I’m getting ready to head to Bryce NP soon, and for many when you say Bryce you instantly think about those stunning spires and orange cliffs of the area. There are a number of terrific overlooks that let you photograph into the canyon. This is an iconic shot in an iconic national park. But recently I heard someone say ‘Why shoot these same iconic pictures everyone has done before?’
Good question, and I see the reason behind it. In a world overloaded with images on social media and other platforms, everyone wants to stand out. As photographers and artists, originality and fresh perspective are holy grails of image making. If I shoot the same scene everyone else is shooting, my photo must be boring and not great.
But I think of iconic images another way. First, think about it….why are they iconic? Because they are some of the most stunning, striking photographs out there, taken by millions of people. So strictly talking about subject matter, it must be incredible to make it iconic. But on a bigger creative level, I think there is value in taking the ‘same photo’ everyone else has taken. These iconic shots have inspired us and many others to travel to the area to take more photographs. Like others I want to create original work, but I will take the iconic photo just to have it in my files. It is part of my creative process…take the standard iconic shot, the one that inspired me to travel in the first place, and then explore new perspectives and locations. For me shooting the scene that inspired me in the first place is a worth while image. It is almost like a checklist…got the standard shot out of my system, now what else can I do?
And from a commercial level, I have licensed hundreds of stock images of iconic locations because that is often what designer and editors want…the recognizable shot that advertises a location. I shoot every iconic shot over and over though the years because scenes change (how about Tunnel View in Yosemite?).
Everyone’s creative process is slightly different. If you feel taking an iconic shot reduces your creativity and motivation, then don’t take it. Photograph what inspires you!
If there is one thing I have learned in my career it is never say never. Don’t worry about taking the iconic overlook shot at the popular national park. Take it, get it in the camera, and then look for different ways to photograph the scene. Take a look at the image above. I once heard someone say sunsets are just ‘so cliche’ and boring. Hmmm…maybe so, but I am not going to stop taking sunset photos. Have a great week of shooting!