Travel photography's greatest cliches

Don't feel bad – we all do it. Sometimes it's hard to resist the lure of the photography cliché, of getting the same old photo that every other traveller has taken before you. It happens.

I'm willing to bet most people have got at least one of these lurking on their laptop...

Holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa

Number one, the king of the clichés! Like drinking an overpriced cappuccino and telling everyone you're disappointed with the pizza, it's a rite of passage for first-time visitors to Italy to have their photo taken pretending to prop up the Leaning Tower of Pisa. As a crazy alternative, some people even swap directions and pretend to push it over.

Pinching the top of the Taj Mahal

The sub-continental version of the Leaning Tower shot. Spend any time in the gardens in the front of the Taj and you'll notice a strange phenomenon: lots of people standing around with their arms held horizontally, fingers pinching the air, smiles on their faces. The photographers won't be far away.

The sparkling Eiffel Tower

Every evening from sunset until 2am, for five minutes on the hour, the Eiffel Tower sparkles as 20,000 light globes flash. It's a pretty stunning effect, and as a consequence, somewhere in the region of 100 per cent of visitors to the city pull out their cameras to capture the moment.

Any sunset, anywhere

Well, it sure beats getting up for dawn.


This probably hasn't gained enough popularity to be considered a cliché just yet, but I like it so much that I'm including it. What you'll need to make this happen: a camera; a statue of Christ; and three friends unafraid of a little blasphemy. Line the friends up to the right of Jeebus, have them do the 'M', the 'C' and the 'A', and you've got yourself a photo.

Depth perception at the Uyuni Salt Flats

These photos are pretty cool (the flat white of the salt plains makes depth very difficult to gauge, leading to all sort of visual trickery), and pretty much everyone who's been to Bolivia has their own version. There are people sitting in shoes, people being crushed by giant Snickers bars, people standing in the palms of hands... There can't be many original ideas left.

The jumping photo

Nothing says "I'm having a great time" like a jumping photo. Unfortunately, nothing says "I'm trying really hard to show everyone I'm having a great time" like the 12 attempts it takes to get it right.

"That spot" at Machu Picchu

You could spend days at these Incan ruins wandering around looking for an original place to take a photo. But the shot that will inevitably wind up plastered all over social media and, most likely, your wall at home, will be the one taken from one particular spot. You'll know that spot from the crowd of people standing up there.

Eating a huge burger in the US

I suppose you could opt for the Statue of Liberty, or possibly Mount Rushmore. But have you really been to the US if you haven't taken a photo of yourself eating an improbably large burger, and chucked it on Instagram? No.

Imitating a statue

The joy of this cliché is that it can be executed anywhere in the world (although most of the more amusingly posed statues seem to exist in Eastern Europe). This comes in handy when there's not much else of interest to photograph – just stand in front of a statue, strike a pose and let the good times roll.

Hot dogs or legs?

This one applies to girls only, who are apparently unable to lie on a patch of sand without whipping out the iPhone to take a photo of their thighs and prove that their thighs came to the beach with them. This has already had the piss taken out of it by the website Hot-dog Legs, which points out that thighs in this position look a lot like hot dogs.

Abbey Road

Can you imagine working near Abbey Road in London? Every single day you'd have to spend hours in traffic jams while tourists recreate "that" Beatles album cover on the pedestrian crossing. Beep-beep, beep-beep, yeah.

Wearing a keffiyeh at the pyramids

Nothing says intrepid Middle Eastern explorer like a keffiyeh, the Arabic headdress that's been refashioned into a scarf by hipster travellers. And what better place to model it than in front of a pyramid? Although if you're anything like me you bought the scarf in Sydney before the trip, making you about as respectfully Arabic as a pork sausage.

Any selfie, anywhere

The humble selfie has bypassed the cliché into a whole different realm of unoriginality, a point at which travellers will now reject other people's kind offers to take a photo of them in favour of capturing it awkwardly themselves, with an iPhone held out in front of their faces. Check your social media feeds: the selfie is rife. Because you haven't seen something famous until you've posed for a photo with your head blocking half of it.

Check out our photo gallery of travel cliches here.

What are your favourite travel photography clichés? Are you guilty of any of these? Post your comments below.