It’s OK to Avoid Trends

Trends are always coming and going. While there is pressure to follow them, ultimately, it’s up to you whether or not to follow whatever is current.

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Year in and year out, new trends emerge in photography. There’s always some latest and greatest fad that everyone just has to get in on. For instance, years ago, it was stuff like selective coloring — so many photographers delighted in this technique, using it to highlight just one element of the frame. HDR grew big as people began demanding the vibrant colors and the huge range of light and shade that came with it. With the rise of this technique, surreal photographs became incredibly popular.

Right now? Now, one trend is bokeh. If you’re unaware, these are the pretty swirls of blurred color caused by using a narrow depth of field. And that’s interesting to me because when you think about it, it wasn’t all that long ago that the popular trend was to avoid something like bokeh at all costs, instead of doing everything possible to make sure everything within the frame was in focus. In fact, the same holds for things like selective coloring. With the advent of color photography, color became more popular than black and white, so in a sense, stepping back on color was kind of like stepping back into the past.

Trends — they’re very prominent in photography, and in some respects, they kind of drive progress where photography is concerned. They bring new techniques to the forefront, and those new techniques cause a wave of new exploration. That is always beneficial to artmaking. And this also means that if you happen to like what is trendy, then you’re in luck. You have all the freedom you want to explore this new trend, to use it to create images that satisfy you.

But trends can also be a trap, too. What if the trends that are current just aren’t your style? If that’s the case, don’t let yourself fall into that trap of feeling pressured to create images that follow trends. If you just don’t like bokeh, then why make images featuring it? Photographers often follow trends because they believe that those trends are what viewers want to see. But the truth is, the photographic viewership is as broad and diverse as photographers themselves are. No matter what you create, there will always be someone who enjoys it.

On top of that, some trends come with big price tags. To create bokeh, for instance, you’re best off with a full-frame camera and extremely fast lenses, which could mean an investment if you’re using a micro 4/3rds system or don’t have lenses with wide apertures. Trends can lead you into spending more money than you’re ready to spend just so you can keep up with what is current and not necessarily what you enjoy.

At the end of the day, you have to create what pleases you. If what pleases you doesn’t happen to be trendy right now? Well, so what? Trends come and go — none of them last forever. Eventually, the things you enjoy will be popular again. Photography is all about personal expression, not necessarily doing what everyone else is doing.