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Tuesday, 02 June 2015


Nude woman passed out on the forest floor amid the ferns.

Bugling elk.

Close-up pictures of rocks. Also called sensitive rock pictures.

The Leica posing next to the early morning cappuccino hasn't been put on the list, has it? God, I hope not!!

old leather boots

OK, got a pretty good start on cliched subjects-now how 'bout the list of fresh, new as yet unexplored subjects ?

water droplets on anything, you've got one in your print sale.

By the way, I see that Lensbaby has just come out with the "Velvet 56" lens which allows you to turn ANYTHING into a cliche... sweet!!

There is an indefinable element buried deep in the human psyche that makes the content of the above list both pleasurable and comfortable for creators and viewers alike. It varies between different countries but is always present. It is up to the individual creator to reinterpret as he of she sees fit. The best example of this rethoric is as I am sure you would appreciate Mike, is music and classical music in particular...

Filters or "effects" that want you to believe that the image was scanned (and badly masked) from film - 4x5" or larger.

What, no "children" on the list? And only one person in the comments who lists them. Children really need to be put on the list. And a note to all parents, no-one is interested in looking at photos of your children.

Here in Maine: Lighthouses; dinghies, esp. when tied up in groups at the dinghy dock.

Over sharpened, odd contrast, over clarified portraits. I often wonder how I would react to seeing someone who actually looked like that. Pretty much the same for Photoshopped skin tones.

I can only dream of photographing a lake with pier in sunset that includes an old barn with peeling paint – or no paint. Naturally, an old tractor is in a foreground of wild flowers mixed in with the crop. The pier has boats in a row and the shoreline includes an old abandoned boat - obviously! A lone tree is alongside the barn.

On the other hand, I would not put a nude woman in high heels wearing low earrings holding a half-filled glass of wine in the tractor! Surely anyone can see that would be a bit over-the-top!

Excellent post Mike. HDR landscapes......

Mike, I know I'm bing pedantic but: I don't think a subject can be cliche, it can only be a subject. How it is photographed can be a cliche.


Yosemite Valley. I.M. Pei's Louvre pyramids. Saffron-robed monks in Angkor Thom. Ficus tree strangling anything in Angkor. Anything in Prague. Any gritty street in Tokyo, shot in grainy film. Stonehenge. Anything in Australia. Any Inca construction. Any bridge near San Francisco. Mount Rainier. The Matterhorn. Everest.

That one picture of the shoreline with the rocks in the foreground surrounded by mist (waves rendered with a Lee Big Stopper, natch), and then a curve of shoreline around the right edge of the frame turning in to a spit of land projecting back across the frame exactly 2/3 of the way up, across exactly 2/3 of the frame, with the sun setting behind it exactly 1/3 of the frame across from right to left.

500px is an entire website devoted to this picture, I think?

Tall buildings shot from ground level.

Black and white photos of groups of musicians glaring at the camera. Bonus points if half are looking goofy staring in another direction.

Railway tracks should be first on list

An important variation on the billowy dresses mentioned above: Nudes in dark forested areas/eroded rocks/run down industrial buildings.

Plus Cala Lillies. They get their own category, separate from "Flowers."


In reference to long exposures of moving water. This effect is often just a by-product of landscape photography technique.

1. Base ISO for best image quality
2. Small aperture to render everything in focus
3. Sometimes a polarizer to cut glare
4. Indirect light to keep highlights under control

The result? slow shutter speeds. The camera is on a tripod, so shutter speed is not a priority. Lots of landscape shots are in the quarter second or slower range. Such is life.

It's been 180 years since the 1st photograph was taken. So I'd say just about everything has been the subject for uncountable number of aspiring photographers. Thus, I submit, there are no non-cliché subjects left -- period. Even the accidental catch has become cliché, no thanks to HCB and his legion of imitators. Who are we kidding?

Attractive young couple embracing on city street. Wind blown sand dunes. Close up of two cupped hands holding out some fresh produce, always with small depth of field.

Anything w/railroad tracks, whether the perspective is important or not...

The worst cliché is photographing a photographer with his camera in the foreground on a tripod and his hand on the top of the camera.
I wonder how would a surgeon or butcher be photographed.
The second worst is shooting with film (black and white) in this digital era.

