10 Photo Gimmicks Which Must Die Today

10 Photo Gimmicks Which Must Die Today

Photography is the learning curve of death. You’re born. You learn. You keep learning. Then you die. You die frustrated and exhausted in a pauper’s grave. You spent your life searching for that one perfect exposure which proved elusive and spiteful. Join the club. The club which has existed for around 175 years and dates back to the man who started this whole photography thing – Louis Daguerre. Daguerre was obviously a complete sadist, an utter bastard and the man responsible for ruining every photographer’s life.

It’s tempting, however, to simply ignore all the complicated stuff and head straight for that big toolbox in your computer labelled BOLLOCKS! That big toolbox is there for a purpose. It’s for monkeys to paint with cheap effects and stab us all in the heart. Go ahead. Make your day. Screw it all up with Software!  

Admittedly, some gimmicks can enhance a photograph if used sensibly. Sensibly means subtly. Sensibly means not hurling every effect at an image regardless of whether it is appropriate, clever or remotely enhancing. Some gimmicks remain fashionable (vignetting and clarity, for example) because, basically, they’re pretty cool. Some gimmicks, however, have not dated well. The following list of Photo Gimmicks Which Must Die Today have been around for far too long and are starting to stink the place out a bit. Essentially they are techniques which should really be taken out into a field and shot in the head like the knackered old pit ponies they actually are. Some of them are applicable to wedding photographers. Some are not. All, however, should now be put out of our misery.

In no particular order they are:

Sloping Horizons

It’s a little known fact that every now and then the world slips on its axis by approximately 7 degrees. It’s a weird phenomenon which usually occurs when lazy photographers can’t think of anything else to add interest to a photograph. Buildings are seldom straight. Trees are seldom straight. People are seldom straight. But it is an indefatigable truth that the freakin’ horizon is always bloody straight! Christ, most cameras even have a grid in the viewfinder to help you get the horizon straight! Are you a god? Do you not obey the laws of mother nature? Are you somehow a grander and more enlightened species of photographer that is privy to an alternative universe which is governed by a whole different set of physical laws? No, you are not. Tilting the horizon was a popular technique back in the mid-1980s. Then everybody got sick of having to tilt their heads in order to see what was actually going on. So everybody abandoned that particular technique and moved on. It is still popular today with drunken sailors, one-legged paparazzi snappers and cheap wedding photographers.

Spot Colour

Oh god…just kill me now. Come rain your bombs on the facile brides and wildlife photographers who think this technique adds absolutely anything to an image. Selective colouring techniques were first pioneered by the Victorians. The Victorians were clever. Then the Victorians were replaced by computers and now stupid people think they can achieve the same effect with an iOS app or a paint brush tool. Spot colour looks clunking and ham-fisted. It is meant to draw the eye to a particular aspect of an image. It sure does. It draws my eye to the fact that the image has been ruined. It’s as dated as Sin City.


The world of colour is a wonderful place. Nature has a way with colours that is simple and satisfying to the soul. Whose heart cannot be warmed by the sight of a blue sea and a yellow rose? Awwwww…it’s just crazy-beautiful out there, man. Nature also has a way of using colour to denote danger. Do not pick up a red bug. Do not eat green meat. Why, then, do some photographers feel the need to grab those saturation sliders and pump up their image with so much colour that you need shades just to look at it? On the whole, nature does a pretty good job of making sunsets look cool. I’m pretty sure that if nature wanted your help to make her sunsets look excruciatingly vivid and completely unnatural then she would have asked you by now. Hmmm? Maybe? Or maybe you don’t actually know how to expose for a sunset? Like, you know, don’t actually expose for the sun itself? Expose for the sky either side? That way you’ll retain the colours and keep the natural contrast. Simply blasting the sky with artificial colour is what pre-schoolers do with crayons and vomit.

The Beach

I live on a Greek island. We have quite a few beaches. Sandy beaches, windy beaches, pebbly beaches, public beaches, secluded beaches…many. many beaches. You can lie on them when it’s warm or simply walk along them when it’s cold. All the beaches are pretty close to the sea. Look! It’s the sea! And just beyond the sea is the horizon!
Don’t be fooled by the notion that a beach makes for a good photograph. Beaches and babies are remarkably similar in many respects because they all look the same. One toddler in a buggy looks exactly the same as another to everybody except the mother concerned. Most beaches look exactly the same to everybody except the tourist concerned. So you need to do something with a beach to make it interesting. You could dig it up and make a temporary home for a thousand unicorns. That would be pretty neat. Or you could just walk along the beach for a while until you bump into something you could place in the foreground of your photograph. Like a tree. A jetty. A turtle. Anything, really, that leads the eye into the image. (Don’t use beached whales, though…they gross people out. It’s the flies and rotting blubber. Yuk!)

