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Tuesday, 02 June 2015


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Rainbows. Even in photos with a cow.

I nominate streaky headlights from long exposure.

Regarding your comment about tourists holding up the Tower of Pisa, I thought of Martin Parr's photograph:


A pier and a lake. Just google both terms and you'll see how right I am...

Food has turned to a cliche. Actually, "the meal I am eating now," is the cliche.

16 or 17 years ago, there was something novel about whipping out my FM-2 (always on my shoulder) and making a photo of my meal. Now it feels novel not to make that photo and just eat.


Iceland definitely needs to give it a rest... Though by now the whole country is probably a photo-workshop based economy.

Shadows? (PS.. the crudity was funny!)

I have heard that entire categories have been created due to the sheer volume of windmill photos.
Now imagine a cat on a windmill in the sunset with sun flowers. Then you have yo.ur self covered

I shoot weddings and we are constantly asked to get a shot where the entire wedding party jumps all at once.

"Street" is certainly working its way up the "worst" scale.

How about "selfies"? They must be climbing past cats by now.

Of course it's worth noting that any cliché-type image can be executed beyond its class. So subject matter alone does not predestine an image to cliché. For vivid at-hand exhibits to fortify my thesis consider that any of Kate's subjects captured by lesser imaginations would likely land squarely into the bottomless cliché crevasse.

Waterfall at low speed, a setting sun in the background! Any comment would be redundant...and a cat in the foreground unnecessarily pedantic.

The horror of horrors: to photograph this with a Phase One pegged to a RRS.

Cliche or no, I will always be taking pictures of my cat. And I hope Mike continues to take Butters pictures.

The cliche I am particularly fond of is squirrel pictures.

As Zack Aria says, "No review is complete without a squirrel photo."

"Conventionally attractive woman" has got to be second, behind only "cat," on the cliched subject list. Both are there for the same reason: Lots of people like looking at both, even if the photograph has no merit beyond technical competence.

Other cliche subjects for the list might include "bucolic countryside," "unusual-looking rock," and (my personal favorite) "geometric architectural element."

How about low-angle beach sunrises and sunsets with big lumpy rocks in the foreground?

Even cliches need lovin' too! Seriously, I made a best-selling coffee table book about the hoariest of cliches -- old barns. My "Rock City Barns: A Passing Era" sold 29,000+ copies and won significant awards. It's now out of print, but amazon still has some copies. Some of the photos can be seen at www.silvermaplepress.com.

Martin Parr did the Pisa image you're probably thinking of -- presumably now an ironic tourist cliche in its own right...


A single tree.

I'm currently reading a very good and funny novel by Paul Beatty called "The Sellout," in which he observes a young man lying on his back in Washington D.C., with his fly unzipped, and the Washington Monument apparently rising from it...Another version of the Leaning Tower shot.

There are quite a few "artistic" cliches -- a spray of flowers, usually from a flowering tree, isolated by shallow depth of field against a dark background. Pretty, but done a million times.

Kim Kardashian's butt...


Wide angle, low view of pier, jetty, or similar feature centered and extending into the misty or foggy atmosphere above the still water. For a twist, add a dog, cat, or body on the end of the pier.

Well, duh, Mike - selfies! I'm not the first by any means, but about ten years ago I made a short film consisting solely of my selfies from the 1970s. That was a regular part of my practice at that time. All me on the right of frame and various individuals on the left of the frame. All shot with a 40mm Summicron, so tightly with placement of the heads fairly uniform from shot to shot. It was very gratifying that at a festival where it was shown, the audience asked if it could be screened a second time. This was long before the word selfie was in common usage, of course.

I suggest not a subject, but a process: HDR photography.

Taking random snapshots of random passersby on Manhattan streets.

The bigest cliche in photography are photos of homeless people.

Definitely sunsets. There are a lot of good cat photographs and a lot of good flower photographs, but sunsets?

Photographs of people photographing cliches.

Here's a couple: lighthouses, blurred moving water, heavy HDR - any subject.

Ruins, be they long abandoned buildings or rusting automobiles and similar.

Selfies of idiots.

I believe the shot you were thinking of the people posing in Pisa was the one by Martin Parr.

Nude women in high heels and low earrings.

Your Grandma's hands. (Courtesy of Britta, in Community)

Long exposure photos of flowing water (waterfalls, rivers, lakes, etc.)

Any picture taken by any foreign tourist on a New York City bridge or street, especially with a selfie-stick (which should be licensed or illegal)

Abandoned urban locations

peeling paint
shredded billboards

surely these should have been up there already?!

1. Lomography (can we kill this yet?)

2. Anything intended to look like an Ansel Adams photograph.

The ring in the bible casting a heart shaped shadow!

Portrait + clarity slider.

A beautiful young (white) woman seemingly falling horizontally in a forest in a floaty dress.

All fisheye photos

Abandoned chairs. And pianos.

"Glamour" photography in general, plus photo-illustrations of women in silky dresses in the mountains, often with selective saturation.

The lone tree on a hill.

Oh, this is depressing! Is there nothing I do that is not cliché?

