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

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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:

photography fad; the big lollipopPhoto courtesy of Amanda Andrews Photography

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

photography fad; girl on barnwood floor matPhoto courtesy of Kari Durbin Photography

And using these rugs for both fake flooring and backdrops:

photography fad; girl against fake stone wall matPhoto courtesy of Kari Durbin Photography

Baby in the teacup:

Photo courtesy of Amanda Andrews Photography

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

baby in a flower pot with flower hatPhoto courtesy of Photography by TracyT

Baby in an antique carriage prop:

Photo courtesy of Photography by TracyT

Baby with angel wings:

baby wearing angel wings propPhoto courtesy of Photography by TracyT

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

high school senior on railroad tracksPhoto courtesy of j’lynn mak

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

photography fad; naked baby in hatPhoto courtesy of Photography by TracyT

The big puffy skirts | Pettiskirts by Kaiya Eve:

photography fad; colorful fluffy pettiskirts

Photo courtesy of MCP Actions

Pier One colorful woven blanket:

colorful woven pier one blanketPhoto courtesy of MCP Actions

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

how to take cake smash 1st birthday picturesPhoto courtesy of Marissa Vargason Photography

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

photography fad; umbrellas used as propsPhoto courtesy of MCP Actions

Victorian chair placed outdoors in a field with greenery:

victorian chair in a fieldPhoto courtesy of Amanda Andrews Photography

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

baby on a platterPhoto courtesy of Amanda Andrews Photography

Baby in a drawer:

photography fad; baby in a dresser drawerPhoto courtesy of Maggie Martin

Newborn baby hanging in mid air:

baby hanging in mid airPhoto courtesy of Pea Head Prints

Child in focus and parents out of focus:

focusing on one subject in a groupPhoto courtesy of Michelle Wells Photography

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

Photo courtesy of Pea Head Prints

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

photography fad; hands all over pregnant mom's bellyPhoto courtesy of Amber Katrina Photography

Capturing the feet of the entire family:

photo of family's feetPhoto courtesy of Amber Katrina Photography

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

Photo courtesy of Laureen Carruthers Photography

Photographing people in window sill and frames:

images of window framesPhoto courtesy of Amber Katrina Photography

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

photography fad; baby in a bowlPhoto courtesy of Photography by Shawnee

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

baby in a metal tubPhoto courtesy of Shimmers Photography

Wedding rings placed on a baby’s toe:

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):

Photo courtesy of Photography by TracyT


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