7 Outback Photo Clichés!

Last Updated on February 19, 2021 by Red Nomad OZ

What is it about the great Australian Outback’s magical aura that inspires – actually, compels – visitors to attempt to capture its essence? Is it the amazing colours and contrasts? Perhaps the unique light artists spend a lifetime trying to capture?? The spectacularly varied subject matter???

Whatever it is, it’s almost impossible to take a bad photo.

Outback Tree, Bowra Sanctuary, Queensland
Outback Tree, Bowra Sanctuary, Queensland, Australia

So photographers like me keep snapping – euphoric with the knowledge that TODAY at least, there’ll be some good, no – GREAT – shots!! But once home, the elation wears off. Because that’s when it becomes apparent photography’s unpardonable sin has been committed YET AGAIN.

Yes, those shots – although wonderful – are Outback clichés. Bummer.

So what’s a veteran cliché-shot snapper like me to do??

Well … if you’ve got lemons, make lemonade, right?

Right!  SO … I’ve sacrificed myself to bring you this handy guide using my very own pix as examples! Keep reading for the 7 worst Outback photographic clichés the world has ever seen and how I fell into the ‘done to death’ trap!!

You’re welcome.

Cliché #1: Tree/Sky

Thargomindah Windmill
Thargomindah Windmill

Oh yes! Yes!! YES!!! Isn’t this subject amazing? The spare, minimalist lines. The crisp contrast between the branches and the sky. The strong, clear colours. The metaphor for death as part of life. The intolerable cliché … But this tree (above) at Bowra Sanctuary has so much going on I just HAD to snap it!

Cliché #2: Windmill

Actually, ANY inanimate object will do.

But the windmill is particularly popular – more so than, say, a telegraph pole – because of its texture, silhouette and reflective properties!

What’s not to love about a good windmill shot?

Except that every man & his dog who’s been to the same place has a snap roughly identical.

But it’s a fabulous reminder of our very first visit to Thargomindah!!

Cliché #3: Spot the Fauna

Sunset with kangaroo, White Cliffs, New South Wales
Sunset with kangaroo, White Cliffs, New South Wales

At first glance, the kangaroo you MAY be able to see centre shot may come as a surprise – although not to me! That’s why I took this picture!! Even though I just knew the zoom in my old film camera wasn’t quite enough to make the subject big enough to spot without a magnifying glass …

But this White Cliffs moment makes a great outback scene, doesn’t it? HHHMMMmmm… maybe I shouldn’t have told you about the kangaroo …

Cliché #4: Footprints/Sand Dune

Footprints - Perrys Sandhill, Wentworth, New South Wales
Footprints – Perrys Sandhill, Wentworth, New South Wales

Hasn’t almost everyone you know got a great ‘footprints in the sand’ shot like this? Much as I love sand dunes, especially at Perrys Sandhill, near Wentworth, NSW I can’t look at sandy footprint photos without hearing an imaginary sepulchural voiceover in the background … ‘like sands though the hourglass …’

Cliché #5: Ruined Building

Kanyaka Homestead, Flinders Ranges, South Australia
Kanyaka Homestead, Flinders Ranges, South Australia

I defy ANYONE with a camera at hand to pass by a scene like this WITHOUT taking a shot. And to stop at just one … I think taking photos is actually mandatory in situations with gaping roofs, crumbling rock, rotting wood and dry grasses like Kanyaka Homestead. Isn’t it??

Cliché #6: Railway Track/Middle Distance

Railway Track, Menindee Lakes, NSW
Railway Track, Menindee Lakes, NSW

So long, so straight, so photogenic, such a cliché. Especially with that perfect light scattering of cloud against the glorious blue sky!!

What am I talking about? It’s a GREAT shot!! Just a pity I’m not the only one to have captured it … although no one else was around at Menindee Lakes that day!

And don’t think changing the subject matter from railway track to fence or road will save it from terminal cliché-dom either!!

