5 Worrying Trends in Photography

5 Worrying Trends in Photography

Photography has come a long way since its invention in the 19th century. Starting off as a status symbol usually associated with the rich, it has grown far and wide to become one of the most common ways of artistic expression. As it grew more and more, it also sparked the rise of some worrying tendencies. In this article, we will discuss some of the most worrying tendencies that plague modern photography.

The entry point into modern photography has never been this low. I like to think that everyone these days is a photographer to some degree. It’s hard to disagree. As long as you have a smartphone with a camera, you already possess the bare minimum required. I love taking pictures on my phone, and as phones get even better, the gap between professional cameras and smartphones will become so narrow that most people will not bother buying entry-level cameras. In a future article, I plan on comparing my full frame Canon 5Ds to an iPhone 14 Pro to see just how small (or big) the difference between the two might be. I digress. Because of how widespread photography has become, it has given the rise to some alarming trends, which we shall discuss.

Reliance on Post-Production

One of the most concerning ones for me, and I am as guilty as the next man, is over-reliance on post-production. I consider post-production a vital part of the photographic process, and I hardly, if ever, deliver unprocessed images. Nonetheless, there is a difference between processing an image to give it a certain aesthetic, and over-processing it to stop representing reality. I am not talking about artistic photography; I am instead talking about images that are there to showcase reality, as seen through a lens. I am open about my work is more imagination than reality, it’s not supposed to look real. However, there are photographers who claim their images to be “real,” while in reality, they have been over-processed with programs such as FaceApp or Photoshop. The issue is that after processing images this much, they might start to lose their authenticity, hence depriving the viewer of a “real” experience.

Lack of Originality

Another thing that worries me personally is the lack of originality in photography. It’s so easy to just take ideas from other photographers and simply make a worse copy of what they made. You can easily go on Pinterest and find popular hot trends and create a derivative of them. The problem with copying is that while you are trying to be someone else you’re not, you are actively suppressing your own creative voice. To combat this, photographers must try to find their own unique vision and create images that reflect their personal style and aesthetic.

Overuse of Social Media

Overuse of social media has to be up there with some of the most soul-crushing activities. While Instagram can be great for getting inspiration and seeing what everyone is up to, it is far too easy to get lost in the feed. Speaking from personal experience, I found Instagram to be very toxic at a point. I was instinctively comparing myself to other creatives and feeling bad about my work as a result. Another problem is the pressure people face to share their work and keep on posting. This can easily take away the joy and passion of photography and lead you to feeling depressed. Ultimately, you need to be able to set boundaries between yourself and social media. A helpful way to do this is by limiting the time you spend on Instagram, trying to message people on a different platform, and following accounts that really matter to you. Do as I say and not as I do, as I have yet to unfollow a bunch of accounts I am not interested in.

Disregard for Ethics

Another worrying tendency I am noticing is the ever so growing disregard for ethical norms and morals in photography. Because everything and everyone can be photographed in a very discreet way, you might feel innocent when taking a picture of someone in a vulnerable position. For example, there were a few times I went to photograph homeless people, which at the time felt right, but in hindsight, I was exploiting their situation for my personal gains. Photographers can be easily photographing people in some of their most vulnerable moments while disregarding what the subject feels about the situation. Invasion of privacy is another problem with this, as photographers can be far too intrusive into someone's life when trying to document them. Being considerate of your subject and being honest about your intentions will help you a long way in creating images that are not only respectful but also truthful.


Lastly, one of the hottest issues in the western world is representation, stereotypes, and underrepresentation. Photography is a very powerful tool that helps a lot of people shape their perceptions of the world, but that carries the danger of being responsible for under-representing a certain group or an individual. For example, when street photographers focus solely on one type of subject, they can easily help under-represent other groups of people. Another way this is done is through photographing a subject in a stereotypical context. A naïve and oversimplified stereotype would be to photograph a girl playing with a doll and a boy with a car. Actively seeking out diverse subjects and creating an inclusive portfolio of work can go a long way in helping break down stereotypes. Ultimately, you are the judge of what is worthy of being photographed, but I encourage you to open your mind to the plethora of possibilities that the world has to offer and photograph what’s not “worthy,” just in case you might find it worthy.

