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Cliches.....please no more

Discussion in 'Talking Pictures' started by pixelpuffin, Apr 4, 2016.

  1. pixelpuffin

    pixelpuffin Well-Known Member

    Having only just rejoined this forum after a break of over a decade, there's a lot I'm behind on, and a lot to learn in this new digital age.

    But, what is apparent is the same obsession with gear and far worse in my view the same old cliche shots.

    Dear me, all this technology, instant feedback and yet there seems to be a never ending stream of cliche shots all done to death and the worst has to be the......flower picture..Oh Lord!!

    I'm really at a loss as to how photographing a flower is deemed worthy. What are you going to do with it, frame it, hang it on the wall??
    Personally I always remember the words of my old college lecturer upon when I presented my "flower" shot whilst at college.....he completely dismissed it as nothing other than a 'record' shot!! If it had been an object he would refer them as "pack" shots. Obviously he was inferring " yeah, flower shot......and......!!"
    A few years back I decided to attend a club - actually more or less next door to where I lived. At the time I couldn't afford a DSLR, but decided to attend and see what's what.
    Well, I lasted 4 visits, I couldn't stand the boredom nor the cliche images and the huge amounts of praise bestowed upon each other. It was just as I had always envisaged it to be like.
    Photography has never been so easy, it's an art. But I rarely see many artists.
  2. EightBitTony

    EightBitTony Well-Known Member

    You seem to be suffering from the same delusion as other experienced people in any trade, profession, art or craft. Somehow, your journey was shared by all those who follow you.

    It wasn't.

    When I got my camera, I wanted to take pictures and learn how to get better. I had no idea you existed, and hadn't reviewed your body of work, or in fact, anyone elses body of work, and so it didn't occur to me that taking pictures of beautiful things would somehow be a waste of my time.

    Oh, it wasn't.

    It's been done millions of times before, because it's useful, easy, accessible, interesting or relevant. Whether it's art isn't relevant. Whether it's new isn't relevant. Whether it's of use to the person doing it is all that matters. If I took hundreds of pictures of lone trees and tried to sell a book, I'd deserve constructive criticism that suggested it was perhaps cliche, but if I get a camera and go out and take pictures of trees, then I think rejecting that behaviour as somehow worthless is both mean spirited and essentially, unhelpful.

    The longer you do something, the more you'll see the same stuff over and over again from people just starting out - the problem is yours to handle, not theirs to fix.
  3. EightBitTony

    EightBitTony Well-Known Member

    In fact (this issue really fires me up), I'll go as far as to say if someone wants to take a billion photographs of flowers with their Canon 5DIII and expensive lens, and they never do anything other than take record shots for the rest of their life, they're still an amateur photographer and their enjoyment of their craft is all that matters. There doesn't have to be a progression, there doesn't have to be a goal, or a motivation beyond using the camera. For some, there is, for many there might be, but it's not a requirement, and we shouldn't pour scorn on those who don't aspire to the same things we do.

    Critically evaluate work when it's requested, but try not to evaluate people, or their motivations.
  4. Geren

    Geren Well-Known Member

    Well some pretty amazing photographers have done....flower shots. And everyone has to start somewhere. What's a cliché for you might be brand new for someone else. Flowers are readily available, rather marvellous in their design and as good a thing to photograph as anything else really so not sure what your issue is. If YOU don't want to make flower shots, then you certainly don't have to!

    I have a few flower shots in my back catalogue. One of them is framed and on the wall in my daughter's bedroom because she liked it. Can't see what's wrong with that to be honest!
    Roger Hicks and EightBitTony like this.
  5. pixelpuffin

    pixelpuffin Well-Known Member

    Oh my, please put away your pitch forks and stakes!!

    Ok, here goes...

    Go back 20-30yrs, we are using film, manual focus, maybe A priority. Our flash guns need to be manually set or maybe a few have the automated guns. If we are using close up equipment besides supplementary lenses then we have further work to do.

