IF YOU’RE JUST starting out, or even if you’re established but haven’t yet looked into the full range of possibilities, social media is one of the key fundamentals for getting your name out there. Instagram has been a key building block for my rural lifestyle photography business from day one, from providing inspiration when I needed it the most, allowing me to connect with potential future clients and building my client base. Since starting up my business in 2018 when I was just 19 years old, over 80% of my commissions have come through social media, with 60% of these through Instagram alone.
There’s a vast number of social media platforms to choose from, but Instagram is the one that’s working best for me. That’s because it’s a visual platform, making it the perfect place for photographers to build portfolios and to interact in the way we know best, namely through our imagery. I’m sure you have a hard drive living in your desk drawer full of pictures no-one but the client might ever have seen. These would be ideal to build a social presence around, but be sure you have permission to use them.
The figures for Instagram are seriously impressive. Some 90% of people on there follow a business, 50% of them have visited a website to make a purchase after seeing a product/service and 81% use the program to research what they’re looking to buy. You’ve got to try to tap into that!
Starting Up on Insta
Despite common perception, you don’t need thousands of followers to be successful. Through connecting and collaborating I’ve now built a close community of just over 1000 followers. That’s a number that might sound small but it’s worked brilliantly for me and has helped to keep my diary full. If you can manage a small amount of regular time each day it’s possible to build consistency and connect with your audience.
You do this by understanding more about the Instagram algorithm and what it likes. This is essentially a set of ‘rules’ that controls your content’s organic reach, namely the numbers of people who will see your photographs/videos without you paying for promotions.
The decision on which users will see your content is decided by the program looking at their past behaviour. So, if someone is spending lots of time looking at photographs of the Lake District, Instagram will ensure they’re showing them more of the same content so they will spend more time on the platform.
To be successful you need to be posting consistently when your chosen audience is likely to be online, and you need to be trying out new features, using hashtags and connecting with your audience.
What to Post
To keep yourself on track it’s important to spend some time understanding your target market. What are they looking for when on social media? What are their interests and what do they enjoy interacting with? You also need to take a long, hard look at every feature reels, IGTV and Guides.
Over time, through analysing statistics and insights provided by Instagram I’ve discovered that my most popular content features dairy farms and farriers at work. At first that surprised me, as I post lots of photographs of adorable puppies and young poultry and assumed that these would attract the most
attention. However, it’s clear that my target market is drawn to the photographs that tell someone’s story and shows what they do, and this initiates conversations on the post, building momentum and the size of the community that’s reached.
Discovering what works best for you will take time and patience, but here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Showcase the products that you’re offering, eg. albums and frames.
- Feature client testimonials.
- Offer tips and tricks to help your future clients plan for their photo shoot.
- Create a beautiful graphic that features your favourite quote.
- Promote your latest blog post.
- Include behind-the-scenes of your workspace to generate interest.
However, the most important photograph or piece of content you can share on Instagram, or any form of social media for that matter, is yourself. People buy from people. As photographers we’re service providers, and our clients are not only investing in our imagery but the experience as well. They need to know, like and trust us before investing, so make that as easy as possible for them. Jump on stories in the morning to share about your upcoming photoshoot. Post a photograph of yourself in your studio or out on location and talk about why you do what you do. Don’t be afraid to stand out and to become the face of your brand.
As you begin to use Instagram, post when it’s convenient for you. Just remember to be consistent: for example, if you’re usually putting things up every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6pm, then always post at these times. The key is consistency, and your audience will learn when to expect new content.
Be Time Efficient
As mentioned already, you don’t want Instagram taking up all of your time. So, I have suggestions that will make the whole process more efficient, and this helps me to create all of my content for an entire month in just two hours, meaning that any other time I spend on Instagram can be reserved for interacting with my followers and building the community.
Create a Bank of Images
After every photoshoot, if my client has agreed to have their photos on social media I’ll save the strongest images in a folder created on my desktop. This means
I no longer have to spend time searching for shots I can use each month.
Develop a Hashtag Directory
It’s important that you include hashtags with your content, as these are essentially keywords that help your ideal clients discover you. You’re allowed up to 30 hashtags on any given post, and it’s important to use as many as possible as long as they’re relevant. To save time spend an afternoon creating a directory of them. For me this involved looking through my images and noting recurring themes, such as British Farming, Dairy Cows, etc. I then searched for hashtags that supported this topic and put them in a spreadsheet. Then, when I create a post, I can copy and paste relevant hashtags and just add a few specific ones.
Lucy Newson Lucy Newson LBIPP is an award-winning rural lifestyle photographer based in Essex, with private commissions across the UK. Capturing the everyday magic for those living in the countryside, she creates treasured ‘family heirlooms in-waiting’ for her clients through the selection of albums and artwork for their walls that she offers.
Use Scheduling Websites/Apps
These are purpose-built websites/apps that allow you to plan your social media in advance. With other benefits such as automatic posting, it’s a perfect system if you’re on the go all day but want to post at a specific time. There are many different scheduling tools out there, my personal favourite being later.com. I use the free plan and it allows me to prepare a full month’s worth of content up front, which is ideal for my marketing plan. However, there are many other scheduling tools you can also consider and I would advise you try all of them to see which works best for your business.
Good luck with your social media journey and be sure to make the most of the amazing marketing reach that it will make available to you!
