Got Photo Clichés? – Tuesday Tips
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Silhouette and raindrops on a window – two clichés in one picture. (ok, give me a break – I was stuck at the courthouse watching people come in..) (Alex Garcia/Chicago Tribune)
In photojournalism, there are a lot of photos that could be considered clichés. Not all of them, however are within the control of the photographer. A picture of veterans at a Memorial Day event, for example, is a cliché but it’s also a news event. What is a photojournalist to do – avoid shooting a picture of veterans for Memorial Day, especially they show up in uniform, because we’ve already seen it?
But not all clichés are unavoidable. In many situations, clichés are the result of too-familiar problem-solving on assignment. Sometimes this is caused by lack of imagination but other times by desperation. If it were a sweltering day and all my plans and ideas were going wayside, I would be very tempted to stop my car for those kids outside the ice cream store just so I didn’t end up empty-handed for the day.
Of course, I probably would preface my call to the picture editor that day with an apology. In fact, I would bet that most photojournalists have, at some point, prefaced a call to a picture editor with a mumbled apology about a cliché that they just transmitted.
So, to encourage myself and others to avoid clichés, I’ve put together a list of avoidable photo clichés. Do you have any pet clichés (pun intended)? If so please don’t hesitate to include in the comments below. I will probably add to this list over time as I remember them. It’s perhaps impossible, but I’d like to have one photo cliché list to rule them all:
Raindrops on a window or flower.
A victim of injustice with a U.S. flag in the background.
Shoes at a mosque.
Yawning child at a press conference.
An athletic winner biting his medal.
Holding a picture of a loved one who passed away.
A child running through a sprinkler or past an uncapped fire hydrant (especially backlit)
A child eating an ice cream cone.
A dog with sunglasses.
Any picture from a staged press event that features a shovel, scissors or an oversized check.
An umbrella shot from above to illustrate a weather picture.
The cop looking down, in speculative sadness, at a crime scene.
OK, I’ll say it, most silhouettes – especially of firefighters.
Hipstamatic. ‘Nuff said.
An upset person holding a piece of paper to the camera.
A homeless or poor person juxtaposed with a rich businessman walking by.
A person looking through a bullet hole in a window.
Making a snowman.
A person buried in sand at the beach.
Three or more people on a cell phone at a political event.
Gnarled or weathered hands on a Bible.
A person and a computer screen.
A shoe on a curb after an accident.
A victim of crime looking out curtains of a window.
Cotton candy hijinks at a fair.
Kissing or licking with an animal as a show of love. (Unless it’s a Great White Shark)
A dog jumping for a frisbee.
Kite photos or tossled hair to illustrate a windy day. (Ok, I went overboard with windy hair once. I offer no excuses..).
Someone pointing off-camera.
A dog looking out the driver’s side window.
Bars on a window of a home to suggest a person feeling trapped inside.
Close-up of locked hands in a circle of people holding hands.
A heroic pose taken from waist level or below.
Cropping a face to show just the eyes – could be a sports player or someone with mental illness.
A worker pasting a billboard sign that has a face on it.
A polar bear or penguin at the zoo during a heat wave.
The image seen through a viewfinder of a television camera during a press conference.
A tilted horizon line that adds nothing to meaning.
Footprints in the sand.
Law books behind a lawyer.
Basketball player with hands outstretched, palming basketballs.
A tight face shot of someone wearing a bandanna.
Reflections in sunglasses.
Be sure to catch up on all of the weekly photography tips from Assignment Chicago!
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