Raindrops or dew on leaves.
Corridors to show "perspective."
Photo of a woman's throat with her head tilted back (after Man Ray).
Frontal view of a woman with skinny thighs, taken from a low vantage point so as to be able to see some butt cheek (sort of crass, but it's been everywhere for several years now).
Painted lines on the street.
Shadows of people walking across the street.
Street photos of people taken from behind.
Time-exposure of one person in the center standing still while everyone else is streaky.
Leafless bushes or trees that look like a Pollock.
Alien landscapes, with or without people.
Graffiti or street art, or people while they're making it.
Someone floating in water.
A hand holding a print so that it aligns with the background.
Rowdy, wild, lithe, often naked white teenagers being free and easy.

I guess the biggest clichés of all is the 'List of Clichés'.

I started to examine the list and stopped reading when I realized I done the first four in just the last couple of weeks.

Somebody please tell me what isn't a clichés and I will go right out and shot it before it becomes a clichés.

Holding a photograph of a scene in front of the scene itself.

A distorted reflection of one building in the facade of another.

Infrared photos with channel reversal to swap the colors. Like it is the only color alteration that is available for IR. I may have tried it once and found it lacking.


Artfully lit Spider webs, with or without dew drops.

And dogs.

Whew! Looks like classic cars and airplanes are still safe!

[Well, they were until right now. --Mike the evil Ed.]

Of course todays bleeding edge becomes tomorrows kitsch cliche, who can forget "brides in wineglasses" brides and grooms floating in front of stained glass windows" and all those other double explosure montage abominations of the late 70s to late 80s. I bet there are more than a few wedding albums that have mysteriously gone missing in action.

An undressed or underdressed celebrity as photographed by Annie Leibovitz?

Anything shot through a lens -- or with a camera.

Some subjects just naturally make aesthetically pleasing photos. Most of the listed cliche subjects are fairly easy to photograph and they give the novice a glimpse at the potential of photography. Taking cliche photos is kind of like hitting the open E-minor chord on an electric guitar, any beginner can do it and it sounds bad-ass. By the same token, an experienced guitarist still gets the same thrill from hitting that fat, juicy chord, but he's probably also figured out a way to bake it into a tasty riff.

Pictures of people taking pictures.

Bright colors in the third world.

Just born humanoids and their parents.

Baby anything, be it animals, birds, whatever.

People who believe digital imagery is the be all and end all.

Fall color.

Any landscape with the saturation slider cranked way up.

Power lines / power towers.

Traditional bull race - SUWANDA Deddy - Indonesia. A must have picture if you belong to a camera club here in Asia....
And there're at least twenty entries in every "photo contest".
And Terraced Fields -- Those amazing 9th wonders of the world.... during the seeding season when they flood the fields, with the sunrise or sunset reflected off the water. And of course a farmer in "traditional costume" walking behind a cow.

One thats been with me since childhood: People in the water splashing each other.

1) pictures of clouds with dust spots in them
2) pictures of clouds without dust spots

When I've wanted to do the blurred water cliches in the last decade, I've needed help -- base ISO plus safe good aperture on modern equipment result in much to short exposures to really get the effect (1/4 second is nowhere near enough with most water I've worked with). I actually own a 6-stop neutral density filter for this (and occasionally wish I'd bought the next one up).

It certainly started out as something photographers basically couldn't avoid; but that was LONG long ago.

So, when we get this list completed and prioritized and cut off at the proper point (so we have in fact the worst 50 cliches, or whatever number you choose), I presume the next step in the program is the contest to see who can first exhibit an example of each one from their own work?

How about anything that has been photographed dozena, hundreds or thousands of times... oops that covers just about everything.

This post (and comments) just made it to the top 3 of my all time favorites from your blog! Made my day, too. :-)
Here are some cliches that I've been guilty of (over)clicking:
1. Close-ups of sand on the beach
2. Slow shutter shots of flowing water
3. Reflections
4. Macros of computer keyboards!
5. Church ceilings and facades

Unfortunately photography as a whole, but I still like it. Also all HDR..GRRR
And clothes on a line.

There are no cliches, its only a state of mind, everything is photographical.

Babies feet.

Re: 32. You can't have lone trees ;-)

Art photographers avoiding clichés is the new cliché.

Desert highway disappearing into the distance.

Photo of someone standing near a moving, blurred train popular with street photographers.

Bored musicians in front of an old brick wall with one of them looking in the wrong direction.

No one mentioned front three-quarter views of steam locos and panned shots of racing cars. There, those are my main subjects...cliches but I enjoy taking them and boring friends with the results!

Texture blending! I once visited a camera club (surely the original fount of all things cliched) where if it wasn't texture blended, it wasn't considered artful. I've rarely felt so uncomfortable, and had to endure endless pictures of leaf patterns blended with every other imaginable cliche (including travel pictures, of all things) before I could make my escape.

It cured me of any desire to join a camera club, by the way.

