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In defense of cliché: it must be Spring

Spring. You can always tell when Spring has arrived. The days are noticeably longer, the trees and flowers are in bloom, and everyone is taking photographs of flowers and dandelions. Everywhere you look is another one. To some it’s cliché and is something to be avoided. I disagree.

The dictionary defines a cliché as “a trite or overused expression or idea.” Most photographers struggle with this concept at some point in their development. Maybe you’re getting up early to shoot the Golden Gate bridge. Or you’re lugging your tripod to a location to shoot a sunset. And you think to yourself, “This shot has been done so many times before. It’s a postcard for crying out loud. Can’t I think of anything original?”

Dandelion. 1/250s @ f/8
Dandelion. 1/250s @ f/8

I like to think of it in terms of portraits. If you’ve seen one portrait, you’ve seen them all, right? No, of course not! Every portrait is different. The pose, the lighting, the facial expression, the mischievous grin, the scowl, the twinkle in the eye. Even of the same person! The character of each shot is unique.

And it’s the same way with sunsets, even at the same location. Each one is different. There are millions of sunset shots but not this sunset, right here, right now. This sunset, the one you’re thinking of skipping because it’s a “cliché,” has never been captured before. And it will never come again.

Sunset Silhouettes. 1/10s @ f/5
Sunset Silhouettes. 1/10s @ f/5

And that photo of a daisy that you passed by. And the one of the dandelion you missed. And that bridge at night that you decided not to shoot because you’d seen one like it on a postcard. Those were all unique opportunities. That moment in time, with that particular subject, shot in that particular way, will not happen again. Every photo, even of an “overused” idea, is special.

So go make a photo of a dandelion today. Make it the best photo of that dandelion the world has ever seen.

John Watson

John is the original founder of Photodoto, but after running it for 4 years he had to focus on different things. If you're interested in what John has been up to recently, you can check is personal blog or browse his photo blog.
  • I couldn’t agree more. I wrote a similar piece on Exposure a couple weeks back. Embrace your cliches because if something inspires you to pick up your camera it’s worth shooting whether other people like to shoot it too or not.

  • Ern

    Great post.

    “Our job is to record, each in his own way, this world of light and shadow and time that will never come again exactly as it is today.”
    ~Edward Abbey in Down the River

    Some people write poetry, others click a shutter.

  • Yes, exactly, Michelle! Thanks for the link. Lots of good tips in that. Great quote, Ern.

  • wakalani

    Great. I think I could give you a hug =)

  • Great article.. so true! Thanks for sharing, it really made me think about that.

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