Rocks - Devil's Marbles, Northern Territory
Rocks – Devil’s Marbles, Northern Territory

Cliché #7: Rocks

Seen one, seen ’em all, right? RIGHT??? Well … maybe! Rocks, outback light, clear blue sky. It’s a killer combination – and irresistible to amateurs like me.

Maybe one day I’ll work out how to take shots that look different to the ones everyone else has. But until then, I’ll console myself with my favourite Devil’s Marbles shot (below)!!

Maybe the cliché-shot police will arrest me and throw away the key, but I don’t care!

Anyway, how is a photo a cliché when it’s the first time you’ve visited and photographed?

And even if THAT’S a crime, I still don’t care!  These pix are MY clichés and I’ve enjoyed every minute of being at the places they were taken!!

So how do you avoid ‘doing it to death’ photographically?  Short answer – don’t!  Take shots of places you love and enjoy, and share them!  I won’t know if YOUR shots are cliches – and the next time you go there, you’ll look for a different way to take the photo!  Am I right??

Come back for more if you dare!!!

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  1. @Rida – Yeah, the windmill’s one of my faves – the sky is amazing!! Thanx for dropping by!!
    @Barb – Welcome, and thanx!! I don’t care that they’re cliches – I don’t pretend to be a photographer anyway!!! Come back anytime!!

  2. Cliche or not – these pics are amazing! I say flaunt it if you got it – and girl, you got it! Stopping over from Storyteller Hop! Nice to meet you!

  3. @Praveen – Haha, you’re RIGHT!!! And I’d be the first person to take one!!
    @Mary – Thank you so much!! And you’re right too – but I hope my love for what I do comes through via the photos! Have a wonderful weekend (well, it IS Fri pm here in OZ!!)

  4. I loved your photos. What’s more important is that you loved them. Keep them coming. I’m a willing audience. I hope you have a great day. Blessings…Mary

  5. @Arija – Big Red is on my ‘must see’ list too!! And LOVE what you’ve said – it’s kind of a compliment to the place if you can’t hold back on the photography, isn’t it?!?!

  6. @LindyLouMac – welcome, and thanx!! Look forward to catching up again!!
    @diane b – yes, that’s summed up the general consensus!! And YOU need to take some credit – you inspired me to change my template to better display the pix and make them easier to see! Thank you so much!!

  7. They may all be cliches but when you are in say, Forrest in the Nullarbor, how can you resist the railway tracks merging in the middle distance, ot pass by Kanyaka ruins and not turn in when you remember the tragic story? I prefer snapping pristine dunes and am still planning to get to “Big Red’ outside of Birdsville to have my own sunrise and/or sunset shots of it. When you love a place, you just can’t help shooting your head off.

  8. @Veronica – Welcome, and it’s my pleasure to have you drop by!! But my other readers will probably tell you not to go taking photography lessons from me!! Lets learn together!!
    @SaucyKodz – Haha, yes, it’s a little embarrassing that Andrew said it so much better than I did!! And I’d come over – but your winter’s WAAAAAAY too cold for me! Maybe next summer??
    @Barb – HHMMmm.. Same thing it says about me, actually! I started this post picking out some fave Outback shots – then realised they were all cliches!! LOVE your description of my rocks!!!
    @NJAMB – Why thank you!!! Maybe I’ll whip up an Outback Cliche Xmas gift calendar! Whaddaya reckon?? (translation – what do you think – just in case you don’t understand OZ …)

  9. @Joan Elizabeth – Haha, everyone’s owning up now … loud & proud, I say! And now I don’t feel so bad about my own terminal cliche-dom!!
    @Rae Walter – well, if you HAVE, they’re not showing up on your lovely blog!!!
    @River – Flattery will get you everywhere! I’ll email you the pic … and a couple of its mates so you can pick your fave!! AND … take on board your comment about making them unique through my stories – I like that! Actually … I LOVE it!! Thanx so much!!