Blue sky from the window of the plane you are travelling with. Add wing and some clouds.

Not a bad list: here's my contribution...

"Head and shoulders portrait with lens wide open, with lots of background blur."


May I suggest to group all clichés in a set: 'All pictures that can be adequately described in less than ten words' ?

Talking of Martin Parr - http://www.martinparr.com/2011/photographic-cliches/

Long exposures of steel wool on fire, and swirled about... haven't tried that one yet. Bit hazardous.

The Moon!

And a recent one, that will only increase - aerial shots from drones.

Think I'm guilty of more than half the list so far, at some time.

The Kessock Bridge - personal one, that I do "Blips" of, or from, far too often. Well, I do cycle over it most workdays.

Castles - locally Inverness Castle.

Statues with traffic cones on their heads, or wearing sports team scarves.

Politicians in maternity wards.

Other local ones - dolphins, or bits of dolphins, heilan coos (Highland cattle).

Fields of Oilseed Rape.

Who's managaed to get the most of these into just one photo?

Pictures of my daughter. I've seen thousands of em, and she's only just two years old...

Narrow focus wet plate collodion portraits. Collodion still lifes featuring skulls and old bones, dolls heads, and other Gothic ephemera. Who'd have guessed a 19th century process would become a visual cliche in the 21st century?

Poles in water.

1) The aethereal tones of Silver EFX applied to a contrasty black&white long exposure.

2) Views straight up architecture (multiple buildings) to a fragment of sky beyond.

3) Combinations of both of the above.

4) IR-filtered foliage.

Cliches are a bucket list we work through from the time we first hold a camera. We get waylaid by some but we move on but like the maturity of our emotions, politics we can only keep moving on if we keep working on them.

Beginning photographers with artistic inclinations, and almost all photography students, photograph their feet fairly early on in their journey through the medium.
This is subsequently followed by images which include their own shadow...

My vote would be for selfies but
here in the UK the amateur exhibition circuit has always had its cliches. Some current ones are:

Frightening man probably with tattoos and piercings in front of wall taken at an angle with a 20mm lens. Woman in 18th century garb standing on a cliff looking forlornly out to a ship at sea. Goth person among gravestones at Whitby. Nude sitting on floor of abandoned building (those rough floorboards must hurt). Nude crouched in corner of stairway (I have lost count of the essentially identical images of this staircase that I have seen,in a thankfully now closed, disused hospital). Magritte style men with bowler hat and umbrellas in weird arrangement of random street objects. Some of it probably comes about as a result of people thinking that they know how to make art with Photoshop and thus avoid a cliche. Then everyone copies the style, they all start winning awards and we have our next cliche.

As has been stated above a couple or so times, starting to look like pretty much everything is a cliche, because now with billions upon billions of images uploaded each week, absolutely everything is done and re-done, and worse, now we can all know about it, which was much harder before. Maybe that accounts a little for the comments Mary Ellen Mark made about the death of her type of photojournalism (as way to make a living) today: pain and suffering has become a cliche (probably has been for thousands of years...)

Those pictures of lone people standing around in an art gallery.

How about conceptual photos that were never actually taken. They all look alike to me.

My favorite photos are those of cameras on seamless.

This, I sincerely hope, is not a cliche:


(not my picture)


And yet such photos contain endless variety and, for the photographer, opportunity, and we'll never get tired of good photographs of faces.

I'm guilty. Cf. Marshall McLuhan's "From Cliche to Archetype." McLuhan's thesis (for what is is worth, which may not be much), was that archetypes are nothing more than aged cliches, or the cliches that have remained with us. I haven't looked at the book in more than 40 years but I remember it for its wonderful collection of epigrammatic quotes, e.g. "Laughter is nervous energy attacking the muscles of the face." Wyndham Lewis.

In the UK, swans, especially two of them with their necks "artfully" arranged to form a heart shape.

As should be obvious from this burgeoning list: representational photography.
I think that about covers it.

This is my new to-do list! And yay, I'm nearly halfway done already...

The Half Dome

There is a variant of the pier shot that I find particularly overdone. Specifically, the "under the pier at dusk with a very long exposure." Bonus cliché points added if it's in black and white.

The entire content of my Lightroom catalogs.

Not sure if I should start a year-long photo project to knock off cliche's I've yet to photograph (12,24,29,30,31,32 and 34) or a year-long photo project with none of these subjects.

Birds in Flight are a Cliche. They all look pretty much the same.

36 cliches listed and I am guilty of taking at one time or another every one of them. Most of these type of shots are crap, not because they are cliches but because they are uninteresting, but every now and then one of them rises above the ooze. One never knows—and I love surprises!