Closing Thoughts

Combatting these worrying tendencies is not an easy task, and I understand each and every single person who is not at a point to start creating inclusive portfolios of true images that don’t exploit subjects while staying off social media. I absolutely was guilty of all five of these myself at one point or another. Nonetheless, my approach changed once I started seeing photography as a lifelong journey of learning and growth. One of the most helpful exercises was to seek inspiration beyond photography and see how other artists approach their craft. There is a lot to be learned from non-photographers.

What are some worrying tendencies for you? What are some of the ways you can combat them? Let us know in the comments!  

Illya Ovchar's picture

Illya Ovchar is a fashion photographer based in Europe. In his work, Illya aims to tell stories with clothes and light. Illya's work can be seen in magazines such as Vogue, Marie Claire, and InStyle.

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I don't know that most of this is really worrying to me. Sure, the ethics question is obviously an important one, although I believe it's existed for decades (look at Nat Geo's history for more on that), but the rest is just the natural progression of art. I hardly use social media, but if someone chooses to use it obsessively, that's their choice. I know some people who have found great success that way. If you imitate others poorly, your work may not sell as well and you'll be forced to pivot. If people gravitate to your imitations, perhaps they aren't poor. And, as long as they aren't copies, there's nothing wrong with taking an idea and making it your own (it's been done for centuries). Over-processing is also in the eye of the beholder. I'm not a huge fan of replacing skies or distorting reality to the point of absurdity... but, if it sells, it sells. And, if it doesn't, chances are one will be forced to try something new (or not sell anything). If that's the art one likes to make, I say go for it. I've seen photos that i think are processed atrociously, with gaudy overuse of the saturation slider and haloing to the point of nausea... that are selling. I've seen these types of photos on actual walls. Why? I have no clue. I wouldn't want to make or buy them. But, if someone likes making them and finds success selling them... i say all the power to them. It's art. Not all paintings are realist and not all photos are processed with a light handed touch. C'est la vie.

thinking the latest gear will take better photos

Reliance on Post-Production is very true, i think often a 20mpix image over editing and scaled down to instagrams 1mpix allows a lot of poor images to look ok.

I really don't think there is more "Reliance on Post-Production" today. If anything, digital editing has opened up post processing to a much greater audience. In film days, only there a very small minority of photographers had access to a darkroom. The vast majority of photos were clicked in camera and processed by whatever method the wet lab determined to be "optimal". I assure you there was a heck of a lot of massaging happening even in those automated labs. No different then clicking the "auto" tone and exposure button in Lightroom.

In camera AI and apps to remove backgrounds and such things are way different than "post processing". Lots of things are changing in photography. As things always do.

This was my general feeling as well. I had the fortune of learning technical photography back in the days of the darkroom, and I find many of the editing I do on my computer isn't terribly different that what I would do regarding contrast, burning portions of images, touching up with my pens, etc. The major difference now is that I don't have to worry about wasting film, paper, chemicals, and time in the process.


Reliance on post-production might not be so true for experienced photographers, but it sure is a big trap for the newbies. It's so easy to get overwhelmed by all the composition and lightning info to think "Oh, screw it, Photoworks will take care of it, I'm good" only to realize there is only so much a program can do. On the other hand, it's a good learning experience, if one actually learns from their mistakes.

Overuse of social media also hits home for me, because like you've said, it makes you feel "less of" and the constant comparison doesn't do you any good. Setting a boundary for yourself is important but we really learn this a hard way.

Professionals have been relying on post production since like forever, and the debate continues.
In the 1920-30s there was a debate between the Pictorialists and the F64 Group. "The group, formed in 1932, constituted a revolt against Pictorialism, the soft-focused, academic photography that was then prevalent among West Coast artists...the f64 group were united in their practice of using the camera to record life as it is, through unmanipulated “pure” documentation. "

So maybe today's Pictorilasts are those who use and lot of layers, presets, color grading and techniques learned online.

