Ditch the twinkly lights and faux nerd glasses. If you spend any amount of time online, you’ve probably noticed some trends like a girl engulfed in twinkly lights or staring down intensely at her coffee. Depending on your purpose behind the photograph, sometimes it’s hard to avoid these trends because let’s be honest… when it comes to stock photos, a girl and her cup of joe = sales.
It’s when we have the creative freedom that jumping on the trendy train gets messy. I once read that “they (trends) can inspire complacency and swallow visual identity. When a trend fails, you’re left with photographs anyone could have shot.” I think most creatives can agree that the reason behind getting into this niche was not to get swallowed up in a popular fad. The real reason behind following trends is to gain public approval—I get it, I want my work to be liked just as much as the next person, but at the end of the day, my appreciation for my work is more important than gaining the public’s favor. So, here are 3 tips that have helped me avoid following trends in my photography:
1. Find sources of inspiration other than people.
For the longest time, most of my inspiration came from my favorite photographers. After a while, I noticed a shift in my style because I liked so-and-so’s photography more than my own. If I am always following other people’s trends then I am neglecting my own creativity. Some other sources of inspiration can be experiences, pieces of clothing or props, locations, emotions, or color schemes.
2. Take time out of your day to brainstorm ideas.
Put down your phone and stop relying on Pinterest. Creativity is a muscle that has to be exercised. Take a good 15-20 minutes to organize your thoughts on paper. This could be through creative writing, jotting down a shot list, or my personal favorite, very message doodles. I feel like I should emphasize the fact that when I draw compositions on paper, nobody would know what it was but me. The point: don’t let drawing keep you in the way of brainstorming ideas.
3. Figure out why a trend appeals to you and make it your own.
Following a trend isn’t bad, but it’s easy to be a copycat of another person’s style. Figure out why you like a trend. Maybe you’re drawn to the twinkly lights because it feels surreal or you enjoy playing around with different light sources. Take a piece of the trend and flip it on its backside to make it your own. For example, instead of tangling your subject in the lights, put them behind a bedsheet to create a luminous backdrop.
All in all — if I had to sum up these tips in a sentence, it’d be: don’t be afraid to jump on a bandwagon, just don’t be the one who looks to everyone else for how to ride it.