    Our flower is sat basking in the sun, a squirt of water to emulate dew and we're off! The work involved back then was pretty challenging especially considering we had absolutely no idea if we even had "the shot" until our slides or prints came back.
    Today it's a total breeze, I don't say that lightly but I am astounded by the quality of images captured be it on smartphones, compacts and ofcourse DSLR's.
    Besides framing the image and ensuring the lens has focused on the spot you want sharp, the gun and camera are on speaking terms - I honestly struggle to see what's been achieved other than a record shot.
    Now understand I am speaking of the general cliche images here, the ones we've seen a thousand times and decide to have a pop. Okay lovely exposed, sharp crisp flower.....and??
    did you honestly expect otherwise?
  6. dream_police

    dream_police Well-Known Member

    As we are using flowers as an example and you seem to infer that back in the day of film we had to think and do more. Whilst that can be true and yes you had to think more as you had to wait for the film to be developed etc, I don't think you can still dismiss todays methods as being any less challenging. The shot for it to be decent still has to be composed well, backgrounds considered etc. The camera may do all of it's own computing re aperture, speed, ISO etc, but as you know they can be fooled re whites etc. The photographer can now see the photo instantly but at least that gives them the advantage of being able to rectify it straight away until it is right, rather than waiting days or weeks by which time the moment has passed. Hopefully the photographer will also learn and be able to do it in future first time, just as you may have been able to with film.
    I think it is a bit off to dismiss these shots as cliché. They may not be to mine or your tastes, but many people get pleasure in both taking and viewing flower shots.
    Roger Hicks and EightBitTony like this.
  7. Geren

    Geren Well-Known Member

    No, I still don't agree. And not a pitchfork or stake in sight. I've three children, none of whom are remotely interested in learning anything about the craft of photography beyond what their phones can quickly capture and an instagram filter can render less awful to look at. Or more awful, depending on your POV. Not one of them could take a decent shot of a flower because they give no thought to the framing and composition. They also only 'see' the whole thing and have no idea how to make the camera show a different viewpoint. I see it as a personal failing on my part not to have instilled in them a great sense of curiosity about what a frame can do for an image, but they are hardly alone. The hardware for taking photographs has meant that it's easier to do for a lot more people...which is a defining feature of the history of photography. Every step from Fox Talbot to Rankin and on has involved bringing the medium to more people to do more easily. With that comes a new wave of people showing an interest and therefore an oft-seen interest in subjects that have been tackled before. You can't blame people for liking the idea of shooting flowers, and just because it seems too easy for you doesn't necessarily make it feel that way for the person finding their feet with a new hobby. Besides, just because my camera and my 'gun' are 'on speaking terms' doesn't necessarily mean I've got them in the right place in relation to the flower and the camera to capture what I want. There's still a bit more work to be done if you want to ensure great results.
    EightBitTony and Benchista like this.
  8. PhotoEcosse

    PhotoEcosse Well-Known Member

    Perhaps so many people take what you regard as cliché shots because those subjects are the ones that people love most.

    Your absence from the forum for so long may have meant that you did not notice that the subject you raise and the complaint you make has, itself, become a bit of a cliché. But the general response to that cliché seems to indicate "Who cares?". Photographers take photographs of the things that photographers want to take photographs of.
  9. EightBitTony

    EightBitTony Well-Known Member

    Here's another way of looking at it, if it's easy to take clean, well focussed, well lit, well framed, properly exposed photographs of flowers, how come so many people fail on their first few attempts?

    They get better because they work at it. That's true of every aspect of photography. If we dismiss their efforts as cliché, then we do them a disservice. If we explain to them the techniques that will improve the shot, and involve them in a discussion about how a lot of people take those shots, then that engages them. My problem is the tone of the original post - 'oh I am so sick of cliché photographs, they're so easy, do something else'. It's no different in the realm of music, poetry, writing, painting, etc., etc. Everyone starts somewhere, and those starting points tend to be very similar. Flowers are some of the most colourful things, and show the most variation in colour, of anything around us. They are usually reasonably stationary, and they are very accessible. It should come as no surprise at all that many people start there.