  10. Everyone seems to agree that cliche snapshots are okay as they are your memories and how you saw it. It would be darn hard to visit the outback and not take cliche shots. Who cares anyway as long as you and others like them.

  11. I think that all of those shots were perfect! Excellent subject, perfect colors–awesome! When I was looking at the photos I was thinking that some of them would be perfect as paintings or watercolors.

  12. Oh, gosh – I like all the shots, so I’m not sure what that says about me. Those rocks are my favorite – like round scoops of ice cream “melting” to the side on a sunny day.

  13. I totally agree with Andrew – great paragraph Andrew.
    The Cell Door is open and I await your pop over from land of OZ to Bay of Fundy. Three square meals a day and working the olde Fundy Rock Trail. Oakie Doakie
    Cheers Red

  14. Hi there. Thanks for stopping by my blog and leading me here! Since I am total newby at blogging and at being behind a camera I loved this post of yours and am so going to do every single one of them and will probably be snap happy beyound your wildest imgination! Well see since I am not that great with a camera and particularly birds(darn things won’t be still) I need loads just in case some don’t work. I will follow your list! lol


  15. Cliche away Red, I love your photos, they are unique because of the little tales you tell with each one. I love the Kanyanka Homestead one and would like to use it as my desktop background if you have no objection?

  16. @Michael Rawluk – True! And (in my case) they’re not being passed off as great art!! Thanx for dropping by!!
    @Jayne – why, thank you!! That’s so nice, I’m speechless (for once!)!!
    @PDP – Hey, us seasoned roo-spotters have to stick together! Good to hear Perth’s got its act together, unlike some states, in actually encouraging people to use and appreciate public spaces!
    @Stewart M – Ha! I didn’t say my pix were dull – just cliched!! So what are you trying to tell me??!!! But you’re right – it’s all about motivation & use – in my case, showcasing great places to visit in OZ! Just wait for Cliches #2 – all your old favourites will be there…
    @Nathalie – Welcome, and thanx! I loved your pix – and you’re right! They’re not cliche to me because I haven’t seen them (or the postcards!!) before!!

  17. ha ha, I’ve done all of those cliches and more. Don’t care … they are my joy to collect. Loved looking through yours.

  18. Yes your photos are oh so cliché but then, they ARE everything we love about the outback 🙂

    I’m posting cliché photos of my region today too. You could find similar images on postcards anywhere in the village – but not everyone knows that 🙂

    Greetings to downunder from upabove !

  19. Hi there – interesting idea – tell everybody your pictures are dull and then wait and see what they say!! Well, I have to say that the whole thing did make me think a bit – and I suppose it comes down to why we take the picture in the first place – and if it fits that bill, who cares if its been done before!

    Your post also made me go look at my shots from my last “outback” trip and most of the clichés are there!

    Cheers – Stewart M – Australia

    PS: I think you missed out “Old car rusting by the side of the road”, and “road sign” with any of “camels crossing” ” last fuel/beer/water for 1000000 km” or “Humpty Doo” on it!

  20. Loved the Devil’s Marbles, the Windmill..gorgeous, spotted the kangaroo from miles away haha! not so much the tree, But I agree with comments above, if it looks good, click!!

    There are three places to eat up in Kings Park Red, Fraser’s which they’ve just tarted up for CHOGM next month, and two cafes if you just want something simple. Fabulous view in all of them.

  21. I don’t think you could ever take a shot that’s been done to death, Red, lol, your accompanying posts to each pic brings fresh aspects to the scene and makes each one individual in its own right 🙂

  22. @Windsmoke – Hey, thanx! I’ve got over cliche accusations – if I like it, it stays! And then I post it!!! So there’s many more to look forward to …
    @Mark – Haha! And the ultimate cliche?? Uluru at sunset!! But wait – that’s BEYOND cliche!!!Maybe I should start up the cliche-shot club!
    @SFlaGUY – HAhaha, you’re a funny guy. Hang on – you’re not joking?? Actually, a speck on your glasses could be mistaken for it as well …
    @ArtMuseDog & Carol – Welcome, and thanx! So many compliments on my cliche photos, I’ll just have to keep taking them!!!

