And they instantly clicked! From its origin as being a cherished way to remember a trip, a destination or a once-in-a-lifetime experience, photography crosses over a range of interests. Travellers use it to document and chronicle travel anecdotes in real-time, to express an artistic impression, to tell factual and emotional stories, to celebrate achievements, and to cement in some tangible form for posterity the present as it becomes the past.
The dream job
Not going to lie: hands-down my absolute ideal way to earn a living would be to travel, take pics and write as I go. Learning, experiencing and documenting with beautiful pictures accompanied by beautiful words. As I research the subject of photography in tourism, it occurs to me that it’s not a terribly unique little dream, with some variation. Just as anyone can take a trip, anyone can now be a travel photographer – accessibility to modern technology makes that possible.
What used to be the preserve of the fortunate few with their impressive long lenses and travel magazine contracts, has merged with the mainstream with an almost dismissive bang!
For sure, not many of us have the skill to threaten the livelihoods of professional travel photographers, but if we can afford a good camera or half decent mobile device with a quality built-in camera, we can all have a shot at that dream, but with far less work and more fun.
The good, the bad and the ugly
Photographs are reality captured as an art form (best case scenario). They can convey experiences as well as the emotions evoked along the way: joy, delight, pensiveness, awe, apprehension, indifference and curiosity. It’s what the Impressionist artists probably tried to do with their paints and brushes as they blended their scenarios together on canvas. For me the worst case scenario is the memory of having to sit through someone else’s post-holiday picture slideshow where all the shots were selfies in different poses and outfits taken from different angles..😴 I like looking at other people’s travel pics but if I can’t learn anything about the location or vicariously share the experience they had, then it’s just a boring exercise.
Photography in travel is about capturing memories and celebrating experiences; it’s the modern photo journal that tells a story about how something about you, your perspective, changed during and after learning something new on your travels. That’s golden. And that taps right into the transformative experiences modern travellers are after.
Object of the camera’s desire
The selfie phenomenon isn’t over but plenty of us are over it! According to ePHOTOzine, the trends for 2018 include wildlife, patterns and inspirational travel, from the authentic look preferred by UK audiences to the staged look favoured by the US, and escapist imagery from nature. Scenic pics trump the selfie, with 39% of a Stackla study’s respondents desiring landscape pics, 35% photos featuring people, 9% featuring wildlife, and 4% food pics. Another study by FSTOPLounge found that unedited photography will become increasingly prominent in 2018 as being more authentic and plausible.
Searches for ‘real people’ jumped by 58%, while LGBT skyrocketed 782%, candid street photography 162% & authentic up 134%
It turns out we’re more interested in keeping it real than we are in the fantasy and glamour usually associated with travel, based on which photographic images are most sourced online.
Playing with light and patterns, angles and perspectives is also trendy as regular folks like you and me try to express our artistic selves as amateur photographers.
Storytelling with images
Content in travel can make a perfect, beautiful circle of expression. Travellers are going to be far more inspired to travel somewhere to do whatever if the idea is sold to them with breathtaking, emotionally evocative visuals. When you incorporate several elements that appeal to a particular traveller type, a series of pics or a skillfully edited video could be the only sales trick you need.
Now I want to go there, see it all for myself and document my own experience of the Peruvian Amazon. Photography experts suggest that there’s still a place for the polished travel video but raw amateur footing captured on a smartphone camera has a special charm. Drone photography is also there, hovering overhead, with devices priced affordably enough for travellers to start adding those to their bag of travel accessories. To that end, it’s always a good idea to check with your client if they’re that way inclined to obtain permission wherever they intend to use their drones.
With the access to high-quality phone cameras, people are making audio-visual diaries of their travels as they upload photos & videos to their social media profiles.
Inspired to travel, they in turn produce content initially for their own pleasure but it becomes a secondary form of marketing for your destination or experience, even for your brand.
As they tell the story of their experience, the fact that it’s coming from a traveller, it often resonates more with other travellers than your own professionally produced content.
