Even though I’m a nature and wildlife filmmaker I still browse photography websites from time to time. The two are so close together that what often applies to one applies to the other.
My latest browsing adventure happened when someone posted a picture of a lone tree against a sunset on Facebook of all places. They apologized for posting such a cliché image but really it spoke to them so they posted it anyway.
Well, that got me thinking about clichés and should we film them or not. I did a little searching on the Internet and was shocked to see a vast majority of sites all fell on the don’t shoot cliché shots side of the argument. So of course, that got me thinking about all the reasons why you SHOULD film clichés.
Filming Cliches Helps Hone Your Filmmaking Skills
I remember when I first got into photography my goal was to try and duplicate the shots I saw the pros that I looked up to shooting. If a professional photographer shot an image a certain way, I tried to duplicate it. The more I practiced, the better I became at duplicating their work. That’s how I knew I was advancing as a photographer.
All the professionals I had tried to imitate had taken the shots I tried to imitate so many times that they had already become cliché by the time I became interested in photography. But that helped me in two ways.
• I had plenty of examples of the same cliché shot to learn from and work to try and duplicate.
• I was able to see how different photographers tackled the cliché to try and make the image stand out from all the rest.
Sometimes It’s the Only Way To Film Your Subject
If you’ve ever visited Yellowstone National Park you know that due to dangerous thermal activity, some areas are only accessible by boardwalk. Other features in the park may only be visible from a specific turnout in the road. Everyone is lined up to film the same shot that you are. So just because a billion photographs and endless hours of video have been taken from the same exact spot, does that mean that you shouldn’t bother?
Old Faithful, the view from Artists Point have been filmed so many times that they are iconic clichés of Yellowstone. So from what I’ve read on other websites, you shouldn’t even unpack your camera to film them.
Well, even though there are grooves worn in the boardwalk from where so many people have stood filming, I’VE never stood there before. I don’t know about you but I’m not going to travel all the way to Yellowstone and not film Old Faithful or the hundreds of other features in the park that have been overshot for decades. Not going to happen I’ll tell you that!
Every Moment In Time Is Unique
Most sites will tell you over and over again that sunsets and sunrises are so cliché. Does that mean then that you shouldn’t shoot them?
What about Autumn leaves? Deer in meadows? Bees on flowers? Silhouettes? They will all tell you they are clichés and you shouldn’t bother filming them. Really?
I’ve gone out to the Indian Creek Nature Center near my home so many times my truck knows the way automatically. I’ve filmed the tallgrass prairie there extensively over and over again day in and day out. Every time I go there it’s different. Every second of video is unique to the particular moment it was taken. Sunsets have been filmed probably more often than any other shot yet no one has filmed the sunset that is in front of your camera, from that particular spot at that particular time.
Even if you’re shoulder to shoulder with another filmmaker chances are you both will have different framing, exposure etc.
Are you going to stop filming fall color? Yep, it’s a cliché but no one has filmed that tree with those leaves on this day in this weather before. You’re the only one. So no matter what they say, your footage is unique from all the other fall color footage that’s out there.
Every Cliché Should Be Thought Of As A Challenge
Instead of discouraging people from filming clichés, why don’t these sites encourage people to try and find a new way of filming the same old thing?
If there is only one vantage point for a natural feature why not try and film it differently than it’s ever been done before? It might be a challenge, it might be impossible but it doesn’t hurt to try.
Different compositions, different filters, who knows there are probably endless ways to film a cliché and make it your own.
There’s A Reason Why It’s Cliché
The dictionary defines cliché as “an expression or idea that has lost its originality or force through overuse.” So doesn’t that mean that pretty much everything is a cliché if it means it’s lost its originality? After the first sunset footage was shot, everything after is now considered a cliché?
I think the real reason certain shots become cliché is because they’re simply beautiful subjects. Filmmakers are artists and we appreciate beauty when we see it. It’s no wonder we film the same thing over and over and over again. You mean to tell me that you see a beautiful sunrise in Africa and you’re NOT going to shoot it? Give me a break!
So why do so many of these websites I’ve seen all say don’t shoot clichés? Are they just snobs? Have they already got the shot so they don’t want the competition? I don’t know. But for me, I’ll never get tired of looking at a beautiful sunrise or fall color or shots of insects on flowers. I don’t think you should either.
What Do You Think?
Do you think if a shot has been overdone that you should just pass it by? Should we listen to the naysayers that say been there done that, nothing to see just keep on walking?
I don’t think so but would love to hear what you think about it in the comment section below.
And as always, keep shooting the ordinary but make it extraordinary!