Should You Avoid Taking the Iconic Shots?

Should you avoid shooting popular photography locations? One landscape photographer tries to answer that question while searching for a unique composition at a classic photo spot.

We live in a photo-saturated age. I’m familiar with countless locations around the world that I’ve never physically laid eyes on due to the democratization of camera technology and the proliferation of social media. From the images I routinely see on my Instagram feed, I feel like I know the Faroe Islands like the back of my hand, and yet I don’t think I could pinpoint them on a map. 

An age-old question among landscape photographers is whether one should avoid the cliché locations that have been photographed by multitudes before. Landscape photographer Thomas Heaton faces this quandary on his recent trip to Patagonia, Argentina. He arrives at Los Glaciares National Park and, instead of spending his time photographing the iconic spots such as Perito Moreno Glacier, he searches for alternate compositions in an effort to capture natural beauty that can’t easily be identified with a specific location. 

While there is always a sense of pride in finding and capturing hidden gems off the beaten path or going to the same place as many others and coming away with unique images, I am firmly of the mindset that there’s nothing wrong with seeking out the classic locations and finding a way to bring out your unique artistic vision to life. Every photographer sees a scene differently according to his or her experiences, aesthetics, and sensibilities. I love the feeling of being somewhere I’ve seen a thousand times in pictures online. It has the sense of familiarity and the exhilaration of newness at the same time. There are always ways to make the postcard shot your own. Some examples of this include experimenting with varying angles or frames, trying your hand at long-exposure work, and capturing the same frame at varying intervals to blend together into a composite in post. 

What are your thoughts on taking or avoiding the iconic shot?

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