7 Photos that Every Photographer Takes


There are a few photos that every photographer takes in their lifetime. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you came from, you’ve taken these photos or will take them one day in the future. They’re mostly tired shots we’re all probably best avoiding, yet none of us can. Even having read this, someday you’ll catch yourself mid click, snapping off one of these photos.

Yes, much like the proverbial photographic flame to our poor, moth-like eyeballs, these photos have an allure we can’t deny. No matter how self-aware or disciplined we are, we’ll forever be incapable of escaping the seven photos every photographer takes.

Asylum (1 of 1)

1. Urban Decay

The one silver lining of the recent economic downtown is it’s providing a lot of abandoned buildings for budding young photographers to sneak into.

I think most of us remember that thrilling sensation when we  first crawled through a window or scaled a minor wall to sneak into an abandoned building. It was an exciting moment. Not only were we going somewhere forbidden but we going to capture the true seedy underbelly of our city. This wasn’t some pretty studio portrait, we were exposing the grit and dirt of the real world.

Except we did it in the middle of the day because that place is super scary at night.


2. The Stranger

See that guy over there, standing on the street corner? The one with the haggard, cracked skin and down-on-his-luck look on his face? He would make for an excellent photo, wouldn’t he? But we mustn’t disturb him, talk to him, or even go relatively close to him. We’ll shoot the photo from waaaaay over here… across the street.

Don’t worry, this is why you bought a zoom lens, to avoid as much human contact as possible. And I’m sure the photo will look just as good with the top of that cab in the foreground.


3. The City Skyline

If you live anywhere near a downtown area and have a camera or smartphone you’ve likely taken a photo of the city skyline. It was probably while the sun was setting or rising behind those tall majestic buildings. It was a beautiful sight that had to be shared.

Except whenever you go to show it to somebody they immediately show you their photo of the exact same thing and you’re reminded of that time you got the nautical star tattoo in college to prove your individuality.


4. The Mountain Range

If you don’t live near a city or if you’ve ever ventured outside of your downtown metro area than you’ve probably taken nature’s equivalent of the “city skyline” photo. That is: the mountain range photo. Once again, you just found yourself so captivated by the sheer awesomeness of the staggering mountains Mother Earth shot into the sky that you just had to capture them.

This photo, much like a lot of others on this list, is often followed by a sobering moment somewhere down the line. It’s that moment when you show your photo to someone else and expect them to be as blown away as you were when you witnessed this gorgeous sight in person. Except, unless you’re Ansel Adams, you’ll often be met with an underwhelming “oh, that’s pretty cool” or some other filler comment.

This is because you’re not Ansel Adams, and all you’re really doing is bragging about your vacation.


5. The Beach Sunset

If you don’t live near a mountain range, there’s always the third photo in the “sunset trilogy,” the beach sunset/sunrise photo. This is probably the most common vacation photo there is. No matter how many times you visit a beach, and no matter how many times you take a photo of the sunset, you will ALWAYS take another.

It’s like the crack cocaine of photography. You’ll hate yourself while you’re doing it but you can’t help it, it’s just so damn beautiful. It can’t be helped. Trust me, I should know, I used to live in Miami.


6. Lovers in Love

This is another photo that almost can’t be helped. As soon as your friends fall in love they’ll call up their photographer friend for a quick “favor” and some free “look how in love we are don’t you just want to vomit” photos.

The first time or two you might say yes, but then you’ll fall in love and you’ll want somebody to take your photos. But all your friends suck at taking photos and they’re blurry or cropped in weird places or back-lit… aw hell, you’ll just do it yourself. Except now you look sweaty in your photos because you had to run to get in them in time, or you can see the remote in your hand, or worse your arm is extended out holding the camera in every photo.

To hell with it, just photograph your boy or girlfriend by themselves. They’re beautiful, you don’t need to be in the photo too. Look how lovely they are. Alone. Without you. Dammit.


