Photography TikTok Is Horrible – Fstoppers

I had to make a TikTok account for this. I’ve been adamant about not doing so for the longest time. However, this is something worth talking about and sometimes even dangerous. In this article, we will take a deep dive into the world of horrible photography TikToks.

If you want to create unique work, you should stop looking at photography and immerse yourself in the world of art that is not made with a camera. TikTok is perhaps my personal least favorite platform. If I would have to explain my reasons for hating TikTok, I could easily make an article series. In short, TikTok is a platform that is more addictive than any other social media. The concept of a “TikTok hack” has developed a reputation for being stupid and useless. While there is decent content on TikTok, the percentage of it is small. In short, it is not worth anyone’s time. What is worse is that Instagram and YouTube have copied TikTok, meaning that it is easy for someone to have the TikTok experience without ever having to download the app. You may wonder how I saw these horrible photography TikToks. The answer is simple: by seeing them on Instagram and YouTube. I am not sure of the exact figures, but I would guess that a large proportion of Shorts and Reels are just TikTok videos.  

Scripted ‘Stranger Portraits’

Let’s put ourselves into the shoes of a pretty girl walking in Times Square. What would your reaction be to two or more people with cameras approaching you? One of them is asking to take photos of you, while someone else is already filming the process. Sure, there are plenty of people who would be happy to have their portrait taken, but I am not so sure if there are this many people who are happy to be filmed, photographed, and approached by a group of strangers.

These TikToks are deceiving, as it shows that you can get great shots with any stranger in any popular location. The truth is quite different. Having tried such genres of photography myself, I found it fairly uncommon for people to say yes, as most of us don’t go wandering around the streets these days. Everyone has places to be, meaning that it is rare they will say yes to a portrait on the street.

The other thing is that these pictures are the same always the same. It is usually something in the direction of neon lights, a lens ball, and crazy bokeh. I don’t know why, but some companies are adamant about promoting images that look like this. The final product is usually over-saturated, over-sharpened, and just amateur-looking. The reason I say it looks amateur is not because of technical imperfections in the image; it is because of the visuals of the photograph. Because it looks like a million other photos, it simply tells the viewer that the person creating this photo was more concerned with copying a picture rather than creating their own authentic work.

Garbage Photography, Literally

People take photos of literal trash, edit it like trash, and it looks trash.

TikTok photography can be described by some pretty horrible editing. There are some conventions that you can’t break with editing images. It seems almost funny to me how TikTok has a style of editing that is unique to the platform. Usually, images are over-saturated, too contrasty, skin looks far too fake, and eyes far too bright. Another big one is too much HDR. One way or another, the photo is just over-processed. Unfortunately, this is due to photographers simply trying to copy their favorite creators.

You might even buy presets from your favorite creator to take images as they do. This is, in fact, how a lot of them make extra money. Preset sales are very popular. However, there are a lot of really bad presets online. You need to be able to tell what is a good color grade and what is not. In order to develop taste, look past TikTok editing.  

Smoke Bombs

Smoke bomb photography is one of the worst trends that seems to never go away. It usually involves a “moody” setting with some pumpkins, a mask, and a hoodie. It also might include a girl wearing a baseball cap. Another common fashion statement to see is Adidas track pants. While there is nothing wrong with using the technique of smoke in your image-making, I can see a few reasons to not do the same picture over and over again, mainly because this will say to your audience that you are largely unable to produce authentic work. That is not to say that smoke looks bad. It doesn’t, and it is a popular thing for portrait and fashion photographers. It adds depth and dimension if used correctly. Products such as Atmosphere Aerosol are super fun to use and enhance a lot of otherwise boring images.

But what I am talking about is the picture where the focus is on the girl in Adidas track pants standing in front of an abandoned building surrounded by smoke. This is just an image of nothing, which is why I would suggest staying away from producing such work.

Genuinely Dangerous Stuff

The worst of them all is the stuff that is actually dangerous to do. These TikTok hacks can get you in the hospital if you’re not careful enough. If you want to attempt these “sick” tricks, wear safety goggles at least, please. I was stupid enough to attempt some of these myself. 

The “sick” idea of photographing people standing on train tracks, on edges of buildings, under grass cutters, or in any other place where you can get injured should be outright banned by the platform itself. These trends are as bad as the Tide Pod challenge, where people would bite into laundry pods or even cook them. This resulted in some people ending up in the hospital and even a few dying. The same can be said about people photographing on train tracks. There have been a number of deaths due to people having photoshoots on train tracks. Therefore, if you are putting your life at risk because of TikTok trends, you should probably rethink a few life decisions that brought you there. This probably is in the same league as over-the-top gender reveal parties, which have been known to poison water, cause wildfires, and explosions so powerful they cause an earthquake.  

Final Remarks

If I had to give one piece of advice to people who are watching photography TikToks, it would be: stop it. Deleting TikTok and trying to spend less time on social media will make you far more efficient and creative. In the meantime, what are some horrible TIkToks that you have seen? Let us know in the comments!