Boring... Most pictures are boring, all very similar, without any meaning... Naked or half naked women in uncomfortable positions, portraits or headshots in studio lights, over processed landscapes, birds birds birds, meaningless street photographies to random people doing random things...

De-monetize photography

The worst trend I've seen probably started gaining serious momentum about 15-16 years ago when popular social media influencers effectively convinced most everybody that photography had to be "professional" in order to be valuable. The only real definition of professional that everybody agrees with is that it has to do with making money, so most phtographers now equate monetization with successful photography. The worst photography that exists, in my opinion, is the kind that imitates advertising and/or is solely created to sell something to somebody for some reason. If we were to try taking pictures with no purpose other than to avoid being mistaken for a professional then a lot of our work might start to have some real depth and meaning. In the era of AI, de-monetizing photography might be the only way that humans can effectively compete against a soulless computational imagery easy created in mass like an industrial era production line.

The market has been demonitizing photography for the last 10 years...

I agree and that's exactly what makes the situation so crazy annoying. Photography is losing market value at exactly the same time that millions of newcomers are obsessed with making money. I don't believe that the new photographers are responsible for the decline. I think that the market was already in it's death throes long before most of them even got the idea to enter it in the first place.

I wonder what kind of pictures people would take if they didn't care about making money. Would they actually start to discover their own person style of expression more quickly? Would they invent new genres or combine old ones in ways that nobody has thought of before? Contrary to popular belief, commercial photography stifles innovation. Clients usually only buy tried and true methods and most cutting edge advertising shooters from the past were stealing their ideas from what had already been proven to work in the avant garde art market. Basically, I'm just wondering out loud if the pursuit of money is stifling a lot of photographers from reaching their own creative potential.

Michael Moss wrote:

"I wonder what kind of pictures people would take if they didn't care about making money. Would they actually start to discover their own person style of expression more quickly? Would they invent new genres or combine old ones in ways that nobody has thought of before?"

I care about making money a little bit, but I approach my photography as if I don't. I shoot what I want to shoot, the way I want to shoot it, and then hope that it sells.

Conversely, many of the professional wildlife photographers that I am friends with and who I shoot with regularly are first and foremost concerned with shooting for the market. Sure, they love nature and the wild animals they are photographing, but their primary reason to be out shooting on any given day is to amass files that they can market and sell to their clients.

One of these friends is really fascinated with reptiles and amphibians, yet I can't get him to go photograph them. "I would love to, but I just don't have any market for that" he says.

During the Whitetail Deer rut in Colorado, I invite a friend to spend a few hours shooting Cottontail Rabbits in the snow, and he says that he really loves the Rabbits and that the winter setting is so beautiful, but "I just don't know how I would go about selling photos of Rabbits".

It saddens me that people put money and income so high on their priority list. Especially when it affects their creative ventures.

I was raised being told that Art is of supreme importance, that it is more supreme than anything else in life, and that one must never allow Art to be cheapened by changing the way one does it in order to earn more money. Screw anything at all in life up, and it is okay and you can recover from it ..... except for Art. With Art, one must always be true to one's self and never sell out.

This is a mantra that I buy into wholeheartedly. We do lots of things for money. Let's be genuine, and true to ourselves, and true to our creative vision, and not allow Art to be something that is tainted by the desire for income.

I'm 1000% in agreement and you stated it very eloquently. I've actually always liked wildlife photography precisely because so often it's a labor of love since there isn't too much of a market for it. I did have a friend that worked for a wildlife photographer at his personal gallery at the Denver International Airport. This was back in the 90's, but she said that he sold prints everyday to travellers. If I remember correctly, these were big prints and sold for many thousands of dollars. It was obvious to me when entering his gallery that he loved what he was doing and would have been doing it for free even if there was no money involved. The best possible situation is when somebody does something out of love but then luckily gets rewarded for the sincerety of the effort. I'd love to see more photographers with heart have success like him in the future.

Micheal you wrote,

"I wonder what kind of pictures people would take if they didn't care about making money. Would they actually start to discover their own person style of expression more quickly? Would they invent new genres or combine old ones in ways that nobody has thought of before?"

