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.

  • Daz

    and? what’s wrong with any of it? some people like to take those photographs

  • yamaha83

    could probably add macro to that list

  • Alex Minkin

    could just call this list ‘things you’ll photograph while learning to photograph things’

  • 43423423423423

    slow day??

  • Gimmeabreak

    Since we are mocking and outlawing sunsets, skylines and landscapes, can we outlaw weddings too? and baby pics?

  • Gimmeabreak

    and food pics too..

  • Keith Daigle

    And this article would be on the list of 7 cliched and overdone articles that people who aren’t actually good at photography write about photography. This article is mean spirited and in general I’m tired of reading articles putting photographers down.

  • bob cooley

    Wow- must be a slow day. There’s actually nothing wrong with shooting any of these, especially if you are learning to shoot, or can execute any of these really really well. Or hell, are a hobbyist and just like to shoot these subjects.

    I tend to be a bit of an elitist, but even this article makes me say ‘wha?’

  • Gimmeabreak

    it’s the type of article the author writes to put himself above something he wasn’t very good at anyway. like a movie critic. or your uncle Fred.

  • bob cooley

    Hey! leave my uncle Fred out of this! ;)

  • stefan

    I really don’t understand this article?! 7 things photographers photograph, well done for the most obvious article in the world! That’s what a camera is for, taking photographs! What does this self entitled author suggest we do instead?

    My next article, “10 things every human does”
    1. breath
    2. fart
    3. sleep
    4. blink
    5. poo
    6. wee
    7. hiccup
    8. move
    9. grow
    10. die

  • Michael Comeau

    It’s how you do it.

  • BobDole

    as long as it stands out from the others, whats wrong with that?

  • CrackerJacker

    7 things that are always around, so people photograph them.

    Fixed it for you.

  • guest

    Add laugh, touching himself/herself and procreate

  • Chuck the Writer

    None of these are as cliched as a photo of a kitten with a ball of yarn, a photo of kids running through a sprinkler, or a photo of Grandma’s old wrinkled hands holding something.

  • Kazuo Teramoto

    Why not extend the list to 10 and call it ‘Avoid taking photos’.

  • GrahamC

    So no picture of land, sky, water, buildings, cars or people… not a lot left really. For a photog site you sure put a downer on my hobby???

  • Graham Marley

    7 Posts that Every (not every) Photography Blogger writes:
    1. I’m cooler than you.
    2. Is this new piece of technology going to make all other photographic gear hilariously obsolete?
    3. Complain about invasive photography.
    4. Defend invasive photography.
    5. Check out this 30 second tutorial from a professional who clearly knows how to do the given technique significantly better via a more complicated, sophisticated process.
    6. Complain about photographic cliche’s in an over-reaching, smarmy manner.
    7. Post filler content earnestly featuring photographic cliche’s that were previously made fun of in an over-reaching, smarmy manner.

  • Zack

    7 Types of Articles Written to Accumulate Pageviews: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Listicle

  • notsofunnycommenter

    That’s what she said! no one?

  • ugh

    Who cares?

  • Joe

    I never took any photos of urban decay, the stranger or lovers in love. But I have taken photos of motorcycles, camera gear, cars, trucks, boats, people , planes, clouds, moon. pets etc and I bet I am not the only one with a list like that.

  • Daz

    feels like this author is mad at something

  • Ronald

    not every human procreates. just sayin’

  • Ronald

    What about the deuce in the toilet bowl picture. That’s a popular one.

  • Stephen

    Number 6 is weirdly conspicuous as the one entry on this list that you’ll actually get paid to take. Its caption screams that the writer realized this but couldn’t think of a substitution and was already committed to having seven items, so he decided to fudge this one: “Well, what if you were being asked to shoot this photo for FREE, huh? What then?!”

    It’s called an engagement session. It’s good paying work. But maybe PAID photography isn’t something the author knows a lot about…?

  • ennuipoet

    Yeah, the tone of this “article” is frankly douche-tastic. Yes, everyone takes those shots, but those shots are also popular as hell with people who appreciate photography. So if Alan wants to go shoot avant garde Tin Type shots of half naked people eating modeling clay, (or whatever is popular amongst the faux elite Art School set) that’s cool, whatever makes you happy and hopefully makes you a buck or two.

