5 Reasons Why You SHOULD Film Clichés

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 Clichés Helps Hone Your Filmmaking Skills

I remember when I first got into photography my goal was to try to 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 to duplicate.
I was able to see how different photographers tackled the cliché to try to make the image stand out from all the rest.

Sometimes It’s the Only Way To Film Your Subject

Lower Falls-Yellowstone National Park
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

Silhouettes are often said to be clichés. Would you have passed up the chance to film this?

Silhouettes are often said to be clichés. Would you have passed up the chance to film this?

 

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 to find a new way of filming the same old thing?

If there is only one vantage point for a natural feature why not try to 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

Just because everyone else has dew covered spiderwebs doesn't mean you can't film them!

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!

Kevin J Railsback is a wildlife and nature filmmaker

By | 2016-11-06T09:39:03+00:00 February 20th, 2013|Categories: Filmmaking Naturally News|Tags: , , |13 Comments

About the Author:

Award-winning filmmaker Kevin J Railsback has traveled as far as Africa to test HD cameras for Panasonic. His stunning nature and wildlife footage has appeared in productions on National Geographic, Animal Planet, Discovery Channel as well as in commercials for such corporate giants as AT&T.

13 Comments

  1. Mikael Ewald February 21, 2013 at 1:27 am - Reply

    It´s all so true!
    I think we all take those cliché-shots. As you say, every moment is unice and will never come back.
    So many things can look so different just only depending on the light at the moment and with some help of different composition and angles there are always possibilities.

    I know that i will keep on shooting these shots.

    Regards
    Mikael

    • Kevin J Railsback February 28, 2013 at 8:56 pm - Reply

      I don’t think anyone should ever NOT shoot something because everyone else has already done it. It’s your chance to put your own personal touch.

    • Kevin J Railsback March 7, 2013 at 8:59 am - Reply

      I shoot what my heart tells me to shoot. If people want to think my shots are cliche and lame that’s their problem. I’m not going to stop because someone tells me it’s lame. 🙂
      I mean pure not going to shoot a sunset because it’s been done over and over again? Uh yeah. Ain’t gonna happen! 🙂
      Kevin J Railsback invites you to read…Slow Burn: The Impact of Wildfires on Nature and Wildlife in America’s HeartlandMy Profile

  2. Darryl Jenkins February 27, 2013 at 3:11 pm - Reply

    Nice point about cliche’s for someone like me who just like to take the shot for myself.
    On a trip from Western Australia to Canada in 2006 I took a lot of photos, I upload only 1 to Trek Earth.
    http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/North_America/Canada/Prairies/Alberta/Lake_Louise/photo530643.htm
    Six months later I got an email from a chap in England who saw my pic and asked when and what time. It turns out same day/month /year…. maybe 15 minutes aprt and he set up maybe 20 feet to my left.
    http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/North_America/Canada/photo493961.htm

    Now I know I have a lot to learn and his shot is inspiring to follow because we were littraly shoulder to shoulder.
    Kind regards
    Darryl
    I look forwar to your tutorials.
    Thank you.

    • Kevin J Railsback February 28, 2013 at 8:55 pm - Reply

      Darryl,

      That’s awesome!
      One “trick” I’ve learned is to go to a souvenir shop and check out the postcards they offer of local sites. They usually have the best spots to set up your camera to get your own footage.
      How many times has the Grand Canyon been filmed at sunset yet people still create great footage that you love to look at.

      I don’t know, I don’t think anyone should tell you never to film something because it’s already been done. If it hasn’t been done by you then why would you not try to get your own interpretation?

      Thanks for the comment! I appreciate hearing stories like this!

    • Kevin J Railsback March 7, 2013 at 8:57 am - Reply

      Hey Darryl,

      Certain spots are cliches because they’re simply such awesome shots. I don’t understand while some people tell you not to shoot an awesome shot and give you grief that it’s lame because it’s been shot so many times.

      I ALWAYS shoot cliches then work to find my own compositions. If someone thought it was good enough to shoot the first time around, it should still be good enough to shoot the ten millionth time around too! 🙂
      Kevin J Railsback invites you to read…Slow Burn: The Impact of Wildfires on Nature and Wildlife in America’s HeartlandMy Profile

  3. Cedric Brown May 30, 2013 at 5:00 am - Reply

    Brilliant Kevin! I so agree with you. You are absolutely right when you say that the real art is filming the same thing with a new touch to it. Discovering something new is definitely great work, but re-discovering the same thing is truly great art! Way to go!!

    • Kevin J Railsback May 30, 2013 at 5:46 am - Reply

      Thanks Cedric.
      I love finding new ways to film something that has been filmed over and over again.

  4. Adrienne June 6, 2013 at 9:10 pm - Reply

    Just goes to show you what I know Kevin which isn’t much when it comes to this particular topic.

    Not being a photographer I just look at beautiful pictures and I either like them or not. Thinking something was a “cliche” would have never crossed my mind. Why would it!

    All I know is that all the images you have shared here are beautiful.

    Your definition of a cliche reminds me of what people talk about not writing about subjects that have been written about 10 million times. I say if you can say it in a way we understand and through your own personal experience then I say go for it. So if you can shoot some scenery from your own point of view then I say go for it. Who should have a right to tell us otherwise.

    That’s my story and I’m sticking to it! 😉

    ~Adrienne

    • Kevin J Railsback June 6, 2013 at 9:16 pm - Reply

      Adrienne,

      I think you explained it perfectly. It doesn’t matter if it’s been done ten million times, if you can put your own spin on it then why not do it? Even if you can’t who cares? It’s your camera, you should be able to shoot what you want to shoot.

      I mean imagine going to Paris and not coming home with a photo of the Eiffel Tower? That would be nuts. It’s been photographed and filmed millions of times but that’s not going to stop anyone from taking their own image.

      The thing is to learn from what others have done as well as try to put your own signature on your work.

      In the end, it all comes down to shooting things that makes you happy.

      And that’s MY story and I’m sticking to that too! 🙂

  5. Gilberto Jones June 7, 2013 at 12:59 am - Reply

    This is most interesting and for budding creative heads like me, most appropriate. I have been told over and over again how these prompts and clichés are actually interesting fields to explore your freedom of expression via this medium

    • Kevin J Railsback June 17, 2013 at 10:28 am - Reply

      Thanks for dropping by Gilberto.

      I fond filming cliches a great way to learn filmmaking. Nothing wrong with trying to copy someone’s work while you’re learning. Once you have your technique down, then you can start putting your own spin on things.

  6. Shaun Hoobler September 1, 2013 at 10:30 am - Reply

    I love a good cliche every now and then. But on film making, let’s see.
    Shaun Hoobler invites you to read…app dev secretsMy Profile

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