Forgotten were Shibuya crossing (Tokyo) and Japanese snow monkeys. Foreigners taking photos of Shibuya crossing is so commonplace, Japanese comment on it. One could, however, take photos of the zillions of mostly foreigners taking photos of Shibuya crossing.

I think the task of avoiding cliches will paralyze you as a photographer or certainly stunt growth. Even the struggle to avoid cliches is almost cliche itself. Just let go!

We should be photographing and photographing a lot to allow our voice to emerge, to find confidence in our own vision unencumbered by what we think we should or should not photograph. The best advice I think we can give anyone trying to take photography to the level beyond record snapshots is to learn the art of those who came before you and then emulate those for which you have the most affinity. Be not afraid!

Do not fear that you lack originality by imitating Ansel Adams or Weston or Friedlander or Eggleston or (fill in the blank), soon enough your own vision will creep in and begin to dominate simply because you are photographing without self imposed restrictions.

The photographs will be yours.

Cows at sunrise, cars on a misty road, cow backs as horizons. It ain't about the subject. Just sayin'

Doors and windows

Those grip and grin photos, as seen in many a newspaper, are a terrible cliche, one which my eye slides over in search of something interesting.

Another cliche, seen in the news sheets of local parish councillors, is the said councillor looking pleased pointing at something they've had fixed (a pothole, a fence, a sign) or looking grim pointing at something that hasn't been fixed yet.

Resolution charts and brick walls with wide angle lenses...
Almost 200 comments and no one opted for the open goal on the gear head community?! Cheap shot but somebody had to say it.


If I still had a cat, I could sooooo trifecta this.

pax / Ctein

(but, I have verbed "trifecta," so it's already a good day)

1). Piers or pier ruins leading into the misty ocean. 2). Shaped bushes and hedges. In other words, anything by Michael Kenna.

Apparently everything is a cliche subject. Few have seen the inside of my house. So pictures of that become interiors with overexposed windows cliches. Or interior with HDR perfectly exposed windows cliches. Or interiors with drapes cliches. A beautiful black and white portrait is cliche as is all of black and white street photography.

Put everything into a category and it is a cliche because you have tossed out the specifics of the shot. This is a silly exercise.

Milky Way. Star circles. Flaming steel wool. Lego minifigs.

Aurora and Milky Way shots are rapidly headed for cliche status.

Landscapes with selective focus tilt lens effects (or PS fake thereof).

My perennial favorite (not): phony gigantic moons pasted into a landscape.

You don't need a list, just look at the photography streams on Pinterest. Rain shots are my particular bugbear right now - who knew so many models like to frolic in monsoons wearing only a man's shirt?

@Paul Amyes I think there's actually something going on here that's not quite that obvious.

We're in a new world, with billions of pictures. Every photograph that's any good is instantly copied. To a large degree there really isn't anything new any more. We, largely, no longer have Iconic Photographs. What we have are archetypes, iconic ideas for photographs if you will. I visualize these archetypal photos as "surrounded" by a cloud of actual photographs people have made. There's a sort of Platonic Ideal photo, and then a bunch of stuff on flickr etc. Each photograph is, in a sense, cheap, if only because it is one of 1000 more or less identical ones.

This isn't the fault of the photographers, this isn't a failure of imagination. This is simply reality.

Think of a contemporary photographer, and a really great photograph they've taken recently. Without much difficulty, you could find 10,000 Very Similar pictures.

Do you even think of contemporary photographers in terms of their iconic images, or is it more about the ideas and the bodies of work? I know I think of, say, Salgado quite differently than I think of Weston. Weston is A Pepper, Some Dunes, and A Couple Nudes. Salgado is a style and a set of ideas and themes. To me. His style is widely copied. His bodies of work -- his BOOKS -- are not.

I think photography has grown up. No longer can you stand out by simply taking a couple good pictures. You've got to have ideas, you've got to be able to execute bodies of work, you've got to be able to create a book's worth of material that hangs together stylistically, that embodies some coherent ideas, that says something as a corpus.

100 years ago you could just write good Haiku. Now you've got to be able to manage a novel.

It's a good thing.

(I wrote a bit more on this, on my blog, "The Death of the Iconic Photo" a few weeks back)

I'm safe! Motorsports racing pictures are not on the list! ;-)

With "everyone" now owning and using a cell phone camera, all possible subjects will be "cliched", that is, in some way similar to other photographs. So?

The fact that flowers are cliched subjects doesn't prevent me from seeking out local wildflowers in their native setting, being pollinated by the local insects.

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