7. Long Exposure

Also known as the “weeeee, look at the light trails” photo, this is a photo that’s often fired off from the top of a building looking down on a busy city street. You’ll probably take it near the beginning of your photographic journey, right as you’re really learning about the power behind your camera’s lens and the true impact light will have on your work.

This worn out photo stands out amongst the rest of those listed here because it’ll likely have a sentimental attachment for you — a memory of what it was like when you were first entering the world of photography and the possibilities were just starting to unfold. For that reason, this photo is beautiful. Just don’t show it to anybody… they know, they have their own.

Image Credits: South Beach Sunset by Ines Hegadus-Garcia, Street Food by David Hodgson, Singapore Skyline by Joan Campderrós-i-Canas, Afghanistan Matters by Ed Ledford, Fanabe Beach Sunset 3 by Tony Hisgett, Engagement Picture by Cody McComas, London Traffic Showing as Light Trails by Steve Slater.

  • every enthusiast ever.


  • Anonymoused

    When I visited 30 Rockefeller in NYC, I went to take pictures of the Crystal Water Fall. I finally got the idea to photograph it from directly under it, looking up — and after I started shooting, 3-4 other people with DSLRs and smartphones came to photograph from the same angle.

    People like to shoot what’s interesting. Even if what’s interesting has already been done, it’s the fact that YOU were able to put your own mark on it that’s satisfying.

  • YoYoYo

    If you lived in Miami, then you were taking beach sunrises. Just sayin.

  • YoYoYo

    I’ve never understood all the videos on YouTube of the Unboxing of a new camera or other piece of gear. It’s like “hey I got a new thing you don’t have….I’m gonna rub your nose in it.”.

  • szmilo

    Long exposure is a technique, more than a subject. Depends more on what the subject is.

  • Tim Fitzwater

    I shoot commercial photography – but you’re goddamn right I’m gonna shoot the beach or mountains on vacation. I’m a photographer – I’m not going to paint the scene.

  • csmiller

    Wow. Lots of cynicism here. I’ll be off now to photograph lovers at the beach ruin at sunset against the city skyline with mountains behind. The thing is these tropes have meaning to humans and every one of them is absolutely unique because they are of someone at a time and place that is new and unique. Just break a rule when you do it!
    Dude, you need a vacation.

  • Visual Journey Photo

    Lot of people reading something into this article that isn’t there. It’s not saying these photos are bad and ought to be avoided at all costs. It cautions you to not use these sorts of photographs as examples of your skill if you want to distinguish yourself. If you enjoy taking them, by all means do. Just don’t expect much more than a yawn from photographers and editors, however much your family and friends ooh and ahh over them.

  • wigm

    The article that makes me enjoy the comments more than the article itself.

  • Andrew Kurcan

    And this is why I have a hard time engaging with any photo blog. Ivory tower “I’m more enlightened than you” dribble.

  • snapshot1

    You didn’t get the joke – people who take those sort of street photos usually call their telephoto lens a zoom lens. I hear it all the time from all the wannabe street photographers in NYC.

  • snapshot1

    Wow so many people up in arms about all this is cracking me up. Must of hit a personal spot, or a lot of you take photos like these. The thing is Petapixel is supposed to be a place where pros go to read up on the latest and yes the photos above are hobbyist photos that would get you laughed out of any basic photo 101 class.

  • Bill Binns

    Perhaps the author would like to show us some of his brilliant work that doesn’t fall into any of these tired old cliches?

  • GW

    You could include the Moon, Pets, and selfies. :)

  • Sterling

    Well that was a depressing read. Time to take a break from PetaPixek I think. I’m all for challenging convention and growing as a photographer. But I really don’t need to read some snotty article that offers nothing but put downs to a hobby I enjoy.

  • Stephen

    You make a living shooting urban decay and random people on the street? How does that work?

  • Branden Frederick

    Because then how would you calibrate your camera with a test chart? That’s the real goal of photography, right? To calibrate lenses?

