Estimates back in 2014 revealed that up to 880 billion photos would be taken throughout the year – and with the availability of digital cameras, those numbers are expected to rise higher this year, next year and on into the future. Such a staggering volume of images means that inevitably, some subjects will become clichés.
Yet as fine art photographers, it’s our job to explore the world in new, unique ways. Some days, however, that tidal wave of images being taken around the globe makes it seem impossible to find something new. Want to break away from all the photographic clichés? Here are some things to think about.
One way to avoid clichés is to take your old, tired subjects and find an entirely new way to photograph them. In theory, this sounds easy, but in practice, it’s one of the hardest ways to break away from clichéd subjects.
For instance, when you look at a flower, can you find an aspect of that flower that no one has ever really looked at before? Undoubtedly, hundreds of photographers before you have photographed similar flowers from every angle and at every magnification, right down to the flower’s microscopic grains of pollen. Finding a new angle is possible, but it is sometimes so extraordinarily difficult that you may be better off just finding a new subject entirely.
As an expression of life, photography is only limited by life itself. In other words, you can create images of any aspect of life that you can imagine, from the patterns you find in brick walls to the way people carry their shopping bags.
With that thought in mind, think about the facets of the world around you that haven't been well documented. Some photographers have made amazing studies of things that no one thinks about on a day-to-day basis, such as reflections in glassware or the way cars line themselves up in parking lots.
The misconception that photography needs to be beautiful leads to clichéd subjects simply because everyone wants to take that perfect flower photo or make an amazing image of a sweeping landscape. And, there is nothing wrong with that! I have collections of images like this, as do most photographers. However, conventional beauty isn't the only way to add depth or meaning to your photographs. As I said before, photography is an expression of life and not all aspects of life are beautiful.
For instance, most people would agree that images of war and destruction aren't beautiful. Similarly, photos of abandoned, decaying factories aren't conventionally beautiful either. However, that lack of traditional beauty doesn’t make these kinds of images any less artistic or any less meaningful than an image of the sun setting over the ocean. Break away from the idea of traditional beauty and you may find yourself photographing something new and wonderful that no one has ever seen before.
Breaking away from clichés is the hardest thing for any photographer to do. After all, if we didn’t like looking at images of flowers, sunsets and snow-covered landscapes, we wouldn’t take these types of photos. However, to create a body of work that stands out from the billions of images taken each year, you'll need to create something different. Use your lens to explore every aspect of the world around you and eventually, you'll stumble across a new and wonderful concept.