Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

What is a portrait photography fad?  A fad is something that has a short term boost in popularity. To me, a photography “fad” can be a pose, prop or style of photographing or editing that becomes extremely popular for an isolated period of time. While fads tend to be exceptionally popular for a short time, a trend has staying power. Sometimes something starts as a fad but ends up a trend. Occasionally it’s hard to determine whether something is fad or trend.

There are dozens of photo fads coming and going all the time.  Now, with social networking so prevalent, fads can occur fast and be more widespread. Think about photography forums, photography blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr.  When you visit these places, you see images of other photographers.  And chances are, no matter how original try to be, something may catch your eye.  You may get an idea. You may see a prop you like or see a pose that you want to try. You may be inspired to try new techniques, locations, lighting, or editing.  And through this inspiration, if enough are interested and influenced, a fad may evolve.

Many photography fads originate with props. At the moment, faux wood floorings (barnwood mats) are extremely popular. A few years ago, most infant photographers put babies in over-sized teacups. As far as editing and Photoshop, do you remember the popularity of sepia tones, hazy-edited images, over-edited eyes, intense glowing color, selective color, soft glow, heavy vignettes, heavy plastic skin smoothing, deep burning and dodging, and I could go on and on…

This post is NOT meant to make fun of the latest craze or recent fads. In fact, many of the included images are works of art.  As you look through the photos below, I suspect you may think some of the following thoughts:

  • “I remember doing that.”
  • “I still do that.”
  • “I love that prop.”
  • “I love that image.”
  • “I want to try that.”
  • “I cannot wait until my next session to do that.”
  • “I wonder where I can find that… or how to do that.”
  • “I cannot believe I did that.”
  • “How did that become a fad?”
  • “Why would anyone want to do that?”

You may look through some of these and realize you still do a certain technique or have a certain prop.  You may remember when you did.  You may feel embarrassed.  Or you may wonder why a photo made the list because you don’t think of it has a fad or trend, but more a staple of photography.  All of these thoughts and feelings are valid.

Photography fads are NOT bad. You may personally think some are, and that is fine too.  In many cases fads inspire. When a fad is done well it can actually result in a timeless heirloom photograph. You may look back and wonder why you every got swept up in a particular fad.  Trust me, I look back at my 80′s big hair, arms full of rubber bracelets, and neon clothing in that way.  But with photography, images create memories and capture a moment in time. You and your customers can still love them, trend, fad or not.

Thanks to all my contributors for sharing their images below.  These represent some of the fads and trends I have seen in the past few years. Some of these images make me want to go try a prop or location, even if they are or were a fad. Others, I may be less fond of.  But remember, for something to become a fad, lots and lots of photographers have to try it.

So when you look through these, what is going through your head? Be honest and add your comments.

Love them? Hate them? Which fads did you try? Are you now inspired?  Did they give you ideas? Which did you like or not like? What other fads have you seen come and go, not listed or shown here (I listed some Photoshop ones but did not have room for examples of these)? I know there are many fads that I did not include, so please share them and feel free to link to an image of yours that represents a fad. Which of these do you see as trends versus fads? Just because something is a fad, it does not make it forbidden. Many of these ideas were overused at one time, but used sparingly, may be a great addition to your work.  All things to consider and think about!


The big, bright lollipop * this may be the biggest one yet:

IMG 6756 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
pin it4 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
Photo courtesy of Amanda Andrews Photography


The newest trend seems to be fake flooring, like the “Barnwood Rug”:

ali3 mark sm Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
pin it4 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
Photo courtesy of Kari Durbin Photography


And using these rugs for both fake flooring and backdrops:

ali4 mark sm Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
pin it4 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
Photo courtesy of Kari Durbin Photography


Baby in the teacup:

MG 0666 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
pin it4 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
Photo courtesy of Amanda Andrews Photography


Baby in a flower pot | Baby with a flower cap prop:

kr4m 2BLOG1 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
pin it4 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
Photo courtesy of Photography by TracyT


Baby in an antique carriage prop:

3 600x447 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
pin it4 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
Photo courtesy of Photography by TracyT


Baby with angel wings:

LilyP11 Original 2 600x421 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
pin it4 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
Photo courtesy of Photography by TracyT


A high school senior portrait | Senior posing on a railroad track:

jlynnmak2 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
pin it4 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
Photo courtesy of j’lynn mak


Baby wearing knit hat | The hands under the chin pose:

treavor1BLOG 1 600x448 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
pin it4 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
Photo courtesy of Photography by TracyT


The big puffy skirts | Pettiskirts by Kaiya Eve:

puffy 600x854 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
pin it4 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Photo courtesy of MCP Actions


Pier One colorful woven blanket:

liberty under a blanket 600x427 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
pin it4 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
Photo courtesy of MCP Actions