FIRST BEGAN TO take travel photography seriously back in 2013, when I spent a year backpacking solo around Asia. I went full-time freelance three years later, and was attracted to the genre because I so loved visiting new and exciting places. I was originally interested in travel writing and only started taking photographs to illustrate the blog posts I was writing, but very quickly realised I had more interest in the visual side of storytelling.
A typical day in my life will vary enormously. If I’m travelling then I’ll almost always be up before sunrise, and will have a spot in mind to visit to make the best use of that beautiful morning light.
During the day I’ll usually have appointments and different places that I need to photograph planned in. For a magazine shoot this could be venues such as restaurants, museums and hotels or, for commercial work, I could be going on a tour or working on a shot list that’s been supplied to me by the client.
I’ll always shoot the most important pictures at sunrise and sunset, as the light is best at that time of day. After sunset, I might have night shots to get, particularly if I’m working in a city, and then I’ll head back to my accommodation to download my cards for the day, backup the images, charge my equipment and set my alarm for the next sunrise!
When I’m not on assignment my work is much more computer based. After a shoot I’ll have a mountain of editing to do, which can take up a lot of time. I may also have captioning, writing or entering metadata to complete. When I don’t have editing, I spend my time replying to emails, sending out my work to potential new clients, writing articles perhaps and working on my online presence – such things as social media and my portfolio.
On the Road
On average I have one travel assignment per month, which will vary from three days to potentially two weeks, and then I’ll need to build in time for my editing. This will vary throughout the year though: sometimes I have very quiet periods – such as over Christmas – and during summer I have had four back-toback assignments in a single month.
I also undertake personal trips where I work on making images in places and on stories that I feel particularly passionate about. This usually takes up between two to four months of the year and can involve a long trip to Asia over the winter. I will sometimes sell stories from these trips, but they are more about improving my portfolio, challenging myself creatively, telling stories I care about and, of course, taking things a bit slower and enjoying the life of a traveller.
There’s definitely a lot of admin involved in my job, which is the less exciting side. I spend a lot of time sitting in front of a computer screen, editing, writing emails, pitching work, doing my accounts, planning shoots and writing. I would say that I normally spend about a quarter of my time shooting for clients, while the rest is taken up on the computer-based side of an assignment.
Work for clients is usually organised by them and they will almost always be the ones financing the trip, or it could be sponsored by a tourism body. Some companies will pay a higher fee and will ask me to organise and pay for my own travel, which is actually quite a nice way of working as it gives me a lot of flexibility. Personal trips which I take are always self-financed, and I tend to travel cheaply to make my budget go further.
For commissioned work I’ll usually sit down in advance with the client and discuss in detail the type of images they’re looking for, and I’ll put together a shot list based around this. Commercial work in particular is very structured, and the client will usually have exact images in mind which they want for certain campaigns. Editorial shoots will usually be more flexible, and I’ll work alongside a
writer to put a story together.
Most of my work is either used in magazines or in commercial/advertising material. Unfortunately, stock has declined dramatically and I no longer see it as a viable way to make an income as a travel photographer. I prefer to sell directly to magazines or commercial companies, and keeping up a strong online presence is the best way to make sure my work is being seen constantly by those who might want to buy my images or hire me for an assignment.
If I’m asked what my favourite place might be to photograph, I have to say India. The people there are so friendly and curious and I love spending time in the Buddist areas in the Himalayas.
I usually spend a few months of each year there, and I enjoy the variety of cultures and landscapes that you get throughout the country. I’m fascinated by the religious diversity you can find and there’s a good mix of crazy, chaotic and colourful places, alongside more chilled spots. Other countries I’ve loved photographing in are Morocco, Nepal, Myanmar, Vietnam and Italy. I really like places where there’s a lot of life and atmosphere on the street.
As a travel photographer it’s crucial to keep the kit I use light and manageable, and my camera is a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, and I mostly work with a Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 II lens, which I find is a really versatile travel lens. I usually also take with me a Canon 50mm f/1.2 and 70-200mm, and sometimes a wide-angle if shooting hotels or interiors is involved.
On some trips I’ll also take a Gitzo tripod and, of course, lots of spare batteries and memory cards. I also travel with a laptop and two to three external hard drives so that I can back up my images as I’m travelling around.
More information: annapurnamellorphotography.com
MPB Used Kit List
Travel photography calls for versatile, robust and lightweight gear and MPB’s used kit expert Marc Read has three outfits to suggest that can all do an amazing job.
Sony Cyber-shot RX100 VII (Excellent, £804)
Mixing speed, reach and portability, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 VII is a
pocket-sized camera that packs a wealth
of stills and video versatility. This seventhgeneration camera in the esteemed RX100 series is the second to feature the impressive 24-200mm-equivalent ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T* lens, which covers all your travel needs, from wide-angle through to lengthy telephoto. This delivers greater shooting flexibility in a variety of conditions.
The Fujifilm X-Pro 2 mirrorless model is a lightweight camera that boasts a Hybrid Viewfinder capable of instantly switching between optical and electronic finders, plus an updated image sensor and processor, which dramatically improves image quality. Meanwhile the Fujifilm XF 35mm f/1.4 R delivers outstanding performance, and is the ideal prime lens for those looking for exciting results.
The Nikon D810 DSLR offers outstanding picture quality and is a remarkably wellbuilt camera. The impressive full-frame sensor at its heart allows you to capture every scene in complete clarity, and to print to a large scale if required. In tandem, the Nikon AF-S 35mm f/1.4G lens provides excellence in every department. Its lightweight nature further means that it’s easy to transport around, making it ideal for taking on travel adventures.
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