Saturday, July 21, 2012

Every trend comes to an end.

I want to start this with letting anyone reading it know that the following are my opinions. It does not mean that I am right and it does not mean that anyone else is wrong. They are simply my preferences when it comes to photography. But the funny thing is, I could go on an opinionated rant about just about anything besides photography and it wouldn't bother so many people. We photographers are funny people. We're opinionated and protective of our work. We're sensitive to criticism and we will defend our work to the death, even if we look at our own work and know that it needs improvement. We're a hard-headed breed and it's hard to get us to admit that we have room for improvement. There are many photographers that take constructive criticism very well and learn from it and make their work that much better. But the majority of us, myself included, will not take criticism from just anyone. There are a few people that I value their opinion enough, or their work enough to consider their criticism. That does not mean that I feel superior to people, it simply means that I'm my own worst critic, so chances are, before anyone else can point out a flaw in my photos, I've already picked it out and am dwelling on it. I rip my own work to shreds, not publicly of course.
However, with all of the opinions I am going to state, the opinions that matter to any photographer are those of their clients. At the end of the day, the client has to be happy. They have to like the work being done. Looking back at the work from when I was starting out, I cringe. There was so much I had to learn and so much that I was doing wrong, but my clients LOVED their photos and that's what mattered to me. And that is exactly what should matter to each photographer, old, new, etc...their clients opinions are all that should matter. Well, a photographer should always be proud of their work and not work solely for their client, they should have a mind and a style of their own, but that's a blog post for another day.
So with that said, here are my thoughts on some current photography trends that I do not understand the appeal.
First up, the sky. One of my favorite things about summer is the bright blue sky, occasionally full of fluffy white clouds. I loathe everything about winter and the drab skies that loom reminding me of the gloom. So when spring and summer come along, I am full of hope and happiness again. The sky has a lot to do with this. And when I see photos with a sky any color but blue, it confuses me. Especially pink, I do not understand a pink sky because when I was a kid, I was taught a pink or green sky meant we should take cover because there was a tornado coming! LOL Seriously though, white skies also confound me. In photography terms, that's called 'blown out'. The sky has been overexposed to allow for enough light on their subject's face. There are many ways to make sure the sky stays blue, but a lot of the time, it seems the blown-out sky is the easy way out. And I'm seeing these skies on very seasoned professional's photos...pros with 10s of thousands of Facebook fans. It was pointed out to me that these may be creative decisions during the post-processing and while I get that, I do not understand it. Skys aren't white and in my opinion, they distract me more than a pretty blue sky because all of a sudden the color in the photo just stops. Sometimes it can be so whited out that the pixelation is visible in the white. That is not appealing to me. But this is my opinion...I like blue skies.
Next up, skin tones. There is a major trend in post processing right now that has the photo getting a vintage feel. I love this trend, to a point. Many of the actions people are using yellow out the photo, make it look aged...however, skin shouldn't be yellow. Sometimes the skin takes on a green cast as well. I just do not understand why anyone would intentionally make someone's skin yellow or green. If this is not a post-processing choice, then my other conclusion is that it is an error with the white balance. I tend to shoot with my white balance more warm and I have to adjust back so that skin isn't orange. I've seen many people that their style is very cool, so skin tones take on a blue hue. These are simple fixes in camera, or even simple in post processing. I know that there are clients out there that seek out the vinatge photos. But I will never understand why anyone would consider yellow or green hued skin tones acceptable. This is aside from naturally colored skin tones, such as my own olive tone. I'm talking about really obvious strange skin colors. If it looks yellow or green on the computer screen, it will print that way as well. I personally would never hang a photo of my family with weird colored skin. But this is my opinion...I like skin colored skin.
Let's keep going, I'm on a roll...
Overly decorated and staged sessions. I am guilty of this on occasion. I have a basement full of props and goodies that have never been seen because when it comes time for the session, I opt for natural rather than staged. I have seen some amazing staged photos. And I have seen some staged photos where all I could see was the props and the subject got lost. Props are fun and can make or break a photo. I guess my opinion on this is that I prefer moderate staging unless there is a theme trying to be achieved. But when every single shoot I see from a photographer has a different set-up that overpowers the subject, I start to wonder what the sessions are about...the props or the clients. But this is my opinion...I like moderately staged sessions, as well as natural no-prop sessions where the focus is solely on the subject.
On the subject of props, here's my opinion on newborn photography. Newborn babies are squishy and fuzzy and occasionally pimply and scratched up. That's what makes them special. Their fingers and toes are tiny and precious. Their butts are often fuzzy and dimply and adorable. Their lips are usually perfectly shaped hearts that make you want to pucker and smooch them. All of these details are what I love about newborns and those details are what I like to see in newborn photos. I do not like big headbands or great big silly hats on a newborn. I've done it, but I do not specialize in newborn photography, so maybe I'm the idiot and this is what all new moms expect their newborn photos to look like. But I doubt it. Babies are perfect without being dressed up like dolls. But this is my opinion...I prefer natural and naked babies with the focus of the photos being the baby's special details and not their goofy hat.
It's apparent that I could go on and on about trends these days, but I'll simplify it. It's taken me almost 3 years of following trends and trying different styles before I realized that my style and my preference is natural, classic and timeless photos. Next year the trends will change and there will be people that look back on their photos and wrinkle their nose. They are going to wonder why they ever thought a white or pink sky was a good decision. They are going to wish they'd never over-exaggerated that vignette because in printing, that vignette goes away anyway. They are going to wish they'd never done spot color because they now realize how cheesy it is and it works in very few photos. I am guilty of every single thing I've mentioned...and then some. My point is, trends change and we all look back and think 'what was I thinking?!'. I feel this way every time I look back at hairstyles, but that's because I was raised in the 80s and perms were cool *shudder*. I have never been a very trendy person and it's mostly because every trend comes to an end.
I have finally realized that I like clean, simple, classic editing in my own photos. Occasionally I go a little artsy with them, but I've realized that the photos that stay hanging on the walls the longest are the ones with blue skies, green grass, skin colored skin, etc. The over-processed photos get taken down because they are no longer 'in'. And the one trend that will always be in style is black & white...that is timeless. That is classic and when in doubt, it's a good choice. Those photos will be cherished forever, whereas the weird colored photos will be looked at with confusion some day.
But these are my opinions and it does not mean that I am right or that anyone else is wrong. It means I am old-fashioned and my preference in photography is to highlight the beauty of my clients rather than over-process or over-stage and lose the focus being on my client. This doesn't mean I'll never do it, because I have and I'm sure I will again. And it means that while I'm perusing the internet looking for my next photographer to capture my family, I will be looking for someone with a similar style.

If this has offended you, I sincerely apologize. My intent is not to hurt anyone's feelings or put anyone's style down. I do not wish to make you feel bad about your choices or your knowledge in photography. I am simply stating my preferences. And being true to me, I state them, publicly even. I do not keep my opinions or feelings about anything all bottled up inside. This is what makes me who I am. And it's what makes people either love me or hate me. I am a photographer, not a writer, so I don't always articulate my opinions as gracefully as I'd like. But I can promise that my intent is never to demean someone. Maybe my intent is to challenge people to look at their work and see if they will stand by it forever. Will you stand by your style? Do you have a style? Do you have a preference in sky colors?! I do, it's blue.
I don't think that there is anything wrong with following trends. I am only challenging people to realize that trends come to an end and if you've based your business solely on the current trend, what are you going to do next year when trends have moved on...

And if you have a sense of humor about photography, I encourage you to check out Wootness as they too mention the trends that have gotten me in a fuss. So there, I'm not alone in liking blue skies. ;)

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