The cake smash – infant posing for 1st birthday pictures:

blog1 600x471 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
pin it4 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
Photo courtesy of Marissa Vargason Photography


Using colorful umbrellas as a prop | Graffiti walls in the background:

alyssa 108 600x854 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
pin it4 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
Photo courtesy of MCP Actions


Victorian chair placed outdoors in a field with greenery:

IMG 0543 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
pin it4 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
Photo courtesy of Amanda Andrews Photography


Baby on a platter | Wrapped tight in blanket | Big flower on head:

MG 1739 1 600x816 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
pin it4 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
Photo courtesy of Amanda Andrews Photography


Baby in a drawer:

4037647557 fec6fb551d b 600x899 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
pin it4 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
Photo courtesy of Maggie Martin


Newborn baby hanging in mid air:

jodi2 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
pin it4 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
Photo courtesy of Pea Head Prints


Child in focus and parents out of focus:

pastedGraphic 600x400 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
pin it4 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
Photo courtesy of Michelle Wells Photography


Maternity photography | Husband’s hands making a heart on her belly:

jodi1 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
pin it4 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
Photo courtesy of Pea Head Prints


Family member’s hands all over pregnant mom’s belly:

hands on belly 600x453 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
pin it4 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
Photo courtesy of Amber Katrina Photography


Capturing the feet of the entire family:

feet 600x453 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
pin it4 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
Photo courtesy of Amber Katrina Photography


Everyone on the ground forming a circle in the middle looking up | Shown on a basketball team:

basketball 600x428 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
pin it4 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
Photo courtesy of Laureen Carruthers Photography


Photographing people in window sill and frames:

window frames 600x453 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
pin it4 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
Photo courtesy of Amber Katrina Photography


Baby bundled in a knit blanket and hat | Placed in a wood serving bowl

baby in a bowl Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
pin it4 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
Photo courtesy of Photography by Shawnee


Baby in metal bucket/tin | Extensive texture on smooth background

IMG 1990t5 005 600x428 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
pin it4 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
Photo courtesy of Shimmers Photography


Wedding rings placed on a baby’s toe:

M002 1Ac flogo 600x480 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
pin it4 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
Photo courtesy of Alleyway Photography


Unborn baby’s name spelled in blocks for maternity photo (note the selective color too – I know I said I was not going to show editing fads, but… just this one):

smithmaternity7 600x447 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
pin it4 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
Photo courtesy of Photography by TracyT

 

 Portrait Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Jodi Friedman, MCP Actions

Jodi Friedman is the founder of MCP Actions. She designs popular Photoshop actions and Lightroom presets that make editing faster, easier and more fun.

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111 Comments and 6 Replies


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  1. 101
    Darren says:

    Great post. Half the fun of photography is setting the scene and taking the shot. the other half is producing something others actually enjoy. that said, i believe on big fad was shots in the graveyard. I remember a period of time where many people used a cemetery as their setting. I agree with the positive here – stay creative, don’t get in rut and do whatever you do best.

  2. 102
    Myles Formby says:

    OMG I loathe selective colour. I’ve seen it used well about twice I think in my whole life, otherwise, TOTAL ABOMINATION.

  3. 103
    Alex Kennedy says:

    Wow great collection. Amanda Andrews picture made me LOL

  4. 104
    Emily D says:

    Some of the pictures are very good! Fads are fads. Whether they are bad or good.

    She wasn’t saying that all of these pictures are BAD fads. Personally, the babies hanging from things looks dangerous and extremely uncomfortable to me. That just isn’t something I could do.

  5. 105
    Jane Simmons says:

    What’s with the latest trend in washed out photography? Shooting into the sun, washed out look. It’s horrible.

    • Debbie says:

      I completely agree about the horrible washed out photography! I have been in the photography business for over 20 years and have always strive to get the most accurate coloring.

  6. 106

    I was doing a Google on Newborn Photography trends thru the years and came across this post. I’m very curious about the topic and would love to see the trends on the last 30 years. It has become my personal project just to study this topic. Fascinating I think.

  7. 107
    Jay says:

    I’ve turned down gigs for engagement sessions where they’ve wanted me to use props.

    Last one was a “I said yes” sign.

    Oh God.

  8. 108
    Jess says:

    I had to giggle at this. While I think some are pretty, they are extremely overdone. The cake smash one I see the most and it drives me insane! The railroad track thing drives me crazy too because it’s illegal.

  9. 109

    […] Photography Trends & Fads: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly | MCP Photoshop Actions and Tutorials…. […]

  10. 110
  11. 111
    Wendy Cain says:

    I was wondering about current trends as I am a New Zealand newborn photographer and am trying to do something different. Right now its bowls, wraps and flokati rugs, see image, not my favorite!! Interesting topic. Regards from NZ. Wendy


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