  • Kazuo Teramoto

    Exactly, thats why I don’t understand why people gives awards/buy/enjoy good landscape, photojournalism, fashion, street, etc. photographs, but competitions never have a “the best test chart” award. We need a top 10 test charts!

  • Kent Harkey

    don’t forget maternity pictures

  • Tim

    Unfortunately most us can’t get a job working for AP taking pictures of starving African children and rock-throwing Palestinians. I swear, no matter what you do there is always some elitist somewhere to tell you it’s wrong.

  • Cinekpol

    Some people keep on photographing this stuff years after they mastered their workshop… and earn some good money on that.

  • Cinekpol
  • M

    Guilty as charged :)
    And as much as those are overdone subject they are also good subject.
    And if the loving couple is a couple of friends, they will be more than happy to have their pic taken, so you’re doing it for them.
    Long exposure is a good learning experience.
    The stranger has a lot to do with learning to get out of your comfort zone, so it’s important too.

    And the first instinct of the photographer is to take a picture of pretty things, so let him do it without judging. Eventually he’ll grow tired of it himself.

    And I used too many “and”

  • Dover

    I am proud to say I have never taken a selfie (or 1,2,4 and 6 above).

  • Dover

    Or slot canyons.

  • Markus Jevring

    There’s a reason people take the same kinds of pictures. It’s because they’re awesome. Leave your elitism at the door and embrace people passion.

  • Guest!

    Editorial work for urban decay images. Structures facing demolition are at times profiled and organizations looking for photos of these buildings, exterior and interior, have requested licensing from me. As for random strangers, it’s really more street photography and some photos have been sold as fine art. Not many, but it still goes towards my income.

  • eka gaurangga

    i will stop, if taking photo like that is a CRIME.

  • Scott

    Umm did no one else read this article as sarcasm?

    Cause that’s how I interpreted it and it was cracking me up! And I’ve taken at least 4 of these photos.

    He nailed it with the crack cocaine comment on beach sunsets! :D

  • Genkakuzai

    And some people even shoot photos of people all the time! O_O Unoriginal bastards.

  • Genkakuzai

    Spot on.

  • Christopher

    I generally enjoy peta pixel but this is a garbage, space- filling article that could be filed under one of the 7 things that every [wannabe] journalist will write about (obvious-things that people do).

    Everything has been done before, should we stop living?

  • Ken Kaminesky

    Perhaps the most pointless article ever posted here. Can I have my 5 minutes back please?

  • TooHonestForYou

    PetaPixel has finally (finally!) jumped the shark and now tells every photographer that they shoot trite and common images. Of course, this just smacks of photography elitism. So long, PetaPixel. I am leaving and never to return. You have worn out your welcome.

  • Ridgetop

    Does Trek make good bikes?

  • Alex Minkin

    yes, but saying ‘things you’ll photograph while learning to photograph things that you may or may not master and then may or may not earn good money on workshops you may or may not do’ doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

  • Richard Sheppard

    I took a picture of something that doesn’t exist! Beat that!

  • vertigone

    And “Must of” would get you laughed out of any basic English 101 class.

  • Tommy

    Man, I’m pretty surprised at the amount of hate and vitriol being spewed here. I totally take plenty of these shots and I recognize that, but I can tell the writer does too! He’s just not happy about it! I hear a lot of humor in his opinion!

  • Zirconia Starfighter

    Everyone takes street photography! :)

  • Robbie Khan

    Shock horror as people with cameras take pictures of similar things.

  • Tim

    If photographers take a surfeit of these kinds of shots, then you should be asking about the audiences involved. I’m absolutely convinced that landscape photos are approachable (especially the 500px over-bright over-saturated kind, or the Ansel-esque punchy-toned b&w kind) – but get imaginative and ask someone to look at 5 photos of a bollard in the street and they’ll not “get” what you’re about. Now who’s right?