Lying On The Ground

This is a technique popular with Japanese pornographers and Russian village wedding photographers alike. I don’t know why. On the whole I have more respect for Japanese pornographers. If you want to look up a girl’s skirt on the bus then there are dedicated websites for you. Lying on the ground to shoot a gaggle of bridesmaids is just, well, weird. You’ll never get an upskirt shot like that because it’s pretty obvious that’s what you’re trying to achieve.  Plus…those chins! Yikes! Get up, man! You’re freaking out the entire wedding party! They’re thinking they’ve hired Pervy Piotr from Upskirt Collection.co.ck to document their very special day!

Unnecessary HDR

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. High. Dynamic. Range.  It’s a way to capture the shadows and highlights under high-contrast circumstances using a series of bracketed exposures and then blending them together into one image using dedicated software. It’s a faff-and-a-half but can be very effective. It is particularly effective when photographing property interiors on a Greek island. The contrast between the bright sky outside and the interior space is a scenario that HDR software like Nik Efex can easily overcome. Once you get your head around HDR, however, it’s tempting to use it for everyday scenes that have a very limited dynamic range (such as a cloudy day). It’s very easy to over-bomb an HDR image and create something which looks over-saturated and cheap. Most half-decent, modern cameras (basically cameras which you can’t use as a mobile phone) have a sophisticated sensor system which can easily capture highlights and shadows between a 5-stop exposure range. This means that if your exterior is f11 and you’re interior is, for example, f2.8, then your camera will capture details in the whole scene and there is no need for HDR. Personally I find the results without resorting to HDR to be far more natural, crisper and truer to the eye. So there.

Naked Women In Forests

When was the last time you saw a naked woman strolling through a forest glade with a faraway look on her face? Never. It’s as dated as Emmanuelle. Yet it’s still popular with amateur male photographers of a certain age who like to think they’re capturing the sensual spirit of mother nature. Or something.  I know what the model is thinking. The model is thinking: “Yuk! This is uncomfortable. My feet are getting shredded and my ass is being bitten by insects. Why didn’t this old jerk want to photograph me in bed with a strategically-placed white sheet covering my nipples like all the rest of them. Bastard. I’m gonna charge double next time. Eeeeek! Was that a snake?”


Instagram is god’s own way of telling you that you’ve failed. You and 300 million other people who access the website every month. Not all of them are drug dealers. Some are, though, because they’ve figured out a way to post pictures of illicit substances and then sell them via What’sApp and the rest. Good. I’d rather stare at photographs of drugs than a billion selfie trout-pouts. Similarly, I’d never post any photograph to a social network site which boldly states that it can use that image for whatever purpose they want, without legal recourse, without recompense and without credit. So Instagram are basically cheap techno bastards who sold out to Facebook in April 2012 for 1 Billion dollars. And threw in a few hideous filters (Mayfair, Willow, Perpetua, etc…bleurgh!) to give the masses some sense of diluted creative vanity.  It’s a phone. Call someone.

Photoshop Filters

Let me see…what’s in the toolbox? Neon Glow? Cut Out? Liquify? Ripple? Shatter?


Kissing The Moon

This again is a popular technique with Russian wedding photographers and love-struck hillbillies from the Deep South. It goes like this. Photograph the bride with her palm outstretched. Photograph the groom seperately kneeling down. Superimpose the groom onto the bride’s hand and…voila!…one of the most terrible techniques known to sentient photographers. There are infinite variations. The mini-groom standing inside the bride’s big shoe.The mini-groom being squished between the bride’s big hands. Both mini-bride and mini-groom standing inside champagne glasses. The bride and groom as centaurs on a beach. The mini-bride poking out of the groom’s top pocket. The bride and groom both kissing the moon.

I’m gonna move to Minsk and throw a few more out there. Like the mini-wedding photographer kidnapped and trapped inside the bride and groom’s big torture chamber. The mini-wedding photographer facing the bride and groom’s big family firing squad. Oh, wait, those aren’t actually photographs…

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