  23. @Alicesg – Welcome, and thanx! That’s why I can get away with cliche shots!!!
    @Michelle – Haha!! See if you can out-cliche me by getting the exact same shots!!!
    @Aleah – Thank god I’m not alone!! But yes, there’s a reason everyone has these shots …
    @Wendy – Thanx, girlfriend!! And yes, my terminal cliche-dom means you’ll get plenty more! But it’s not a cliche if you haven’t seen it before, right?? RIGHT???!!!
    @Jen – Yep, sorry to say that since that photo was taken my ‘Outback Windmill’ photo collection has increased considerably in size …
    @Magsx2 – See above … and yes, I love me a good ruin – photos through the empty windows and doors are my specialty!!!

  24. @Andrew – You’ve perfectly explained what I meant! I’ve captured memories of my personal experiences – cliche or no!! That’s also why these photos are un-tampered-with – if I change them, they’re not what I saw and experienced! Happy googling – the railway line crosses the Darling over what was a shared road/rail bridge!
    @Nancy – Yeah! Lets reclaim the cliche shots!! Loud and proud!!! Thanx girlfriend, you made my day!
    @Manzanita – Hahaha! Thanx for not blowing my cover, pardner!! At least my loo shots aren’t so cliched!! And yes, that’s the attraction of the railway tracks – they draw you in until you start imagining where they could take you … Maybe you’ll want to sign up for my new course – Kangaroo Spotting 101!!
    @TGN – Yep, you got it! The speck in the grass near the horizon in the middle of the shot. Can’t blame a girl for trying, can you?!?! Maybe you’re another contender for Kangaroo Spotting 101? Although I believe there’s a dearth of kangaroos in Finland …

  25. Awesome ~ Just wonderful photos ~ “Down under’ is always fascinating ~thanks, Carol ~ OWT ~ (A Creative Harbor) New England

  26. Love the Sunset with Kangaroo. Has sort of a “Where’s Waldo” vibe. I think I spotted it the little critter. Or maybe I have a little spec on my screen.

  27. Hi,
    I actually like the windmill photo, the way the sun is shinning puts some lovely colours into the photo, and I’m a sucker for ruins. 🙂

  28. You may call these photos cliché but I don’t as I’ve never been to the Australian outback and I love seeing your photos!! Plus like you said in the last pharagraph these are your photos and of the places you have been! I think they’re great!

  29. Well they might be cliched, but they are pretty dang good still! Still looking for the kangaroo. Is it the little spec right in the middle?? My eyes aren’t trained to spot roos like yours are 😉

  30. I saw your mug-shot down at the local post office as wanted by the cliche-shot police. I didn’t let on that I knew you. When questioned, I said I only knew a gal named Red who does loo shots not cliches. Whew, that was a close one.
    I remember most of these shots but I can’t spot the kangaroo. I like looking down railroad tracks. I can hear a lonesome train whistle inviting me into some outback hobo camp. I bet you hear some good stories there.
    Well done, my dear.

  31. Not fussed on 4 and 6 but the others I like. What occurs to me nowdays, is that nearly everything you want to photograph has been snapped before and uploaded to the net. It is just a matter of finding it. But the photo you will find is not connected to you. It is not your experience. There are no associated memories. If I uploaded someone else’s photo to my diary to show something, I could not talk about it in such a personal way. Ha, you should have made this a challenge. Find the same photos on the net. Reviewing, photo six is a bit interesting, because I know where Menindee Lakes is and I feel a personal connection then I start to wonder what is that train line? I might even go off and google it.

  32. LOL – if taking stunning photos like these is a crime, please throw me into jail!

    Lovely shots. Anyone familiar with my blog know that I take incessant shots of sunsets with a view from our jetty…

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