Does It Matter That Sunsets Are Cliche? :: Digital Photo Secrets

Does It Matter That Sunsets Are Cliche?

by David Peterson 5 comments

Opinion: Man I’m tired of hearing this. It seems like every photography forum you join has this inherent bias against sunset photos. It’s always the same charge too. Sunsets are overdone. They’re “cliché.” So what is that supposed to mean? Now we can’t enjoy photographing this particular subject because a few people are tired of it? It doesn’t make any sense to me.

After all, there’s a reason so many people take pictures of sunsets and sunrises. They’re one of the most colorful and beautiful things you can photograph. Can you honestly tell me what else has such elegant orange and purple hues? What else is as subtle and warm as the sun fading into the distance? Nothing. Literally nothing on this Earth compares, and yet there are those of us who want to condemn people for finding something beautiful and having fun capturing it and presenting it to others.

Sunsets and sunrises are a great teaching tool for the rest of photography. They define the Golden Hour. That’s when the light is so great you could be photograph nearly anything and still come away with a masterpiece. I find that encouraging people to take more sunset pictures is a great way to get them to see the color of light. Once they understand that light is different in a lot of different circumstances, they can begin to grasp the fundamentals of photography.

I can see how it’s cliché to photograph landmarks like the Eiffel Tower or Mount Rushmore, but sunsets and sunrises are so different. Every one of them is a completely new experience and wholly unfamiliar. What’s next? Are people going to say it’s cliché to photograph their own kids? Children will always be cute, and we will always want to photograph them for that reason.

Is it so wrong to take pictures of things that are beautiful? Have we become so snobby that we can no longer recognize things that are obviously attractive to us?

When I think of a cliché, I think of an overdone way of photographing a particular subject. I think of stock photography with happy smiling professionals gathered around a table. I think of the father of a baby pressing his hands over his pregnant wife’s belly in a heart shape. These styles have been done to death. They deserve the term “cliché.”

But sunsets? Really, are you serious? It seems as though these critics have failed to differentiate the subject from the photographer’s style. Clichés should be reserved for certain photographic styles, not for the subjects themselves. There are many clichés in maternity photography, but would anyone dare to say the entire notion of photographing pregnant women is itself a cliché? No, because that would be crazy talk.

The same logic applies to photographing the sunset and the sunrise. Yes, it’s been done to death, but that’s only because the sunset is really beautiful. I say photograph what you want, and never allow the sneering of others to get in the way of enjoying your hobby. Life is too short to listen to art critics who can’t appreciate simple beauty.

To learn how to take photos of sunset, see the related articles section below.

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  1. Trevor Holder says:

    Could not agree more wholeheartedly with your comments. As a 500px subscriber I am appalled at the divergence from it's original aim to be a site for photographers in the true sense.

    Mindless self portraits of naked people, rock concert performers, weddings, pregnancies, masses of uploads of a single location or object etc. This is swamping those of us wanting to see true photographic endeavors rather than family snaps, that really should be private rather than public.

    It is refreshing to actually see a well shot and composed landscape, sunset , sunrise etc.

    Can you recommend any other sites that are better suited for amateur photographers?

  2. Garry says:

    Thanks for that some of my fav shots are sun rise / sunset: one of my best is a cowboy and horse silhouette shot in the red sky of morning: do you share your Flickr site?

  3. Mitchell says:

    Thank you for all the tips that you share with us. It really does help me take better pictures. I have the Canon T2I and the T3I. You have talt me how to take really good pictures.

    Thanks again.

  4. claudio hess says:

    I feel relieved, I can continue spending time & $$$ with sunset/rises roses, blues, greens, yellows...
    But I am a bit concerned about burning the sensors, because if I take toooo long to take the pictures, the lenses can make a torch on them, the sensors, right??
    ( yesss, I used to kill ants with a lens focusing the sun!!...)

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About David Peterson
David Peterson is the creator of Digital Photo Secrets, and the Photography Dash and loves teaching photography to fellow photographers all around the world. You can follow him on Twitter at @dphotosecrets or on Google+.