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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Brecheisen

Why Cliche is A OK! (Part 1: For Non-Photographers)

I am a walking, talking, living, and breathing cliche. (Hmmm...that sentence is even cliche.)

Saying something is cliche in and of itself is a cliche. Think about this-there's an art student sitting outside of a college talking about a colleague's work. He's got the hipster 'stache, wearing a button down shirt, probably some suspenders, dirty khaki pants, and some loafers. He turns to his friend and says, "yeah man, I really didn't like Jennifer's new stuff...It's like so cliche." How cliche is that?! I understand that's also bringing in a stereotype, but I assure you that happens on a daily basis outside of art colleges everywhere. And when the "different trend" changes, the clothing changes etc, but the people are still the same. Since the word "cliche" is so overused in everyday language, it has become a cliche. This is wiki's definition:

A cliche is an expression, idea, or element of an artistic work which has become overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect, even to the point of being trite or irritating, especially when at some earlier time it was considered meaningful or novel.

So now let's get into the meat of my post!

Let's say you have decided for your family photos this year that you want to have your family holding the word "joy", but you know that it's kinda' typical. Lets' face it, you were on pinterest and you saw this awesome photo of the family holding the word joy, and you felt something. You smiled when you saw it. For whatever reason it struck a chord with you. Well, since countless thousands of others have done that with their families, you start searching for something else, something different. You find a few things you like, but nothing sparks anything inside of you, and you keep going back to that photo in your mind. Let me tell you a few things:

1.) Everything is a cliche. There is not much of anything that is original. Even when I think of an idea that's original, I start searching the web to see if anyone else has done it, and guess what? They have!

2.) Cliche is recognizable. Not only is it recognizable, but it can speak to many people on many levels, BECAUSE it is recognizable.

3.) Finding originality inside of the parameters of a cliche idea is not that hard. Since the "essence" of YOUR particular family is different from everone else's, you are bound to have something different. (Note: this piece DOES require a good photog. We'll get to that in a little bit.)

4.) If you are looking for something different based solely on the idea of "being different", well it's probably been done before. It might be different to you, but it's most likely not an original or different idea. Most importantly it's not YOU. You need to do who YOU are, or what reflects your feelings, or what shows the "essence" of you or your family. Do YOU. Don't feel the need to do or be something else.

Let's say that you wanted to be in a beautiful chair in an open field with your family huddled around you. You are probably a goddess, so you need to get to that shoot! No, really, the mother in the chair with the family surrounding her is sooo cliche. However, it is one of my personal favorite family pictures poses! It reminds me of my grandmother, the matriarch of my family, one of the smartest, most hard-working, strongest, and most benevolent women I've ever met, and THE most influential to me. Why WOULDN'T I want to mimic that with my life?

So cousin Sue already has her holiday pictures up, and SHE has done the word joy that you wanted. WHO CARES? It's not a competition; it's a holiday picture. Remember that. And the biggest thing to remember is that you need to be you. Believe me, it will show in your photos. I'm going to talk a little about a personal experience, and then I'm going to give you some tips on how to find the photographer you need to fullfill your vision.

I wanted to do a cake smash shoot for my son, but I thought, "Gosh that's so cliche." I really did. I tried for weeks to think of something different for him for his 1 year photos. I came up with some great ideas, but my mind kept wandering back to the original vision I had in my head for these cake smash photos. I fought so hard not to give in to the cliche of the typical cake smash photo shoot, but I realized how much I wanted to see him partake in the experience. I realized that hey, that photo-shoot is cliche, but that photoshoot is also me. I saw it in my head before I ever carried it out, and then I went about creating it. It was me, because of who I am inside, because of my shooting style, because of my lighting style, the compositions I wanted, the background I made, etc. To me-it was beautiful and special. That's all that matters!

Here is your guide to find the photographer you need to carry out your shoot, but also make it different:

1.) Look at the top 5 photogs in your area. Find their family shoots (or whatever it is you'll be hiring them for), and just look at their work in that area. You'll probably notice that they too have some cliche/typical stuff, but it's different. You don't realize how typical or cliche it is, because there is something different about their style, or the lighting, the overall feeling, etc. You get my drift. Now look at some of the lower photogs in your area-the $30 a session "shoot to burn", and you'll see a huge difference in your perception. There will be washed out colors, or 300% oversaturation on the flipside of that, or it's too contrasty, or things are blown out in the wrong places. ( I say the wrong places, because I personally don't mind a good blow out when it doesn't take away from the subject.) This means they haven't developed their technical skill. If they haven't developed their technical skills, then they probably haven't found themself within their work yet. They are not going to be able to reveal your essence, because they haven't found out who they are as an artist yet. Or they are not going to have the technical skill to bring about their vision. This piece of information can also apply to the pros. There are photogs out there who have the knowledge of photography and create technically unflawed work, but their pieces don't say anything and they don't speak to you.

2.) DON'T HIRE BASED ON PRICE! If you want something to cherish forever, then don't hire the shoot-to-burn girl just because you can't afford someone else. First, reach out to that photog that you really like and really want and tell them you want to work out a deal. Tell them what their work means to you. Talk about what you feel when you look inside the layers of their work and what it says. Tell them that you really want them, and that you just can't afford them. (Don't ever say something like, "Oh that's too expensive" to the photog you really like. What that says to them is, "I don't value your work.") It's worth a shot. If they turn you down, you haven't lost anything, but I can assure you that photographer will consider it greatly if you've put a lot of thought about what you want to say to them. Artists love to hear what their work means to other people, and it's rare that we get to have those conversations.

3.) If you absolutely MUST go with the shoot-to-burn photog, find the one that seems to be leading within their body of work. Don't go with the one who has most facebook likes, or because cousin Sue went with her, or because she's most popular. Look closely at their work to find just the right one. You could find a hidden gem that's new to the area and building their portfolio.

4.) If the photog's website says they don't do trendy/gimmicky/cliche photography, well...they are obviously better than you...and me....Best to stay away from them lol. (Most likely they really DO do trendy photography, but they are so full of themselves that their fixer doesn't stink.-ok I hope some of you reading this got that joke.)

5.) QUALITY-If you want quality photos at an affordable price, call.....NO, it doesn't work like that. You must pay for quality. If you are a quantity/variety type person, then don't call a pro. They don't work like that. They value their work, and if you don't, then don't call them. You need to call the shoot to burn photog. I'm not saying that the pro doesn't have hundreds of wonderful photos of you after they've taken them. They do, but you have to pay for that. Editing can take a while, and pros only show their BEST work. They will edit a few for you to see and choose from. They are not going to edit 50 photos from a session, and then hand them over to you. Once again, look at the protogs vs. the fauxtogs in your area, and take note of how many images they post from a session. The protog will show 1-3 of her best images, whereas the fauxtog will show 20+ images-sometimes the entire shoot! THIS is also an indicator of how to separate those who really value their own work from those that are just trying to make a quick buck.

In Conclusion:

Be who you are!

Find the person who will show the "essence" of you!

Don't be embarassed or afraid of what you like or want!

Jennifer Brecheisen


Rock Hill SC

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