ready for adventure without being the cookie cutter photographer. I believe in you; you can get an epic image without a person in it.

A few things to mention in closing: first, read this with a grain of salt and a sense of humor. This piece is written from a place of good humor and commentary; don't let your underwear get in a bunch over it. Do I think that Instagram has trained people to shoot things for likes and follows over organic content? Yes, absolutely. I think we're being trained to take the status quo images instead of spending enough time to shoot the actual heartfelt image. Does that mean that you shouldn't take that shot if it's what you want? No, of course it doesn't, shoot the images that make you happy.

Never let anyone tell you what you should or shouldn't photograph (certainly, don't let me dictate what you feel); if the waterfall image is what you're craving, by all means take the shot, and don't give a second thought to what other people think. Think of this more as a plea to treat the waterfall as good enough: respect the experience of the hike you did to get there, and try to find an image that you didn't see on your phone first. Grand waterfalls have been here long before we were and will be here long after we're all gone; the waterfall doesn't need us to be beautiful.

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44 Comments

yanpekar's picture

Sorry, can't get rid of the feeling that you sound so irritated by seeing the same cliche image all over Instagram. There will always be people taking cliche / meaningless / typical images. We can influence or help people take better / meaningful images but we can't tell them what they should or should not photograph. Is it really worth writing about it? Thinking of it, many photographers take typical images while doing routine work. Hence, most of photos we take can be classified as either cliche or typical, unless you create something new (which, to be honest, does not happen often for most of us). Photography is all about experimenting. Some will take cliche photos, and for them it is fine. Others will keep experimenting until they create something meaningful and "not typical". We can't request or expect that people will follow specific rules at to what they should or should not photograph. And why do you say "we" if you only express your own opinion?

Ett Venter's picture

While I'm with you on the whole "it's been done to death" front, I have a few thoughts:

1: With a waterfall like Skogafoss, it's scale simply cannot be conveyed without a human in the image for scale. I've been there a couple of times, and while I've never taken that photo, none of my photos truly display it's size.

2: So what if people take the same photo as everyone else. If it makes them happy, who are you to take that away from them? I'm confident that 95% of your photos have been done to death as well. But you enjoy making those photos, so why should I give you a hard time about it?

Move on. Let people take the photos they want to take, no matter how overdone you think it is.

I was going to make the same point about scale. Having a person in the frame really helps there. I get the point of the article, just don't think there needed to be one. This kind of thing self-corrects, no? If their followers enjoy the images they will LIKE them, otherwise not. Also we don't all have the same followers, so it might be new to my circle etc.

Tony Tumminello's picture

Seriously, this whole article can basically be summed up with: "Stop liking things I don't like."

David Vivian's picture

You agree that on IG images have been "done to death" but then you chide for even raising the topic? Not sure I understand. This isn't an issue to anyone? Literally copying images down to the same yellow parka in front of the same waterfall doesn't seem lame to you? Hey, people can mimic all they want, but they also deserve a little side eye when posting on a photo sharing site along with the photographs they copy so well!

Just that about scale. We humans *suck out loud* at perceiving the scale of anything that's not human-sized, and flat images don't help that deficiency. Cats are smaller than us, cars have "about the right size", but even something as short as 10 metres starts being inconceivable.

Here's a simple experiment: go into any forest with "grown-up" trees, set up your camera, then take a shot without a person in the frame and the same shot with a person in it, and then compare how tall you perceive the trees.

Jen Photographs's picture

Ironically I was hoping to see more variety in your examples. Surely the waterfall shot isn't the only cliche that you're tired of seeing?

Carl Murray's picture

Tired of seeing someone complain about just the ONE cliche. I want to read about LOTS of cliches, damnit!

im tired of seeing the black and white images with the selective color. just so old and hideous to look at.

wow, not 1 affiliate link in the article. but for these photos, monkey see monkey do. its not original but for a few pics back home its okay.

My least favourite concept that I am happy this article does not use, is the 10 minute video to explain something so simple that I could have read in 30 seconds

user-156929's picture

I agree with the author, and subsequent commenters, that everyone should take the photos they want but another thing to consider — some folks have zero imagination and those are the only photos of which they're capable. But that's okay, there's room enough for everyone! :-)

So, in the name of humor, these were the top three things I got tired of seeing in photos on my feed: the Milky Way, the crystal ball shots, and the cut-out fence framing.

David Vivian's picture

How about a teal and orange crystal ball shot?

imagecolorado's picture

The kayaker paddling into distant nature is another cliche I can see less of. Also the fingers shaped like a heart.