I am that photographer! For over two years I have been living and working from my van creating my art. What I do care about is owning my art, and creating the images I want to photograph.

See for yourself what the results are.

Jesse Levi Hummel of Throvv

That's awesome and I'm happy it's working out for you. It's an honor that your first comment is a reply to my post.

The software used in photographer, their main "pitch" "easy, fast, me like the pro,". They to sell subscriptions. CASH COW. of course. I have to issue with software work on photos. Just look look for Photo shop in RAW. Amazing took for color for hair, teeth, body, all AI driven. I love it. But there is a price to pay. It cannibalizes it self over time. This results I think, the real pro, has to compete with "camera Pete" who has a cheap set up, but with AI Knock it out of the park.

I'm 100% amateur & have limited myself to a three yr-old flagship Android phone, a sub-250g drone with a 12MP camera & a cheap tripod with a 40cm slider for vertical video.

My daily challenge is to find an interesting subject and photograph it in an interesting way depending on the light(ing) & background. I ruthlessly delete boring images & tweak the rest in Snapseed or the free Photoscape X. Post to IG with #galaxys10 or #djimini2 & move-on.

Not an Influencer or trying to monetize anything. Just a happy amateur exploiting my limited equipment to the max & trying to improve in my hobby everyday.

Far more worrying than any of these is the total breakdown of the camera market. Not so much the fact that everyone uses iPhones but more that it becomes entirely unprofitable to create wide range of different types of camera gear. We’ll be experiencing a consolidation and only very few will survive … and that’s a shame.

Everything else is just the same as always and not really a trend. Indeed ethics etc are becoming better - more awareness not less, so hardly a trend. Or a trend to the better.

Over-processing drives me insane. I also have a dislike for Photoshop or Adobe Lightroom. Either you can take a decent picture or you can’t, when you start adding and deleting parts of it, it’s almost like cheating. I look at a LOT of photographs and many of them are, well, mediocre at best. I have a very basic editing tool I usually use for cropping, but that’s it.

Lightroom is a tool for developing, more than for altering (although it can be used for that). If one shoots raw, the images are often flat and need developing, just as photographers who shoot on film must develop their photos. You wouldn't hang a film negative on your wall, would you? (Unless you're being artsy) There is a difference between over-processing and simply processing. Even if you're setting a color profile in-camera to achieve exactly the colors you want, your camera is now doing the processing. Digital cameras nowadays do a ton of processing within the camera itself. That's still processing. The need to develop a photo has existed since the inception of photography itself.

Illya, I share with you your comments and concerns. Social media and smartphones have opened the doors to those who were expectators to active participants in different levels. As in every new technology some will become more engaged in this inspirational art trying to define their skills and their dream and move on to more complex and sophisticated cameras. For example, when video cameras came out. Others will simply vanish creating the mundane photos that will move no where.

As for social media, as long as it's financially accessible and profitable for both parties, the creators and the users, it will continue growing. How we, concerned photographers, use social media, share inspirational samples that move those who really want to engage in photography as a tool of communication, then there is room for mutual growths.

I use Instagram only with pictures that I feel have something artistic to share in my humble way. There is so much to learn in photography as in any other art that you engage seriously.

In learnings from other arts, I can share that i learned so much about colors and light from my ex's paintings as i was looking for ways to learn more about photography. Now, i automatically pay more attention to light and color combinations.

Very valid concerns and excellent suggestions.

Under representation seems a little strange in this list and that's more of freedom of thought, no?

It kinds of bugs me that nowhere in this article I read about AI?!?!

I think this is by far the most worrying trend in photography recently and probably for years to come.

Underrepresentation?? Yawn. I hope you re read that to realise what a complete bell end you are. Good riddance, this site has become garbage anyway so I'll be glad to block it.

Having Post-Production instead of AI is interesting. I always thought representing reality exactly isn't very artistic but putting your spin on reality is what makes it more artistic so I see post-production as part of the artistic process not something to be wary of. However, I am a retoucher by trade so, yeah...