I look at a lot of photos, both fun family snaps and professional images. With the mega-popularity of Facebook, I’m seeing a wider range of photos than ever before. Frankly, I’ve seen a growing number of otherwise completely rational people furthering some out-right awful photographic trends.
Alright, call me a snob. Call me old and out of touch – and I’m not even 40 yet! But I’m not talking about anyone just starting out and trying their best. No no no, I’m talking about some of those dumb photographic trends that should just go away once and for all.
So, with tongue-only-slightly-in-cheek let’s take a look at the five stupidest “photography” trends.
Arm Length Self Portraits
I’m not sure just what the motivation here is. So someone’s out and about, maybe at a club, maybe at Wal-Mart, maybe at the Grand Canyon. And… what? Do they have to actually prove they were there with a really bad portrait of themselves? Maybe none of their friends will believe them without evidence. Or maybe the Grand Canyon itself is simply too drab and yawn-inducing.
“You know, I guess it’s a nice enough place, but… WOW! Look at you right there in the photo! And I especially love how your arm is reaching right out of the frame. Art! Dude, you should totally sell that photo.”
What’s sad is that this trend is so popular that more than one camera manufacturer has created models with a screen on both the back and the front in order to frame this sort of self portrait.
Pouty “duck lips,” tough looking sneers, flippin’ the bird at the camera… Classy. I make no secret that I’m not a big fan of “say cheese” smiles, but I’ll gladly take a fake smile over any of these lame attempts at looking cool any day of the week and twice on Sunday.
What’s worse than an arm length self portrait? A self portrait made in a mirror. At least with the typical arm length photo the photographer is a a location he or she deems interesting. But here we get… a bathroom. Seriously? Nothing says glamor like a toilet in the background. Nine chances out of ten the bathroom’s a mess, too.
I’m actually not sure what bugs me most. The fact that the camera is actually in the photo or the nagging feeling that this would have been an arm length portrait except that holding the camera up like that is just too much work. Of course if even holding the camera is too hard, it’s way too much to expect the mirror to be clean. Curse my foolishly high expectations of mediocrity.
Let’s see a show of hands. How many out there have seen a slew of blurry, out of focus photos posted proudly for the world to see? I don’t mean a little soft, I mean “is that a bird or a barn” blurry! Or the beloved self portrait so poorly framed that we can barely even see a face, but oh my what lovely flip-flops!
We all take bad photos now and then, but it’s digital. It’s easy to see if the photo is decent or not. Why not simply check the back and, if it’s bad, take it over. More than anything, I’m left wondering why such a photo is posted online at all. “Hmmm… I think this is a cool shot of me. Of course, it could be Edith. Or maybe George. Oh well… Tag! Post!”
I want to preface this complaint with an exception. There is a growing group of talented photographers who use the iPhone (and similar) to make some pretty remarkable work. However, they use it as a supplementary picture maker for a specific niche while using a real camera the rest of the time. I also completely understand those who don’t have the financial means even to purchase a $100 point and shoot and make do with what they have. I’ve been there.
What I’m talking about are when phones are being used by choice as a primary camera, even when other options are readily available. I’ve been at some of the most beautiful locations on this planet… Zion Canyon, the Rocky Mountains, the Italian coastline. Places that are a destination in themselves, and at each one I’ve seen a cell phone flipped open as the sole method of preserving the scene.
I was at the zoo as a group of ten-year-olds swarmed a statue near the primate house. They were followed closely by a swarm of parents, each with a bursting fanny pack or backpack full of a day’s worth of supplies. Ten kids climbing a bronze gorilla. Ten parents with a cell phone flipped open and pointed at said scene. Apparently the backpacks were so full even a little camera wouldn’t fit. Priceless memories captured forever in pixelated inadequacy.
The Importance Of Having Fun
Ultimately, what’s really important is that we all make photography a fun experience. I kid around here, but if arm length self portraits and duck lip poses make it more fun, then by all means go for it. For the vast majority of shooters the intent isn’t to create fine art but rather to grab a memory.
Still… twenty years from now is that the way we want to be remembered? Do any of us really want to have to explain to our children why all our photos look so bad?