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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  1. February 25, 2010 at 12:39 pm —

    Flower shower caps on babies? (just wrong!????) may be just wrong in your eyes… but a BIG seller. I think Jodie hit the nail on the head when she said are you a photographer? or a business person? or both? I’m in it because I love taking pictures BUT I’m also doing this to make a living. I take pictures of what sells & what my particular clients love. 🙂

  2. February 25, 2010 at 12:30 pm —

    One fad that really gets on my nerves is putting babies in a vintage suitcase–those always look like coffins to me, and I can’t stand to look at them.

  3. February 25, 2010 at 12:11 pm —

    I’ve been asked my multiple clients to do some of those poses (rings on baby’s toe & family laying in a circle). I gulp, shoot it, give it to them but NEVER show it on my blog. I don’t want to be known for props & poses. I prefer to just keep it real (interactions, etc).

  4. February 25, 2010 at 12:03 pm —

    Great point – the junk… Photos in front of grungy old building with broken windows and peeling paint. I am guilty of that occasionally. But my husband always is like, why on earth would you take a kid’s picture in front of an abandoned building? LOL

    I love how some here love a certain fad while others cannot stand it – it shows how we are all different too – so many tastes and likes.

  5. February 25, 2010 at 11:52 am —

    I think the biggest concern that the seasoned photographers have with “fads” in maternity/engagement/senior/neonatal shots is that it may be “cute” now and creative, but will they still be appreciated 5, 10, 15 years down the road when they look back on those photos. Will the client look back at the photo as a classic capture of who they were at the time, or will they look back and laugh at the goofy pic they had done and roll their eyes?
    Amber Katrina has the right idea with the maternity shots she has. Fads like ‘baby in a teacup or cereal bowl’ come and go, but people still just want to see themselves and remember the joy. We all remember how Ann Geddes’ style changed things for baby photos, but her calendars go for $1.99 at Walmart now. Her style is almost kitschy.
    The main concern I think when you read between the lines of this post is will the work have longevity.

    • February 25, 2010 at 11:58 am —

      Chris – great point – about will the photo have longevity. On the flip side, I think of my floral overalls as a kid growing up in the 70s. And it dates it and adds a smile on my face. So clothing, a fad all its own, can date a photo, making it less timeless, but classic all the same.

  6. February 25, 2010 at 11:45 am —

    It was great to see these, they were all well done. Some I love, some not so much, lol! I am a fan of taking furniture outdoors,lollipops and railway tracks. I will never shoot a baby in one those flower shower caps,they are horrible and I’ve never understood the family foot shot. I can’t image any of my clients paying for a print of their feet. I agree with Audrey Coley that seeing these makes me want to work harder at being creative and innovative. Great post!

  7. Vera
    February 25, 2010 at 11:44 am —

    I’m not a professional, but I’m a mom learning how to take better shots. I am not a fan of the silly fads in photography. I’ve never paid a photographer for professional shots of my children or my family. I’m so afraid of spending a ton of money and ending up with silly photos that don’t truly represent my family. Now that I’m learning about photography, I can appreciate trying new things; props, fads, etc. I think they can be a fun addition to good photography. Keep the classic, tried and true photos and sprinkle in the fads for fun. Also, you’ll never learn what your own personal style is unless you try new things. You must always keep learning and growing.

  8. Erin
    February 25, 2010 at 11:38 am —

    I think you are missing the trend of photos in front of plain old junk. Old houses, junkyards, warehouses, clunker cars, back alleys etc. I got so used to seeing these until a friend of mine commented on a wedding announcement that we both recieved. I thought it was a beautiful picture of the couple, but she said “why would they want their picture in front of an ugly old train station?”. She thought it looked silly. I guess our clients aren’t always up on the latest “trend”. In 10 years will women wonder why they took their bridal portraits in a back alley next to a pile of junk? Just wondering…

  9. February 25, 2010 at 11:32 am —

    @Nick – I agree that many pregnancy photos are cheesy, but if you take the time to capture their personality and interactions even maternity photos can be unique.

    Like this lifestyle maternity session:

    • Anel
      May 9, 2012 at 5:25 pm —

      Amber, I visited you blog and LOVED that maternity session you shared. I am wanting to take my photography as a hobbyist to the next level and launch myself as a pro lifestyle photographer. I’m awkward with props but I love capturing those little candid moments and just wanted to say I appreciate you sharing your work. It’s really inspiring! 🙂

  10. February 25, 2010 at 11:30 am —

    Okay, fads/trends that I feel are still great: baby wearing knit hat with hands under chin – love that look!! Baby in air, baby on wooden serving dish (not the white one), making heart on moms belly, child in focus parents out of focus (but maybe a different location etc.), the family’s feet – i personally love that one, and i love the victorian chair in the field look… there were several that I definitely wouldn’t try or that seemed outdated to me, but I’d say for the most part – most client would love those images… I am a huge fan of the barnwood rugs, although I have yet to get one. I don’t feel like I’ve seen anything new, but I do feel inspired – to get a couple new props (some shown and others that popped into my head) and to get a truly WHITE backdrop!! I’m sick of my almost white one… Those are my thoughts!

