To cliché or not cliché

Posted on October 28, 2014

Durdle Door

That is the question and a debate that could go on and on forever as I really do not think there is an easy answer to it. So I’d like to put my thoughts on the subject down in this blog post and get your thoughts on the matter also.

So what is a cliché image, to me it is a picture that contains a subject matter that you see repeatedly come up time and time again on social media, peoples websites etc, A well known location shot from roughly the same spot over and over. When you are starting off in photography there are certain places that you seem to get drawn to like bees to honey, these are the cliché or “honey pot” locations as some photographers like to call them, I’m talking about iconic locations such as Durdle Door, Ashness jetty, The Cobb, Swanage old Pier, Bamburgh Castle etc etc.  When you are starting off in photography you want to get good images, everyone does so it is only natural that you head to these locations as they are all beautiful places where you can’t really take a bad picture. So does this make this a bad or a good thing, this is where I feel it is a totally personal choice and everyone will have a different view on it.

My thoughts on it are that when your starting out in photography, especially Landscape photography it can be quite a lonely thing, going out on your own in the dark to places you are not familiar with is a daunting thing so going somewhere that you’ve seen images of on a regular basis gives you a sense of confidence as though you are visiting somewhere that somehow you have been to before, albeit just via pictures you have seen of it on the internet. This gives you a little boost in confidence and adds a bit of excitement in your journey in becoming a photographer. So you turn up at this “cliché” location all excited and you are met with this scene that you have seen numerous times and have imagined over and over in your mind. You take your images and go home pleased with yourself and once edited you are keen to show them off and are happy with the responses you receive from the non photographic members of your family and your friends, remember these will not be cliché images to them as they don’t come from a photography background and will not be that familiar with the locations. Personally I only see this as a good thing as it is building your confidence whilst at the same time improving on your basic skills and understanding of your camera whilst being somewhere nice. Ultimately going out taking cliché shot after cliché´shot does’t matter because those images will belong to you which makes them personal and unique to you in your photographic journey and that can’t be a bad thing.

Lets be honest there aren’t many places left in the UK or the world come to think of it that haven’t been photographed a thousand times by different people, it;’s only a small planet and there are millions of us on it. As I’ve progressed as a photographer I’m still happy to visit these locations but now instead of putting my tripod in the holes of the many tripods that have been there before I try to capture my own take on the scene, maybe by changing the angle of view, shortening or lengthening my exposure time or maybe by the way I edit the image in Lightroom or Photoshop. I also go out with the mindset that I’m going to try and do better than all the other pictures of the place I’ve seen, this may or may not actually happen but I give it a damn good try.

So bottom line is go out and shoot what makes you happy because it’s your hobby and passion and shouldn’t be something you feel that you have to conform to. Ignore the people that go on about how you can’t improve as a photographer if you only visit these type of places because honestly it’s bulls**t. Every time you go out with your camera you are learning and improving more. As time progresses your choice in subject matter will develop and so will your skills. You may find that you come away from shooting sunrises and sunsets and vast landscapes to enjoy more close up work such as macro photography or you may find a particular interest in shooting long exposures or nature. Just do what you like to do and be happy.

Ashness Landing


3 Responses to To cliché or not cliché

Oliver Wright

October 29, 2014 at 9:37 am

Good blog Richard and interesting debate.

Here is a question for you. If a photographer has never seen a shot of Ashness jetty like your lovely one above and produces an image like the one above. Is that image a cliché?

My take on it is that it isn’t. A lot of what we call cliché is just copying and there isn’t anything wrong with it. It just is what it is. If you know what I mean 😉



October 29, 2014 at 9:44 am

I think that the image he then takes does come cliché in some form or another because it would of been taken by many of us so copying does produce cliché images/compositions. I don’t think there is anything wrong in trying to copy somebody else if that composition pleases you and you want one in your library/portfolio of images. In a way it can be flattering to have someone copy what you have done, but are they copying you or the person you copied, or the person they copied. It is what it is as you say :-)


Steve Rickman

December 19, 2014 at 3:07 pm

I totally agree Richard!
I think many people will discover Landscape Photography by looking at those alleged cliché shots and thinking to themselves i’d love to either, take photographs like that or take photographs of that location.
I guess if you are the photographer that discovers a unique location (Is there such a location?) and photographs it for the first time, he or she might be a bit niffed if hundreds follow in their footsteps to intentionally reproduce a duplicate of their original. I suppose it depends on the sort of person you are at the end of the day whether you were niffed or flattered. I never worry about cliché, if a location is stunning, its natural that people will want to photograph it, and it can be almost a competition to see who can portray it in the most stunning way. At the end of the day we all try and portray a location in the most stunning way that we can, to do justice to the beauty that we see. This obviously involves a lot of planning, skill and also luck!

Those that say that you cannot learn or improve have got it wrong in a major way! You can learn from the most experienced to the most inexperienced which is a great thing. I think its more a case of, you have to listen to people and not dismiss those that are less experienced, there are some frankly that are too…. for want of a better phrase “stuck up” to listen to anyone, which in my opinion is there loss. I often train engineers and its a two way thing, you can often learn as much as you teach!
Personally i find it an inspiration to look at other peoples photographs, it gives me great pleasure, inspiration and motivation. I feel i never plagiarise others work, the thought horrifies me. I have bought other photographers work occasionally but you get to a point where you run out of wall space 8¬)

All the best


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