Working across a range of creative spaces, I’ve noticed some photographic trends that pop up time and time again. Although it amazes me that Atlas Magazine gets so many submissions every day, it’s hard sometimes to see the same concepts repeatedly executed without putting a photographer’s own creative spin on them. I’ve put together a list of photography trends in editorials to avoid when submitting to magazines or building your portfolio. This list is not to say that image-makers who attempt these won’t make a successful image; it is simply a list of trends that I find to be repetitive, making it difficult to see something “new” in them. These are my 8 trends to avoid in photo submissions.
Note: Some of these I have even tried myself as a photographer. It’s good to experiment, it’s not good to copy. If everyone’s wearing the same cool shirt, is the shirt still cool?
Models laying in milky bathtubs is a photo trend that I’ve been seeing for my entire career with Atlas, in college, on Instagram–– and even as far back as my teenage days posting to DeviantArt. I think the image of a milky/clouded bathtub can be beautiful, but I believe the concept is so over-used and hard to put your own creative spin on.
Honestly, who still thinks its a good idea to put a caucasian woman in a traditional Native American headdress? I wish the answer was absolutely no one, but unfortunately that is not the case. I fully admit that in our first issue of Atlas so many years ago, we had an editorial like this. At the time we were not educated on cultural appropriation the way that we are today. There is a vast difference between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation, and every creative needs to have an understanding of this.
Floral Crowns (for no reason)
Every year around Coachella season this trend re-surges, and pops up every few weeks otherwise. For years I’ve seen editorials which had these out-of-context floral crowns. Walking around a city? Put a floral crown on it. Wearing streetwear in a studio? Put a floral crown on it. Posing in an abandoned house? Put a floral crown on it. I think floral crowns are so gorgeous, but not for no reason, and not when everyone else is doing it.
Colorful Smoke Bombs
When I had first started studying photography, this trend was rising and I’d always wanted to try this. But every photographer whose work I envied with these colorful captures no longer has the images in their books. This goes back to my earlier question–– if everyone’s wearing the same cool shirt, is the shirt still cool? This trend dominated but has become so repetitive in recent years. Colorful smoke bombs can do something truly wonderful in the context of a narrative editorial shoot, but when they are of no assistance to the story… why use them?
Hot and Cold Lighting
I struggled with the decision to add this to the list. Hot and cold/split red-blue lighting can be so beautiful when done with proper styling and execution. But when an editorial feels like it has split lighting like this just because the photographer wanted to try it out, it falls short of the potential of the lighting style and of the editorial story.
Alice in Wonderland Themed Shoots
Annie Leibovitz did it best. Let’s leave her to the wild Wonderland shoots and give our stylists a break. There is so little new and unique that one can add to the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter, Alice–– established characters that have been seen styled editorials in every way under the sun.
White Lace Dress, Grassy Field
Got a white lace dress, grassy field and a smoke bomb? Put a floral crown on it. In all seriousness, some beautiful images can be made with the most minimal of accommodations. That being said, the amount of models in white lacy dresses roaming around a grassy field that pop up in my inbox or on Instagram is overwhelming. Bonus points: Golden hour.
We can all just pack up our things and go home, because nobody pulls this off like IT. I don’t remember a time in up-and-coming photo editorials where I haven’t seen frequent shoots with red balloons. Unless you have an amazing concept that just can’t be executed without the red balloons, I’d rather not risk the wrath of Pennywise with that editorial.
This post is not meant to be discouraging to photographers, but rather a push out of the comfort zone. Leave the overdone trends behind and come up with something beautiful. Ready to start submitting to magazines? I’ve got a quick list of do’s and don’ts to get you started.