Photography Trends We Should’ve Left Behind in 2015

I love trends. But what I love more is making fun of them. Be it a trend in lighting, or a trend in aperture choice, or a trend in post-processing, here are some that we should’ve moved on from a long time ago.

Recently, I went through a lot of amateur/camera club photography websites. While they featured work that looked good, some images stood out more, as they were strikingly similar to each other. How could that be? The model, lighting, background, and everything else were different, yet the images looked not that different from each other when compared. Turns out, there were a lot of similarities when it came to the visual aspect. Here are some trends photographers use to this day that should’ve been left alone a long time ago.

Canvas Backdrops

Are you ok, Annie? Are you ok? Michael Jackson, clearly concerned about Annie Leibovitz’s well being, was probably asking if she was ok after so many people used canvas backdrops in the same way she did. There are a ton of portrait images that are shot using canvas backdrops. For some somewhat unknown reason, they all look the same.

The reason is that they all have canvas backgrounds. Some people have portfolios where the only thing is a canvas background. I admit I also have a canvas backdrop, but I rarely use it. The look is very outdated, and currently, the world enjoys more gradients and smooth colors. So, maybe it’s time to step away and try something new. White seamless is always there for you. 

Bokeh So Creamy It Was Shot on f/0

What is the aperture you can shoot widest at? Mine is f/2.8. What is the aperture you shoot most at? For me, it’s f/8-f/13. The thing about super-creamy bokeh is that it has become a quality symbol in portraiture. If your image doesn’t have any out-of-focus backgrounds, it cannot be classified as a professional portrait. I don’t quite understand this trend for as fast of a lens as possible. Sure, there are benefits to it when used in low-light, but you should not be obsessing over a background that is as creamy as possible, so maybe hold off buying that mega-fast lens. When I bought my Canon 70-200 f/2.8 IS, I shot everything at f/2.8 like it couldn’t stop down. Why would you even need anything that is slower than f/2.8? Turns out, to have things sharp. Nowadays, I use it at f/8-f/13 most of the time, and even when I can go all the way to f/2.8, I still prefer it at f/3.2 since there is no noticeable difference in bokeh, but all the difference in sharpness.  

Overhead Umbrella Lighting

How is no one bored of this lighting setup? Why is anyone even using lighting setups? Sure, if you are starting out, they are helpful, but you do quickly realize that using them is somewhat monotonous and, well, boring. They aren’t anything beyond a quick fix for symptoms of poor light knowledge. Refusing to use light setups, playing with height, distance, power, angle, diffusion, specularity, size, flags, and more, will, for sure, help you depart from the trend of using light setups that look the same.

Low ISO

There is a trend to have ISO as low as possible. This is probably one of the ones I understand most, as I also try to keep ISO to a minimum sometimes, but I am not afraid to push it up as required. After all, high ISO is simply grain and a slight loss in detail. Arguably, you’re unlikely to notice that loss if you’re posting to Instagram. A high ISO is an aesthetic as well, as it adds texture to the image that might otherwise be too clean. A secret to having better-looking photos can be adding a bit of grain at the end. One of the retouchers I often work with, Zahar, adds grain at the end to bring out volumes and make the image more high-end. Frankly speaking, if you’re adding grain at the end, why worry about it being there at the beginning. I have shot images at ISO 6,400, even higher, if need be. No one batted an eyelid. At the same time, I have shot work at ISO 100 with the best quality studio lights available and added grain to the images at the end because it looked good.

The point is, being scared of grain or high ISO is a trend, or rather a fear, you should leave behind. Don’t be afraid to crank it up a bit higher than you would normally do it. If you want to know a secret, some clients not only accept high-ISO images, but also images that are slightly out of focus. It is about the feel of the photograph, not about how sharp your lens is, unless you’re taking images of lens charts.  

Crazy Skin Retouching

Oh, can we please talk about this one? It is like after one discovers frequency separation, one decides to use it for everything. One makes sure one uses it to the point where the skin has no tonal variation, just texture.

This trend started in roughly 2010 with the advent of Photoshop courses and amateur photography taking off on the internet. Sadly, for us, it still hasn’t stopped spreading the god-awful trend of crazy skin retouching.

Not only does it scream amateur hour to everyone looking at the image, but also tells everyone you don’t take the time to use more advanced post-production techniques. 

Closing Thoughts

So, there you have it: five trends we should’ve left behind a long time ago. These, in my opinion, are either far too overused or just scream amateur hour. To sum up, canvas backdrops are a thing of the past for now, not every image has to be at f/0, an overhead umbrella is far too overused, grain is not to be scared of, and crazy skin retouching should be stopped.

Anita Shire

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