In the second instalment of his new column, The Harris effect, Geoff Harris sounds off on five current trends in photography that he finds troubling.
Five things are spoiling an otherwise sun-kissed summer and I want to get them off my chest. Yes, I am a grumpy middle-aged man, and if you look up ‘curmudgeonly’ online you will soon find a picture of me. Still, I think some of my rants are justified. Let the rant begin!
1) Black and white HDR
Hello? HDR sucks. It sucks in colour and it sucks in black and white. “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel,” opined Dr Johnson, and I fear that black and white has become the last refuge for scoundrels who still don’t understand how naff and synthetic-looking HDR really is.
If you want to get better looking black and white shots, play around with the colour sliders in Lightroom or get Silver Efex Pro but otherwise, your mono images need heavy HDR as much as the Sgt Pepper album needs 80s synth drums or slap bass. Desist!
2) Camera club competitions
Being a sociable chap I am interested in joining my local camera club. But a glance at the schedule when everyone gets back after the holidays reveals way too much use of the ‘C’ word – competitions.
Now, I am not averse to people entering photographic competitions, but camera clubs seems obsessed with competing against themselves and just about every other club in the region. What is this, darts?
I once heard somebody say their ambition was to be a “good club-level photographer” as if photography was some kind of sport.
It’s this kind of thinking that gets pictures disqualified from contests as they don’t exactly follow the rule of thirds, according to some duffer with a ruler. I’m not a marrow grower or a snooker player, I’m a photographer, goddammit!
3) Strobe this and strobe that
I’m also sick of seeing so-called pro portrait photographers ruin otherwise nice outdoor portraits with lots of off-camera flash. Yes, we can see you have worked out how to use your portable Elinchrom and softbox, but so what?
Your subject still looks like a nuke has gone off down the road or some nearby doggers are shining their car headlights in a provocative way. Henri Cartier Bresson referred to using flash as a “horrific massacre,” and in this case, he was right.
4) iPad fools
As if the remorseless rise of smartphones wasn’t bad enough, I can’t walk around the streets of London and other popular tourist destinations without bumping into people trying to take photos with tablets.
Apart from the fact that the titchy lenses and basic image processing means the images can never be used that big, the people themselves look ridiculous.
A visitor from the past would assume they are all holding the bible up to heaven in the hope of salvation, so rapt is their attention. If you want to take proper photos get a proper camera.
Foreground boulders and ND grad skies in landscapes, contrived and overcooked sunsets… Why can’t people think more creatively and avoid the bleeding obvious?
Too much of modern photography seems to be about encouraging people to emulate a particular look du jour, and magazines and websites in particular have been very guilty of this.
We should prize originality and creativity much more. I for one would be very happy if Adobe brought out a plug-in that flagged up cliches in people’s pictures before they inflicted them on the world!
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