Authenticity. That's where it's at. There's only one original thought, the rest is "me too"

Of course, every photographer has a right to be boring.

You beat me by only seconds! Yes! The hands framing a heart. So much wish I could "unsee" this cliche.

Jacques Cornell's picture

OMFG, yes, not the heart again!

David Pavlich's picture

I've seen this sort of post/article on several photo web pages. The #1 reference is cat pictures. Granted, there are some very nice shots of cats, but about 99.9% are snapshots and we've seen them all before. But, who cares? How many Sunsets have you seen? Heck, I've taken hundreds of Sunset shots myself. How about jumping spiders? Grand Canyon? Streaked head/tail lights?

We could have an article a day about clichéd shots and never cover them all. So many times, articles talk about gear not being important, just get out and shoot. Now, people shoot and we write articles that their shots are getting tediously redundant.

So, let's tell everyone to shoot really neat, unique stuff only. You're right....that statement is moronic. I have a Matt Granger T-shirt that says, 'Get Your Gear Out'. I agree, and shoot whatever it is that you wish.

user-156818's picture

Agreed. We should all shoot for ourselves...and that can be whatever the heck we want to photograph. The problem arises when it's posted to public and copy cats are numerous. However, if noticing the copycats and the redundancy, maybe it's not the people posting, but those who are consuming social media too much. When feeling jaded about photographs, it's a good sign it's time to walk away from social media.

Refrac Sean's picture

Agreed. But isn't the real problem actually IG and other social media? If we do not spend so much precious time scrolling through others people's lives then we will have less chance of being annoyed by theirs because we will be busy living ours.

but all the yt videos, self claimed social media experts and other douchbags are telling us to do this ;)

how to gain followers:

1. make the most redundant travel photos big stock agencys would never take, because their stock is full of it.

2. look fuck.able, best is beeing a girl between 14 and 27 which looks like a stock image girl laughing at salad or visiting coachella

3. sell your soul (ok this is not so much a problem, because you are lacking of it)

... + other nonsense

Jeff Walsh's picture

Story pitch: So you know how people seem to take the same cliche images? Well, lets talk about how annoying that is.

Response: But, who cares? The people who do this won't care, and people who dislike it already don't care.

Story pitch: Hmm, you're right, the world needs this article.

Response: Uhh, what?

Story pitch: Also, I'll make sure people can tell just how aggravating this thing is that doesn't affect them at all.

Response: How do you have a job here?

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

Adding to my to do list. :P

user-216690's picture

Unless I'm feeling unusually charitable, I will never drop a like on an account where I've seen it before, and that goes well beyond 'girl leading me by the hand' photographs. For me, that extends to generally competent photographs, but with an aesthetic that is everywhere. I wish I could define it more precisely, but the thought process is pretty quick and goes like 'competent but I've seen it a million times. Meh', and then I move on.

However, it seems to me that converging aesthetics are inevitable. The output of people is reinforced by feedback. This feedback being in terms of watching how many likes and comments others receive, and how many likes and comments the individual receives. To belabour the point, the goal on social media is often (but not always) to maximise exposure, as opposed to being true to some internal vision or narrative.

David Love's picture

Now do an article on youtube video intros that are longer than the frickin content part. "Hey here comes information but first, here's my logo, website, products..."

lee arthur's picture

Relax everyone. This sort of cliche image will be replaced by another soon enough. Nature of the beast.

user-165452's picture

I know what you mean. What upsets me is people just copying. I think it’s actually blocking peoples creative potential. Shoot what you want to shoot and find your own way. Do it for yourself.

Mr Hogwallop's picture

Most people don't have "their own way"

Sometimes learning is done by copying. Let them learn.

If someone has a wonderful shot of a person in a yellow raincoat by a waterfall... Why shouldn't someone else take a photo of a different person in a yellow raincoat by a waterfall. Different people. Different time. Different waterfall (sometimes). And each photo belongs to the person taking the photo. It's personal to them.

Most parents have a photo of a 2-year-old blowing out candles and destroying a cake. All parents take that same shot. Different person. Different cake. Different candles. It's over done. Unfortunately, these get posted to some photo sharing sites too. But we still love seeing the two-year-old smash cake all over the place.

My advice to Evan K. is to get off his high horse and show us his photos that are so different from everyone elses. I'm tired of seeing photos of girls holding a frame to frame themselves... but Evan, even you fell into that trap. But your model is different, the frames may be different and the background different -- the the post processing different. So it's yours - even if some of us may thing THAT is over shot. It's okay. It's what some people want.

Christian Lainesse's picture

Too few people ask themselves, before they press the shutter, has this photo been done before / how can I do it different / how can I improve it?

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