  11. February 25, 2010 at 11:15 am —

    Babies in teacups are, well, creepy. And, sort of undignified. 🙂 I agree with Chris that probably the biggest fad of all is photographers with cameras obscuring their faces. And, Jodi, you make a really relevant point that one must consider … do you consider yourself an artist or a business person. Honestly, I don’t know that you can be both without compromising one side or the other.

  12. February 25, 2010 at 10:31 am —

    One thing I see so rarely is a non-cheesy pregnancy shot. I mean how many different ways are there to shoot a pregnant belly? Not many, it seems.

  13. February 25, 2010 at 10:23 am —

    Fad-(ish) or no, I think most of those photos are very well done … great lighting, great focus, and I’d be happy to call pretty much any of them my own. Its like the permed hair of the 90’s … yeah, we all look back now and cringe, but at the time, it was popular, and none of us were embarrassed to do it. I don’t think anyone should be *embarrassed* of any of these fads, just acknowledge that their time(s) has passed, for a few, and most likely some other fad will come along and take its place.

  14. February 25, 2010 at 10:08 am —

    Really loved this post because it is so true! This just really makes me want to be creative and try to push myself even more. Thank you!

  15. February 25, 2010 at 9:52 am —

    Most of those I love. Even if they are fads, most people I know that see them love them also. Some of them I think are a little cheesy like the hands/heart on the belly & the baby in the teacup, but they are cute so I’m sure they sell. I’ve got my first newborn shoots scheduled so I was excited to see what people came up with.

    My main question is where do you get the fake barn flooring? They tore down our old antique wooden barn on the place because it was falling in so I don’t have anything like that for a backdrop/setting any more & I miss it.

    • February 25, 2010 at 10:14 am —


      That is part of the thing – they do sell. And some of the ideas may seem cheesy – but yet a pregnant mom may go crazy for a shot of her belly with a heart formed by her husband’s hands. Or a new mom, loving the baby all wrapped up with a hat. So while photographers may get sick of certain pictures, they may still be big money makers. As photographers, we need to decide, are we an artist or a business person or both. And where do we draw the lines on what we will and will not do.

      I can tell you that some of these I would do over and over again. Others I never did and are just not my taste. But fact is many did them. And many loved them!


  16. February 25, 2010 at 9:34 am —

    This was fun! OK, the ones I’m still wanting to do are:
    railroad tracks – I personally think they’re cool and never go out of style.
    colorful chair in weeds – I like the contrast and I think the specific photo you’ve shown is beautiful.
    The ones I don’t care for (just my personal style) is the baby blocks and anything with the hands on pregnant belly….but I know those poses are still going strong!

  17. February 25, 2010 at 9:31 am —

    Speaking on the topic of fads, how many profile pics of photographers have you run across where it’s a portrait pic from the shoulders up and the photographer has the camera held up to their eye, covering their entire face?
    Lacks originality, and isn’t concerned about their audience. Unlike the photographer, the person wanting to know more about the photographer doesnt want to know what kind of camera they have, how big their lens is, or how they hold it. They MIGHT want to know what the person looks like that they may hire.
    Just a rant.

  18. February 25, 2010 at 9:29 am —

    I’m just starting out and am constantly looking for inspiration. However, many of these images really showcase the silliness of so many of these fads. Man, the baby with fake greenery on it’s head??? That’s just wrong.

    I also am not a fan of babies on platters. And chairs in a field. These things just seem so unnatural and contrived. I’ve had enough of big tutus/pettiskirts. It’s ok if the girl is a ballerina, but otherwise, I’d stay away.

    My faves from above are the teen on the railroad track (kind of symbolizes how they are going places and what not) and the graffiti background (it’s interesting without being annoying).

    Thanks for this post, it was funny for me to see a roundup.


  19. February 25, 2010 at 9:12 am —

    What a great look back at them all ;)! Is it bad that I have the exact “cocoon” hat bowl AND fuzzy rug combo LOL! And FTR, that has to be the BIGGEST colorful lollipop i have seen to date!

  20. February 25, 2010 at 9:09 am —

    What a great post! I got a few chuckles and hid my eyes on a couple fads. :o)

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