When a well-known travel Instagrammer is invited to promote a destination, that's a paid gig that any professional influencer would take seriously. To followers, it may appear that all this "traveling for free" is an enviable lifestyle without obvious drawbacks. But (I'm here to tell you from experience), like anything — it's a job. And jobs always comes with their pressures, anxieties, and just plain hard work. Here are some things Instagram celebrities in the travel space take pains to make sure you don't know.
1. How long it takes to set up a shot
Notice the beautiful light, pool scene, fruit — and product promotion. While on a press trip with a group that consisted of a mix of traditional journalists, bloggers, and Instagram-celebs, I got to see first-hand how serious getting the perfect Instagram shot is. While traditional journalists may not even be required to capture images on the spot, and bloggers need a variety of adequate images worthy of a descriptive post, Instagrammers need one perfect shot that has the best lighting, model, and angle. They often don't experience the moment (whether it's lunch or a yoga class or something else) and are off to the side getting their shot ready.
2. How many shots they take compared to how many they post
If you've never tried to photograph the Northern Lights, you might have no idea just how hard it is to capture them as in the shot above — and you never know how cold it really is when people jump into pools or splash around in a waterfall for the perfect image! While they might snap 300 photos of the same scene, they will only post the best one. They keep their accounts fresh by not posting versions of the same image over and over — so they will go through their shots from the day and find the one that is the best, deleting all the others. That perfect image you are looking at on their account had possibly hundreds of throw-aways taken at the same time.
3. How much equipment they lug around
Almost all the top travel Instagrammers have a photographer traveling with them. Some do use a tripod — but usually not the ones with millions of followers. Often it's a boyfriend or husband (the Insta-husband has become quite popular in the last year... right Barack Obama?!Beyond having a photographer to capture those set-up-to-look-candid shots, they also have a lot of equipment. The days of iPhone images doing well on Instagram are gone for the biggest accounts. They'll have a big DSLR and a camera bag with multiple lenses. Beyond that, they will most likely travel with a drone, which is carried in a large backpack as carryon — adding a lot to your luggage weight total. Oh and how do the top 'Grammers have so many cute outfits? Oh yes, it all amounts to a lot of luggage.
4. How little time they get to spend in each place
It's okay that they only post the one image they love and delete the 300 others, because they are always on the move to more Instagram-worthy locations. There's no fear of running out of content — and they often have an agent planning out their calendar. Tourism boards and fashion brands pay for these trips or they work in sponsorship with an airline... but you can bet they are dropping their own hard-earned cash to travel in order to promote someone else.
5. The struggle to stay original and on-trend at the same time
We know what's in on Instagram. It's typically the girl looking away out in the middle of nowhere with a perfect landscape, overlooking a city, or wearing a trendy boho-chic outfit or in a cute London alley holding a to-go coffee. But, as places get Insta-famous, there is a fine line between staying original and copying other people (as this travel Instagrammer found out, in the cringe-worthiest fashion). There are places people specifically visit just because they are perfect for Instagram shots: all-blue Chefchaouen, a famous pink door in Palm Springs, Cappadocia, and, lately, Riad Yasmine in Morocco.
6. They don't actually always dress like that
A lot of Instagrammers carry with them a change of outfits, and while they might be trekking up to the top of a cliff for an epic sunset pic, they didn't wear that cute little dress up there! No, they changed into it once they arrived, then spruced up their hair and makeup, perhaps tossing on a jaunty-looking key accessory like a hat (which has the bonus of hiding an exertion-marked face)!
All told, yes, it is a dream job! But no, it isn't always easy: It's competitive, and takes a lot of work. People who do the job have sponsors they have to please, obligatory sunrises to groggily wake up for, and with Instagram's ever-changing algorithm, they have to keep having fresh ideas to make sure they stay in people's Instagram feeds. And even for all of that, I wouldn't have it any other way.
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