I'll borrow one I've heard from a couple of watercolor painters: ARAT - Another Rock, Another Tree. (I also have had my fill of images of slot canyons, by the way, no matter how "artfully" done.)

Snow covered mountains with a lake in the foreground. People holding up landmarks - your satirical example is great. Iwo Jima war memorial. Jefferson Memorial with cherry blossom frame. Pictures of self and camera in (bathroom) mirror. Picture of your own shoes.

Photos made from a canoe with the bow of the canoe projecting into the bottom of the picture.

Based on what I'd give up photography before I'd ever shoot, it would be weddings, wildlife and sports. While I appreciate the effort others have made with these subjects, it just seems to be the same pictures over and over again.

Well, there goes my entire pBase gallery. I think I'll take up crafting. 😀

Damn thanks Mike, 3600 pics in my "best" archive and I'm left with four. (Of course if you want to see them you'll have to pay.)

two trending cliches:
1. double exposure with dark tones showing the alternate exposures
2. underwater photography of person performing.

and already achieved:
"kinfolk" minimal/bright food/house photographs. (http://thekinspiracy.tumblr.com/)

Long exposures of moving water, whether they be waves, rivers or waterfalls.

1.Street scenes in Cuba with pre-revolution cars and people that are "poor but happy". 2.People standing proud with their arms crossed, confidently looking into the camera. If two persons, they are standing back to back. 3.Newborn baby grasping an adults finger with that tiny little hand. 4.Colourful underwater closeups of coral. 5.Wrinkled hands of old person,in b&w for extra drama. 6.Boxing gym where the evening sun cuts through the haze and the young fighter looks absentmindedly towards the horizon.
7.Any landscape image.Yes;Any. 8.Any photo of the "big five" shot from any landrover in any african national park.

People jumping over water puddles (except for Henri's)

"Slot canyons"? Never seen one, don't even know what one is. Obviously one man's cliche is another man's discovery!

[Oh, you've seen them. Just Google them and you'll realize you've seen them. --Mike]

Anthropomorphic bell peppers (except Edward's thirtieth)

Pisa: hilarious!!! but what makes it genius is the girl, of course

Empty rooms with an old television on a stand; backlit long-haired young women in a field; crappy taxidermy; gas stations a la Stephen shore

Burning candles, often in front of some out-of-focus scenery.
Half-filled wine glasses in front of some out-of-focus scenery.
The sun, peeking through various kinds of openings (between buildings, chain links, a couple holding hands, leaves of tall trees in woods seen from below).
Long-exposure water flowing over mossy rocks.
Wide scenery with single tiny person going about their business in the distance.

Long exposures of moving water. Sulky looking female nudes. Old mediteranean men with cigarettes playing cards. Paris. Landscapes with a full moon. Dirty industrial areas in low key rendering. Mirror self portraits with most of the face hidden behind a camera. Lonely American gas stations. People in trains. Reflections in water presented upside down.

Looks like King Solomon was right:

"What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun." Ecclesiastes 1:9

Oh and those bloody trees in Namibia.

Buds in spring and autumnal leaves, either close up or scenic.
But I respectfully disagree with Mr Renfro about birds flying or eating things, alive or dead, those shots are hard to do really well. A cliché is always too easy.

It's never the subject-matter which is the cliche, but the use made of it, ie. the image.

Everything in Utah.

1. Rays of sunlight streaming through parted clouds.
2. Tropical beaches framed by coconut palms.
3. Cowboys on horses.

Musicians in front of brick walls. Musicians in the vicinity of train tracks.

Is there anything left to photograph that isn't a cliche?

Willowy young woman with heavy make-up, wispy clothing, lying on: forest floor/floor of ruined building/rock on beach/floor of ruined building with a forest growing in it. Or floating in water, with lilies. Sometimes petals and/or leaves are involved, and the very worst have Photoshopped mermaid's tails added.

For some reason, the deranged algorithms at Flickr seems to think I like this kind of photo, and offer them to me at every opportunity.... I can only assume that in a past life I committed a heinous aesthetic crime, and this is my punishment.

PS I have just seen one where she is holding a burning book. Agh!

Over here, on Michigan's west coast, we joke about the ultimate photo being a kitty cat holding a flower in front of one of Michigan's iconic lighthouses during a sunset.

Tintypes/wet-plate collodion images of re-enactors. Followed by same process but with minimal DOF portraits and numerous technical imperfections. I'm surprised nobody has created a Photoshop filter for digitally emulating them.

Worse than being a cliche, as discussed many times, dangerous too, posing on railroad tracks.

Bug and Flower Macros.

I think the 'entire country of Iceland' is quite unfair! Might as well just add say "any street photograph taken in NYC" or "any thai monks with orange robes". But please don't, I think the list is too general already!

More seriously - the painter Francis Bacon had a horror of 'falling into' cliché, arguing that the empty canvas is actually no such thing - it is crowded with latent clichés. The job of the painter is therefore to avoid the clichés that are already present. Bacon had specific strategies to achieve this, including making 'random' marks on the canvas, flicking and scrubbing paint on to make marks that belong more to the hand than the intellect. He would then incorporate these marks into the painting, or use them to prompt a way of painting.

