Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints.. right? The concept is based on sustainability but it reminds me also of how well photography goes with travel. The photographs we take during our travels are captured memories, moments frozen in time to be revisited repeatedly in some future time and place. For our modern travellers, it’s especially important to have proof of the experience they had, to relive but also to share and show off to others as a kind of accomplishment. For travel professionals and product owners, it’s becoming a way to celebrate and promote destinations, and engage with clients in a personal way about their experiences of your brand.
The rise of the amateur photographer
When professional photographers travel the world with their over-sized, expensive zoom lenses, looking all cool like they know a secret the rest of us ordinary travellers don’t, I’ll admit, it makes me jealous as hell and probably most other folks a bit awestruck. How lucky do you have to be to travel to exotic destinations and take these gorgeous pictures that land up in National Geographic or other glossy magazines, in print or online?
Those same pics that gave me my first taste of wanderlust have the power to capture the imagination with dramatic landscape subjects, portraits of strange people from faraway lands, impressive edifices, powerful images of wildlife going about their business.. We all want a piece of that action. Who doesn’t want to show off where they’ve been, what they’ve seen and done, whom they shared the experience with, how unique or iconic it was? And now we can. Technology saw to that.
The smart phone has entered the travel photography fray. With regular upgrades on camera apps and editing capabilities, anyone with a half decent phone and an eye for a pretty picture can afford to give it a shot.
..more advanced features that support professional photography have been added [to smart phones]…to further encourage more people to try their skills in photography.
The smart editing features on their phone camera apps also promise to open up the field to budding young photographers. Improvements including 4K video even make drone photography easily transferable to the travel market. Like binoculars in the past, some sort of photographic/video device has become the essential travel accessory for would-be explorers, whether the destination is a jungle, a desert or an inner city location.
Selfie sticks might still be a popular choice for travellers who worry that they’ll forget they were actually there, but several cities and popular tourist sites are starting to ban those pesky sticks.
That’s one incentive for many to stay on the right side of the lens.
The other is the fact that too many idiotic risks are taken in the pursuit of the mighty vainglorious selfie (people falling off cliffs, nearly getting mauled by wild animals, etc.) but we won’t judge all selfies as bad practice.
Go Pro is a favourite especially among the adventurous sort who want their hands free as they dive and jump and swing and speed while they document their experience.
So the amateur photographer has options and is free to express their creativity in the way they interpret their surroundings.
The image in focus
Studies by online curators of photographic images pinpoint the trends for 2018 as landscapes, people, wildlife, food, and patterns in order of popularity in image searches. Those can be found, celebrated and showcased in just about any destination, including yours. We’re all attracted to the exotic and you’d do well to do a bit of investigating in your neighbourhood or even closer to home on your premises to discover what those curiosities might be that attract the lenses of your click-happy clients. You don’t have to create anything special – just provide opportunities and guidance.
Some travel brands invest in professional photographers or simply have staff trained up with photographic or cinematic skills so that they have someone knowledgeable on hand to help interested clients. You could do the research beforehand on locations and subjects to photograph on or near your premises and plan photo shoots for them: give them tips on where and when to take the perfect sunrise/sunset, lunar or meteor shower pics; about the best lighting at the best times to catch animals at their drinking holes and of course what not to do with wildlife photography; about colour and perspective, angles and patterns; cultural sensitivity and controversy, festivals and rituals.
It requires a bit of unpacking, debunking of the usual tourist snap shot subjects to identify and present the unique versus the iconic.
Getting those unusual shots also lends the experience an immersive quality that modern travellers crave – you know your destination the best to guide them to it.
Calling them amateur doesn’t mean they’re always going to fall short of truly great photography. Their shots will mostly be raw and unpolished, but there’s a definite movement in photographic appreciation for a preference for the more authentic interpretation.
While polished professional photos are nice to reference, most people inherently trust pictures posted by real people more than any other form of advertising.
It’s that authenticity that works as well as peer reviews of travel products and destinations: travellers put a great deal of faith in the opinions, perspectives and documented experiences of other travellers. That much is irrefutable fact at this stage. So to help your own marketing along, with your own professionally produced imagery on your website, create some opportunities for your clients to review and photograph their experiences of your products. Customise your excursions and activities with some photographic elements and possibly even reward your clients for sharing the pretty pics they take in the process.
Angama Mara have this stunning concept of a photo journal blog which is updated with images from actual game drives and other activities featuring real guests. Imagine how awesome if you could produce something similar that allowed your guests to contribute their own photos too.
Your guest, your promoter, influencer, remarketer
There’s lots you can do with a good crop of UGC. It just happens to be the most sourced, clicked on and engaged with travel imagery, which is sufficient proof of its marketing value. The understanding is that with folks out there being too lazy to read, your pics and videos are just going to have to be more persuasive than the most well-written description. Your clients will love having their pics featured on your website or perhaps participate in a photographic contest. Fairmont‘s website features a media page with a ‘Guest Photos’ tab and then there’s the Instagram campaign run by CHOICE HOTELS in search of the next big influencer. I’d say they found more than one!
TravelGrammer resulted in a combined reach of over 12,000,000, more than 100,000 interactions..
ETB Travel News
Imagine what you could do with that kind of traffic to your online platforms.. Imagine the social media mileage to be earned with a competition like the one WOW Air is running: win a 3 month job contract travelling the world, documenting the experiences en route and creating travel content for the travel brand..
If you had a website and a digital brochure, you could provide a space for client/traveller photos to be displayed. You could host guest pics on your social media platforms, from Instagram to Facebook, videos on YouTube and beyond. You could have your social sharing feed displayed on your website. It amounts to a lovely diverse content marketing mix that’s inclusive of the travel community, that in fact empowers travellers to direct the conversation to inspire other travellers to seek out your brand. The rest of the time, your brand will simply orbit the planet in cyberspace as they share their own photographic content online with friends, within their social sharing communities all around the world.
From iconic to unique pics, travellers want to capture their travel experiences on ‘film’ as it were to keep forever and share it with the world. It’s about bragging rights, saying I was there – check out my proof and be inspired. It’s about escapism and creative expression all rolled in one immersive experience. And your brand can get a piece of that action with a little bit of insight and imagination. What you get back from your clients is a stamp of approval and potential business referrals that in the end will cost you very little indeed.