    I did. I'm proud of some of my flower shots. I'm appalled at some of them. But I'm ashamed of none of them - and I apologise for none of them. There's a mix on my Flickr feed, because they're part of my progression from 'wow what the hell is this and how does it work' to 'oh right, that's what an aperture does'.
    Roger Hicks and RogerMac like this.
  10. pixelpuffin

    pixelpuffin Well-Known Member

    Ok, apologies to all first. I didn't mean to come over as arrogant and if that's the way it's interpreted then please do accept my apologies.....I'm a Yorkshireman, we're not famed for being tactful!!

    The "Flower" was basically given so that everyone could associate as to what I was getting at. Bear in mind I've been abscent for the past 10+yrs.

    Before I decided to rejoin on Sunday - I spent the previous 2wks googling....basically researching what was happening, reading reviews etc etc

    The importance now placed on "Gear" is absolutely absurd. Not content with having a modern DSLR, Lightroom, Photoshop, bag FULL of lenses. It seems by reading a lot of reviewers that unless you have this or that you're gonna struggle. Yet on Sunday afternoon I was out with my family doing the weekly shop. My young son wanted to go the toilet, whilst waiting outside I happened to see the mobile phone booth....specifically the iPhone 6+ (that's the big one, right?) the phone was fixed down and I just wanted to compare the camera to my ancient 4s that's up for renewal this year- yay!!
    Well I was just gobsmacked!! Because the phone was fixed, I removed my watch and placed it underneath. Then using the light off my iPhone I bounced it off a leaflet back on to the watch for diffused lighting. I just could not believe the crystal clarity of what I was seeing!! Just jaw dropping.....and this Is a phone camera!!

    I go back home and carry on reading about all the modern advances - yet the flicker accounts and Instagram images I see show a very lazy approach. Why didn't he go lower, to the left, gone further in, turn off the flash etc etc
    The gear often listed is usually always pro-stuff lots and lots of use of the letter "L" is seen, but the images are far from inspiring and if I'm completely honest I think that iPhone 6+ could have coped with the vast majority of what I see.

    That was my argument.
    This new technology is utterly fabulous... It's never been so rewarding, exciting. Take HDR, my few excursions into URBEXing showed me just how incredible this new technology is. There is simply no way we could ever have achieved the tonal range offered by HDR back in the old film days. And yet it's there.....push a button!! Incredible.

    So, you may now understand why I'm so frustrated by this seemingly lazy approach I keep seeing. Today's photo enthusiasts really don't know they're born..... They really don't!!

    As they say...
    Your only limitation is your imagination
  11. RogerMac

    RogerMac Well-Known Member

    I make not apology for photographing flowers and there is very good authority for admiring them "yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these." why should we not attempt to picture their glory for ourselves?

    Yes with modern technology it is easy to take a good picture of a lily (I have two grandchildren, aged 8 and 10, who do it readily and I have to struggle to get an excellent shot, but in the old days I would never have got beyond the good.
  12. Terrywoodenpic

    Terrywoodenpic Well-Known Member

    There are poorly taken clichés and well taken clichés and
    world beating Cichés.
    Howeve to take a wholy original shot, is a fantastic achievement that few ever accomplish.
  13. Ffolrord

    Ffolrord Well-Known Member

    I enjoy flower photography. I don't regard it as at all easy. I think all the things that go into a good flower shot have always been the same. Composition, lighting, choice of depth of field, background. It really doesn't matter what the medium is, film or digital. I doubt anything has really changed. As to the dismissal of an entire genre - fine but why not show us how it's done then.
    Geren likes this.
  14. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    It always was.

    As for flowers: well, consider Weston or Mapplethorpe. Google 'em if you're not familiar with their work.

    Consider, too, how things become clichés. This is true whether it's urbex today (or more accurately 5-10 years ago); lone trees 20 years ago; Spanish fishermen mending their nets 50 years ago; weeping children 80 years ago; rutted, muddy roads 100-120 years ago...

    I can only assume that you haven't been reading photo magazines for long, and that you have little or no knowledge of clichés and fashions in the more distant past. Or of the fact that people are ALWAYS banging on about how the new technology is utterly fabulous. Go back to the 30s and they're saying it's never been better, and that it's hard to see how cameras can improve. Same in the 50s, 60s, 70s, etc. And yet, are today's keen amateurs (or even Fine Art photographers) so much better than in the past?