That word ‘authenticity’ is thrown around a lot but its relevance here cannot be diminished.
It’s a story told from the traveller’s perspective, which is a trustworthy twist on what the travel brand wants them to see. Ultimately, it becomes your story too, because it’s the traveller’s interpretation of an experience you’ve sold them. You might as well use it to your advantage.
Photography for tourism
Whether they’re taking iconic pics, unique ones or bragging rights #FOMO inducing pics, soon your amateur travel photographer becomes an influencer for your destination or brand. ‘Wish I was there’ becomes ‘I was there’ and here’s the proof.
It makes others salivate with wanderlust to see first-hand accounts of remote places that can be reached, wildlife that can be seen in natural habitat, hidden urban gems that do exists, and that other ordinary folks just like them went there, saw it and photographed it.
Alongside of peer reviews of your tour products, this is marketing gold that only cost you the space you needed to provide for it to be accessed and consumed. And when this content leaves your sphere of control and orbits the social sharing space, it’s exactly like pay-it-forward marketing done for you for free!
At this moment in time, more than 200 million photos have been tagged with #travel on Instagram..
Apparently 97% of millennials are sharing their travel pics online. That kind of exposure is priceless. I’m not suggesting you replace your entire marketing campaign with UGC; instead, add it to your content marketing mix and empower travellers to contribute to the shape and texture of the tourism industry they’re such a vital part of.
Featuring photography in tour products
A slight tweak to accommodate the fascination with photography or the simple desire to have pretty pics as travel mementos to take home is all that’s needed for you to tap into this trend. Some travel companies hire photographers to lead parts of a tour, researches sites for good photo opportunities beforehand, and guides travellers on how to shoot and what to shoot. Family Fun Canada calls them ‘Flytographers’, the vacation photographer: locally based, they meet up with visitors on location, having planned the shoot for them and assist with getting the best shots with their cameras/phones. They can also shoot pics the traveller asks them to take if they want to capture a special image they’re worried about messing up.
Aside from paying a professional to do that for you, you could have your own guides trained in basic photography skills, so they’re at least able to advise your clients correctly.
You could offer photographic tutorials on in-destination sites and subjects that are fabulous for a shoot – about details like the perfect time/place for a sunrise or sunset shot; about the perfect lighting on an exotic bloom or bird, beautiful food; about not taking pics of monks or children in some cultures without permission, and other cultural sensitivities.
You’d be teaching your clients loads about the destination, even about culture, and invite them to view their experience from a different angle, so to speak.
According to TrekkSoft, the appeal of any type of tour can be enhanced by adding on this photographic layer; by creating opportunities, locations and subjects to capture memories.
It’s the perfect social media marketing tool as it helps to build up user-generated content.
Then you create a space on your website and on your own social media pages to host this priceless UGC. Trafalgar Tours has a feedback section on the individual tours pages of its website dedicated to client posts on Instagram, called, “What our customers say on social” with a #simplytrafalgar hashtag. The client is featured alongside their pics – it’s good for their ego and equally good for the tour company’s reputation! I’ve seen other websites featuring a scrolling footer with their own Instagram feed showcasing their own ‘live’ pics mixed in with those solicited from clients. Facebook is another good platform for travel inspiration with the sharing option providing effective re-marketing potential for your brand.
You must have a blog by now. If you don’t, here’s the perfect project to start with: a photo journal of a typical tour. Date it, upload content taken on the day, including shots and short videos of the surrounding scenery or cityscape and the people experiencing the tour, food experiences, community engagement, etc. and add some client quotes. Maximum imagery, minimum text for those who enjoy visual stimulation but are lazy to read.
There isn’t a single destination in the world that doesn’t warrant being photographed and whatever the experience you sell, it should provide generous opportunities for your clients; so make it easier for them to document what they see, do, eat, feel.. Help them make the best of the gadgets they have to capture those memorable moments. The investment will be returned by the contribution made to your content marketing as your clients show and tell the memories your brand secured for them.