  • markz




    please stop with the pompous pontification …

    it’s not a good look it’s the journalistic equivalent of throwing mud ay strangers and having the wind blow it back on your face

  • Jason Muspratt

    Too long. Could have just been:

    1. Photos of things.
    You’re doing it wrong. Stop taking photos of things because I am better at it.

  • Jonny

    Shhh, don’t tell anyone but I’m building a poop-a-gram app that’s going to change everything!

  • SeaSanKoa

    I have a similar photo to #7, except it’s in B&W & 42 years old.

    The “chimping” came after developing the latent image, removing the film spool out of the Photo-Flo 200, then unwinding the film off the spool, holding the negative up to a light to see what you got.

    For me and I’m sure for others that devolved their own film, their first time exposure

    was much, much more than just “weeeee, look at the light trails”.

  • Alfred E. Neauman

    Because it’s the same pretty flower tripe over and over. It’s called porn now fittingly; mountain range porn, urban decay porn etc. Funny how this gets so many negative comments. It is better than the brick wall, railroad tracks, pictures of toes, and “light painting.”

  • Gavin Lister

    Check out the “Afghanistan Matters by Ed Ledford” flicker site in the credits here. Pretty interesting shots there.

  • Soranai T.

    Not really , I naver took a picture of lover.

  • Daz

    what exactly should we photograph then? please let us know what’s acceptable now? i am sure Ansel Adams if he was still alive would still be shooting landscapes why? because that’s what he likes to photograph there is nothing wrong with it, you may like to do portraits and many many people do that as well so who really cares?.

  • Daz

    We need a 7 photos we can take list

  • fed up Fred

    I’m really getting tired of the nonsense, petapixel. I think it’s time for us to part ways. Best of luck to you.

  • superduckz

    Check on most of these but if i EVER DO A LOVERS IN LOVE I WILL KILL MYSELF!!! Arrrggghhh……..

  • Hi

    8. Various shots with minumum depth of field with that brand new 50mm/1.8.

  • Snapper

    I appreciate that PetaPixel has a tough job trying to get interesting content to publish every day. Sometimes, something that’s a bit rubbish get’s published mainly because, well, there was nothing better available on the day. This silly article is a case in point.

  • Zzz

    I’m sure the author always thinks outside of the box and takes the most original photos.

  • Alecio J Evangelista

    Well, I think everything is photography these days are “tired” shots. Once in a while we see a little something different here and there, but nothing that haven’t been photographed before in one way or another. I see nothing wrong with the face you want to photograph a subject over and over again…. Maybe if I was living as a paid photographer I was going to be thinking differently, but I am not, I have to deal with my reality, I love photography, and I see bad shots on those subjects above as I also see really good shots. I have to rephrase I LOVE PHOTOGRAPHY and I refuse to label or follow what I am going to photograph based on what is hot at that moment or what is already overdone… if we think about it the whole humanity is already overdone in almost every aspect of our existence.

  • Alecio J Evangelista

    Hey, we have that already and it is called Instagram!

  • James Hedley

    Could also be titled “When done well, the type of shot that usually wins a photography competition”

  • darylcheshire

    For a while every digital camera ad would have a small child with food all over his/her face.

  • Sue Dinnum

    “Don’t worry, this is why you bought a zoom lens, to avoid as much human contact as possible.”

    No, but it may be why a person bought a telephoto lens as I am sure their 16-35 zoom wouldn’t help much.

    Always concerns me when writers think that a zoom lens is the same thing as a telephoto.

  • Guest!

    Oh, how awkward. I make my living shooting 5 / 7 of these tired subjects (the first 5). I appreciate you for pointing this out. I’ll send you my client list shortly and you can inform them their hard earned dollars would be best spent elsewhere. I also appreciate you saving the photo industry and now magazines will have more space for adverts and less space for my rubbish work. No more of my boring prints to hang in offices and homes! Hallelujah! Now I just need to find something new to do with my time, hmmmm.

    I’ll let you decide if this comment is tongue-in-cheek or not … Good luck with that.

  • Eckhardt Kriel

    Have no idea what the point of the article is…. Obviously the author is bored or can’t think of something intelligent or both. Its this type of crap that will make me avoid Petapixel.

  • boredemkills

    Missing popular photos(among many):
    1. Cat
    2. Flower macro
    3. Unboxing photo sequence