    You are, I take it, familiar with Sturgeon's Law? The only difference is that it's not just 90% with photography: it's 99% or more.

    And, if we dare ask, what do you do? How original is it? Here's some of my stuff: Recycled Religion. Remember: just because a lot of good new work is surprising or even shocking, it doesn't mean that all surprising or even shocking new work is necessarily good. I'd rather see a Mapplethorpe flower than yet another mediocre HDR urbex shot.


    Last edited: Apr 4, 2016
  15. RovingMike

    RovingMike Crucifixion's a doddle...

    You don't have to come back to any general interest mag after anything like that period of time to realise they are all on a long journey from nowhere to nowhere. Repetition is the name of the game and they usually start the year with exactly the same list of articles and features that they did the last. And that reflects a rolling readership,with new entrants far more important than the old lags. It is no surprise that that is reflected editorially as well as by readers contributions.

    My 10 years in Appraisals coincides with your lost years, so have I seen it change? You bet. We've discussed dumbing down (briefly before the censor intervenes) and it is a reality in a sector that has changed dramatically in that period, driven by massive numbers of new entrants in the immediate pre and post iPhone era. Most of the comments we would have made 10 years ago are now jumped on immediately by newcomers as elitism, "professionalism", or plain worthless nit-picking and to a great extent editorial IMHO has been forced to follow that trend.

    Where we had a whole clutch of people in Appraisals working for RPS distinctions and gaining them with online and offline help, I'd be hard put to name one now. So the Big Wills, MickLLs, and other advanced specialists in their fields have moved on and a new generation of critiquers is learning the trade. It was ever thus I'm sure, but the iPhone era has accentuated it to an unprecedented degree.
  16. PhotoEcosse

    PhotoEcosse Well-Known Member

    That's an interesting observation, Mike.

    I think that AP benefits from being a weekly magazine and, therefore, a useful source of news. That's the reason that I have subscribed for 40+ years.

    The corollary of your observation is also true - as readers progress in their hobby, so will they move from magazine to magazine so as to remain artistically challenged. So, while I continue to take AP for the news, the magazines which I read for inspiration have, indeed, changed over the years. Those magazines are not so good for news, most being monthly or quarterly. My current favourite is "DIGIT", the magazine of the RPS Digital Imaging Group which, for the age and stage I am currently at, is by far the best photography magazine on the planet (that I know of). But that is for me; not necessarily for anyone else.

    I wonder if the "News" function will ever be taken over from printed magazines by the internet? Maybe not in my lifetime but I can see it happening. That would hit magazines like AP although, obviously, not "art" magazines that rely upon the quality of print which is unattainable on a computer monitor over the web. (But - who knows? - maybe technological advances will, in time, lead to electronic reproduction quality that we cannot currently imagine.)
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2016
  17. nimbus

    nimbus Well-Known Member

    Well why bother photographing anything? After all it's all been done before!
    RogerMac and SXH like this.
  18. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Has ever been thus with the monthlies; somewhat less true for AP - in part, the weekly format imposes a requirement for more varied content, I think, but of course it also helps mask repeated themes.

    Now I suspect any perceived dumbing down of pics for critique here and elsewhere is less down to ease of capture, and more to do with ease of posting. When this forum started, you pretty much had to scan to get an image up, whereas now you can take it on your phone and post it immediately if you wish. Quite apart from the fact that it tended to be established photographers who owned scanners, it was a very deliberate act to select a picture, scan it and post it, and it required you to make a positive decision that it was worth posting.Now it's simple enough to post pretty much immediately, so the process of editing one's work - actually selecting the good stuff - possibly happens less. For complete beginners, that could actually be helpful and speed up the learning process, but maybe it mitigates against developing self-critical facilities.
  19. Terrywoodenpic

    Terrywoodenpic Well-Known Member

    On the other hand ... no two shots are exactly alike.
    have you ever tried to repeat a shot?
  20. RogerMac

    RogerMac Well-Known Member

    See my signature line - and another saying of his "You can never step into the same river twice"

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