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Photographers, please stop following damaging TikTok trends

TikToker smashes lens with hammer and rocks
(Image credit: TikTok / illumitati)

Surely it can't be true? But it is. A photographer and content creator on the video-based social media platform TikTok was inspired to ruin their real Canon EF series lens, after seeing another photographer on the platform scratch up an old filter using a rock, and proceeded to shoot images with it.

If you haven't facepalmed just yet, it gets worse. The effect in question could very very easily be applied to images in post-production instead of having to ruin photographic equipment for absolutely no reason, just out of curiosity.

Wondering what the best camera for TikTok is? (opens in new tab)

TikTok user and photographer video.andres (opens in new tab) kicked off the madness by posting a 'lens cleaning hack' video, whereby he poured honey onto what at first glance looks like a Canon EF series lens, but many spotted that it was actually a fake photography lens mug, posted in humor with the hashtags #donottrythisathome and #triggerwarning. 

Andres later posted a video (see below) in response to a comment that was made on the original honey video that said "gravel works great as well". Using the same fake Canon lens mug as before, he 'cleaned' it with chunks of gravel. 

I just went viral on TikTok – and here's how you can too (opens in new tab)

While this is all in good fun, and no harm was obviously meant by posting these fake lens videos, some people on the video-based platform can be a little gullible at spotting the truth and believed the photographer was truly damaging his gear.

@video.andres (opens in new tab)

♬ Love - 🇹🇷 <3 (opens in new tab)

The third video in this chain of chaos was posted by Andres in response to a comment on the gravel video that stated "I'm calling the police". In this TikTok, Andres uses a real Canon 24-70mm lens that he unscrews from the camera body and drops on the floor. 

What many didn't notice however was the incredibly fast and smooth transition of two clips that were stitched together, to create the illusion of the photographer dropping the lens, where the fake lens is actually the one that falls to the floor. 

@video.andres (opens in new tab)

♬ som original - LORD.xp (opens in new tab)

The TikTok that really caused a stir, however, was when Andres filmed himself using a rock to scratch his camera lens. The original video (opens in new tab) at a first watch looks pretty realistic and convincing, but the creator is actually scratching the surface of a clear lens filter, and not the lens glass itself. Still not a pleasant thing for a photographer to see, or hear, for that matter.

The video racked up reach, receiving a total of 4.2 million views, despite being undeniably fake, as confirmed by Andres himself in a TikTok he later shared where he demonstrates using a lens filter on his gear. Andres also responded to several comments confirming that it was a cheap old filter he wasn't using anymore.

Not everyone on the platform understood that the video was satire, and some suggested that the scratches will "wipe off" and many users asked Andres to post follow-up videos showing what it looks like when shooting images with the scratched lens. Andres has shared such videos, to which no effect can be seen due to the 1.8 aperture settings blurring the scratches on the filter to prioritize the subject.

@illumitatiana (opens in new tab)

♬ original sound - Illumitati 📸 (opens in new tab)

After seeing Andres' TikTok videos, photographer and content creator illumitatiana (opens in new tab) made a response video where she decided through curiosity to try out this method on her actual Canon EF 50mm 1.8 STM (opens in new tab) lens, and scratched it up using a rock. She then proceeded to snap some portraits using the lens, which she said gave them a unique glow and looked kinda cool.

In defense of Illumitati (Tati, She/They), she does state in her TikTok that has received over 3.5 million views, that "I don't recommend doing this to your lenses" and “This came up on my ‘for your page’ and as a photographer, I’d never cringed harder in my life,” so the idea of doing this was likely a calculated attempt at obtaining reach more so than the desire to destroy her equipment.

While no harm was meant by this video and it was born purely out of curiosity and with the intent to go viral, many people aren't happy at the way Tati regarded her kit as so expendable. Not everyone starting out in the business can afford to be ruining their equipment in exchange for likes, and while the lens isn't a super expensive one (about $40 she recalls) - it likely had some life and potential left in it and could've been passed onto someone else. 

Tati has since posted another TikTok that has received a staggering 1.2 million views since yesterday and at the time of writing, where she's taking no prisoners and is bashing the same lens with a hammer! Her intent this time around following recent news coverage was to "p*ss off the boomers". She explains in the video, "I let my intrusive thoughts today win and I just had to know what it would look like if I were to shoot a portrait with a cracked lens".

@illumitatiana (opens in new tab)

♬ Oblivion - Grimes (opens in new tab)

Props to Tati for being brave enough to satisfy their curiosity and take a hammer to the lens. While the original TikTok may have ruffled a few feathers, equipment gets lost, stolen or damaged everyday. Destroying a lens that they never planned on using isn't such a bad price to pay for the news coverage and attention the TikTok's have received. 

Maybe that's the world we live in now. Should we all throw our Canon EOS R5 (opens in new tab)'s in the air and see what it lands us? Would you ever destroy equipment for social media? Let us know in the comment sections on our socials. 

• Read more: 

Best TikTok lights (opens in new tab)
8 tips for using TikTok to promote your photography (opens in new tab)
Best TikTok filters and effects: 10 top creative looks
(opens in new tab)
How to get TikTok famous (from a photographer with 11 million followers) (opens in new tab)

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A staff writer for Digital Camera World, Beth has an extensive background in various elements of technology with five years of experience working as a tester and sales assistant for CeX. After completing a degree in Music Journalism, followed by obtaining a Master's degree in Photography awarded by the University of Brighton, she spends her time outside of DCW as a freelance photographer specialising in live music events and band press shots under the alias 'bethshootsbands'.