We’re all guilty of taking a touristy photograph here and there. But certain photographic cliches are tiring to look at and to take. How much time do you actually want to waste getting the perfect travel photos of you holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa? Your snaps start to feel more like stock photography, or like you’re taking the photo for the sake of having the photo, versus capturing your travels—especially when you post it on Instagram with a random quote or cryptic caption about the deep meaning of life.
These 11 travel photos are particular examples we’ve vowed to stop taking. But for goodness sake, if you do post one online from an unrecognizable location, tell people where you took it!
When Socality Barbie hit the scene and started poking fun at all the cliched photographs taken in the Pacific Northwest (of which there are many), it became extra clear that there’s an overabundance of train tracks in the fog. First off, we hope these aren’t tracks that are used, and if they are we hope the photographers had a vague idea of the train timetable. Second, a little more originality wouldn’t hurt if you’re going to take the classic tracks-into-the-horizon shot.
Getting Handsy with Landmarks
It’s time to leave the Leaning Tower, Lady Liberty, and the pyramids alone. The Internet is plagued with people pushing the Leaning Tower of Pisa over (or trying to push it back up) and poking and pinching everything from the Statue of Liberty to the moon. And while making the Jet d’Eau in Geneva spout out of your mouth is slightly more creative, it’s also a great way to throw out your back—and get in the way of everyone else trying to actually enjoy these attractions.
Some food is definitely photo-worthy (especially if you’re paying nearly $300 for dinner at Noma). However, there’s a difference between a quick snap to remember a beautiful presentation or an interesting combination of ingredients and going full-on photo shoot mode. If you’re taking out your DSLR and spending more than 30 seconds taking photos before eating your dinner, you’ve crossed the line. Please, for the love of bacon, eat your food before it gets cold.
If you’ve never taken a jumping photograph, you’ve most certainly seen a friend that has, and in all likelihood they expertly angled the camera up from low on the ground to magically increase the height of their jump. Typically, these shots are taken in front of well-known landmarks, like the Eiffel Tower or Taj Mahal. Jumping in photography goes back to Philippe Halsman, a photographer active in the 1940s through 70s. He coined the term “jumpology,” and believed subjects showed more of their true personality because they were focused on something other than the camera. But if you’re excited enough by a destination that it makes you want to literally jump for joy, channel that energy into actually taking in the location versus spending an hour trying to look like you’re flying.
Belongings from Above
It’s unclear when it became popular to artfully and precisely lay out all of your belongings before you go on a trip and snap a photo from above. Often-seen variations include photos of coffee (it’s OK to drink the latte art without photographic evidence) and bedside tables, often with strategically placed books and a single, potted succulent. It’s time to retire this minimalistic approach to showing off belongings like your expensive watch or a boarding pass to an exotic destination given that innumerable corporate brands and Instagrammers have exhausted the technique.
In the sand, on a summit, or in the subway, feet seem to creep into photos that would otherwise work without them, but adding them in is a way to say, “Look, I’m really here.” Get the rest of yourself in a shot—like a good old-fashioned family travel photo—by (gasp!) asking a stranger if they’d mind taking a photo of you. For the more hardcore photographers, a tripod and camera timer or remote works wonders.
The Lone Ice Cream Cone
Ice cream is delicious. But the solo ice cream cone, often photographed against an interesting wall or other backdrop to add depth and sense of place, is becoming an epidemic. The photos are often used to show off a good manicure (and rings of the newly engaged). Eat the ice cream before it melts and the sprinkles start to fall off (and you get sticky hands—a camera’s worst nightmare).
The lone chair. The peeling paint. The busted windows. In general, abandoned building photography tends to involve a lot of heavy editing or HDR processing—turning photographs into some other art form. Deserted spots are often eerie and can produce some interesting memories, but the market for this subject is saturated.
Everyone loves a good sunset or the California coast or the New York City skyline. Let’s allow these beautiful locations to shine without obstructing them with our fingers forming a heart (though, logistically, it’s impressive if you can take these shots without a third hand). Bonus points for refraining from making hearts with your travel partner.
Too often you’ll see a photograph and think, how did they just happen to have those chalkboards/picture frames/fancy umbrellas? This happens a lot in engagement photography, but can happen in travel photography when you spot a street vendor and think, “Wouldn’t those balloons he’s selling make my photos more interesting?” The answer is sure, if you’re going for the posed look. But for photography that genuinely captures your experience, leave the props aside. It’s not like anyone actually runs around the streets of Paris with a bundle of balloons blowing in the breeze.
It’s not worth it. Half the time you’ve got a big hunk of metal in your shot. The other half, you’re getting your giant stick in the way of other people enjoying the scenery. And when you’re only paying attention to getting everyone and everything in the shot, chances are you’re not paying attention to the people you’re almost hitting. Get a group shot the old fashioned way: ask someone to take the photo for you. You’ll be amazed at how friendly travellers and locals are, especially if your selfie obsession has prevented you from talking to strangers for years.
More from SmarterTravel:
- One Simple Tip for Taking Better Travel Photos
- What Not to Do When Taking a Selfie
- How to Take Great Travel Photos on Your Smartphone
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2016. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.