Interviews

Lauren Bath

Reported by the media as Australia’s first “professional instagrammer” Lauren Bath quit her job as a chef in early 2013, and launched full force into a career in the tourism industry and now has following of well over half a million fans across several social media platforms.   Lauren’s approach to photography is to tell the story of a destination through a series of images; the people, animals, details and landscapes.  Lauren successfully taps into the all important “dreaming phase” of holiday planning for her fans and continually pushes the boundaries in the exciting field of social media marketing with her organic messaging.


Welcome to intrepid.photos Lauren! A chef turned full time photographer after only owning a camera for two years; had adventure travel photography always been on your mind and at what point did you decide to make the leap?

I’d actually only had my camera for a year and two months when I made the leap and realistically I didn’t realise there would be such a demand for my work at that early stage. I never intended to position myself as an adventure travel photographer. I knew that I wanted to capitalise on my engaged Instagram following and I thought that there was value in sharing destination images and stories to my audience. I didn’t know how much I would learn along the way and how much I would fall in love with tourism and how the bigger and better jobs would lead to my photography improving and evolving so much. I quit my job with the intention of taking opportunities that came my way and working on my personal photography and I had the money saved to do that for 6 months. However the universe had other plans for me with a huge demand for quality social media services in my country that led me to this path.

You describe your approach to photography as telling the story of a destination through a series of images.  Do you attribute your phenomenal success as an Instagram photographer, and the development of almost 500k Instagram followers in only a few years, to being able to connect on a personal level with people about these destinations?

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Yes! I absolutely believe that a big part of my success comes down to the fact that I am a real person sharing real stories. I’m very much the same in real life as I am online and I make a conscious effort to make time for people in my day-to-day life. I tell the travel stories that others might not like taking photos in the rain in my swimmers and getting food poisoning in Mexico. I’m genuinely passionate about what I do and I think that comes across.

Do you have a strong overriding philosophy on life and if so how does that influence your photography? 

Well I guess my strong philosophy on life is to have integrity. The more people I meet the more I am made aware that not everyone goes through life being a “good” person. People can lie and cheat and do anything to get ahead and I see that more in this industry than I thought possible.  I would never intentionally cheat a client or withhold information from someone asking me a question or undercut someone in business. I conduct my life treating others as I would like to be treated and giving people the benefit of the doubt. I still help people even if they might not deserve it. I can’t control what other people do but I can be the best person I can be and I definitely don’t have any problems sleeping at night.

 Where do you look to for photographic inspiration?  Are there other photographers you follow regularly and particularly admire?

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I can’t define it. I like to experience a destination as a tourist would so I never research where I’m going. I never know what I’ll like until I’m looking at it. I do appreciate beautiful light though and I make it a habit to be out shooting over sunrise and sunset every day that I’m on campaign.  I have so many photographers that I admire and respect, I don’t think I could pick just one. I like lot’s of different styles and genres! One photographer that always gets me thinking though is Ryan Muirhead, an American portrait photographer that shoots on film. I love portraiture and never get a chance to practice it as much as I would like.

What would you like your viewers to take away from your work?

The longing to travel.

Are your compositions generally pre-meditated or developed on the fly?

Definitely on the fly! haha

Which photo is your most popular photo and why do you think people like it?

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I don’t really go by likes for popularity as Instagram can produce very different results depending on when you post. One shot that has performed very well and has been picked up a lot and is often brought up is my Wild Horses from Broome shot. A local printer just made me a 20 inch aluminium print of it which I love!

Which photo of yours means the most to you?

 Probably the Wild Horses as well. I knew the second that I pressed the shutter that I had nailed it. I don’t know if I’ll ever love a photo of mine as much as I love that one.

 What clichés in photography do you try and avoid?

To be honest it would be the VSCO washed out look with the adventure element; a hammock, a tent, a skateboarder, the back of someone’s head by a lake. I actually LOVE this style of photography and I know a few of the people that have pioneered it but it’s so over done now that I would feel silly jumping on board. In saying that if I’m actually camping and I see a great composition around those elements I would definitely take the shot, I just wouldn’t go out of my way to do just that.

Can you elaborate on your workflow?

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I wake early and shoot sunrise then head to a long breakfast where I smash coffee and start editing and get my first Instagram upload up. Afterwards I usually do one or two activities and some shooting before a break in the afternoon for more editing and more uploading. I shoot sunset every day and grab an early dinner to be in bed in time for sunrise. I always get my 8 hours sleep and almost every minute of the day is spent either shooting or editing or online on social media.  At home I have less of a routine but it’s not uncommon to spend 8 hours plus a day at my computer doing administrative work around my wider company. (Social Media Services)

 What equipment do you take on a shoot?

I shoot on two camera systems – Nikon and Olympus. I always carry my Nikon D810 and D750 for backup and 1-2 Olympus OM – D E – M1. I mainly carry zoom lenses with the Olympus but have a variety of focal lengths for the Nikon. (14-24 f2.8, 24-70 f2.8, 70-200 f2.8 + primes). I use Lee filters, Manfrotto tripods and F-stop bags. I always carry a GoPro or two for adventure stuff and an iPhone, iPad and Macbook.

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You describe yourself as Australia’s first professional ‘instagrammer’ ?    Can you elaborate on the services you provide via Instagram and the types of clients you work with?

That name actually came about when I was doing an interview for news.com that went on to become the story of the day! I was chatting with the journalist about how long I had been doing the Instagram work for and how early I monetised and she asked if I thought I was the first person to make a living purely from Instagram marketing in Australia. I said I’ve never heard of anyone else and she called the article “Australia’s first professional instagrammer shares her secrets for career success”.  The title kind of stuck since then.  I offer a variety of social media services including solo influencing (promoting a destination or travel brand to my online community with a set number of posts across multiple platforms), project management (bigger campaigns, more influencers), consultancy and education. I teach workshops and also do public speaking and this year I’ll be running my first conference!

You have developed quite a large following on Google+.  Is this part of a strategy to diversify away from Instagram and where do you think the future lies in social media photo sharing?

 

I actually got all of those Google+ followers by being on the suggested user list but I haven’t done the right thing to properly capitalise those numbers. My followers are high but my engagement is low and engagement is everything. In saying that I have great engagement on Facebook and Steller and I do a lot of PR for my clients and some travel writing too.  Yes, this was a part of my strategy to provide extra value and diversify for my clients. If Instagram died tomorrow I’m confident the skills I have now would see me through, albeit it in a different way. I think the future lies in diversification and using both new and traditional media to reach your audience.

 

Anything else you would like to pass on to the readers?

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One thing I do find is that a lot of people are envious of my lifestyle and think that they want it too. I always make a point to mention that my life is incredibly busy and challenging. I work exceptionally hard for my success and it’s not all just travel and adventures. People wanting to get into this industry need to take the time to grow their audience and then look at monetising, not the other way around.

Where can people go to look at your work and get in contact with you (please provide website and social media links)?

People can find me at laurenbath.com or on social media at InstagramFacebookGoogle+StellerTwitter, and Trover.

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All photos in this article remain the copyright of Lauren Bath and have been reproduced with permission.

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