Does anyone know of photographers who introduce deliberately 'random' or non-intellectualised factors as a way to avoid cliché?

All in the list you posted except for the dog photos. As you mentioned in your editorial comment, there's no such thing as a cliche dog photo because each and every dog that has ever lived, is alive now, or ever will live (from here to eternity) is unique and special.


Bird on a stick (the camera club classic). Photos of famous landmarks taken from where the tour bus stopped. Insect macros.

Yes, I'm grouchy today...

Outhouses, featured in a book by Sherman Hines.


With 300 million photos uploaded every day (or whatever the current figure is) there isn't much that isn't a photographic cliché these days. Maybe photography has unfortunately become the cliché.

Sunrise under Mesa Arch.
No, really. I've attended a number of otherwise excellent landscape photography workshops going back about 20 years, and most of them included a critique session. And I would need both hands to count the number of attendees who showed essentially the exact same photo of the sunrise glow illuminating Mesa Arch from below. I suspect that most if not all were taken during a previous workshop. Might as well leave one tripod bolted to the ground, and have each 'photographer' take his/her turn planting a camera on top and hitting the shutter.

Milk foam art on top of coffee. (A cliche for the iPhone Age).

Anyone under the age of thirty shooting film with extra demerits if developed in rodinal with excessive grain. Film would most certainly die if taken off hipster life support. And while we're at it, can we include verbal clichés? I'd propose calling lenses 'glass' and ,the worst, referring to developer/ developing as 'soup'

People on cell phones doing nothing interesting. f1.2 wedding photos.

Thirty five photographic ideas, at least twenty five of which I haven't used yet!


At the risk of earning eternal hatred (said tongue
-n-cheek), photographer selfies taken by capturing the reflection of themselves and their cameras in a mirror.

On a different note, given the rate of diffusion of imaging devices in the general public (and that is increasingly on a wold-wide scale), perhaps most potential topics will become cliche in a few years.

Heavily pregnant woman's belly embraced by husband with parent's thumbs and index fingers forming a concentric heart shape over said belly.

'Cinematic' color rendering

Holy crap! What's left to photograph now that the cliche police have declared so many subjects out of bounds? I agree that some subjects are uber-cliches that should permitted only to top tier photographers, but such an all encompassing list is intimidating to many others who are just trying to enjoy the practice of photography. Lighten up, folks.

[You're putting your own interpretation on this. Who declared anything out of bounds? Who is saying anything about anyone being "permitted" to do anything? We don't issue permits here!

Wait till tomorrow for more. --Mike]

My, my. Now we have smugly proved that our sense os aesthetics is superior to that of the great unwashed we have found that all of photography is but a cliche. I think after following this blog since it started its time to move on, the entries for this subject show that this a place for crusty old farts who don't like anyone having fun with photography and who wish that the last twenty of photographic democratization hadn't happened.

This is not the first time that you ask a meaning-of-life question disguised as a joke. My farther-in-law passed away today, and all the pictures I can find of him are nothing but cliches, but how precious they are. This is why we take them.

I suspect the bottom line answer here will be: "Anything not completely off-the-wall weird." Being as subjective as it is and that it all depends on your own surroundings and experiences and exposure to photography, calling something a cliche is as weak as proclaiming that if somebody eats ice cream more than once because he or she likes it, they must be addicted to it. Up here, a moose eating our shrubbery on our front lawn is cliche!

Close ups of elderly Indian mens faces processed with the clarity slider pushed to 100.

Peggy's Cove.

Ultra wide angle shots taken in a field of wildflowers.

Broken/dirty dolls on the ground.

Abandoned buildings.

Follow up question: once you have a 'final' list ... ask readers how many of those cliches they have "keepers" of. (Only edit it so that it doesn't end with "of" !)

Following on from my suggested follow up question, another fun thread (or subject for a book) could be "best of the worst" ... show us your best shots of these worst cliches. (But then does best mean shots that best exemplify the cliche or those that succeed despite the cliche ? I think I'd rather see the latter).

radial star paths...

Hi Mike.
I think I see where you are going with this. You are having us make a list of tropes, right?

I definitely see value in doing that! (And if you haven't poked around the TV Tropes site before, I do encourage you to try it out. Here's a sample - you know that thing in crime shows where they "enhance" an image to see things that are convenient to the plot? Yes, this: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/EnhanceButton

Indian men (either brahmins or sikhs, as long as they have beards and wear turbans)smoking, with the smoke hovering in front of their faces. This kind of photography is becoming disturbingly popular, especially if made with resource to HDR. It can make you wish Steve McCurry had never been born.

Park bench bokeh

Dried cracked mud

And regarding #33 above, if the selfie in the bathroom is taken with Deardorff 8x10, its art.

The Eiffel Tower from any angle in any light.

Subjects whose form is rendered accessible to the film or sensor through the presence of direct, reflected, and/or refracted light.

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