I have a quote in my profile at deviantArt: “If you stop shooting beauty because it’s cliché, you will have nothing left to shoot but ugliness.” That is my response to the idea that pictures of sunsets and flowers are overdone. I had bought in to that idea for a while, and it made me question my efforts at those subjects. I almost felt guilty for posting pictures of “cliché” subjects.
The point of that statement is not to disagree with the idea that those things are overdone. There are people who believe that just because the subject is a sunset or a flower, that it is automatically a good picture. Not true. Anybody can point and click. Not everyone can compose a striking image. If that were true, the images I have on my wall here next to me – a butterfly and a frog, both by a very talented nature photographer – wouldn’t really be worth what I paid for them.
But this is much like the discussion over whether the presence of cheap digital cameras diminishes the value of the works of the dedicated photographers. Just because there are a lot of pictures of sunsets and flowers, doesn’t mean that there are a lot of good pictures of those things.
I do agree that one measure of a good photographer is the ability to take good photos of everyday things, but I don’t necessary hold that as a requirement when making the judgment. After all, there are plenty of people doing great shots of volcanoes and deep sea creatures that deserve credit.
I think the real answer is that there are two requirements for a “great” photographer. The first is technical proficiency. The second is the artistic element, the photographer’s eye. The second element is the tricky piece when trying to make statements about which subjects do or do not mark the work of a great photographer. One photographer may be technically proficient at shooting still-lifes, but outstanding at capturing candid street scenes. Another may do acceptable studio portraits, but excel at capturing the height of action at sporting events. In the end, you can only judge a photographer on their body of work, without prejudice for the subjects within.