In 2018 as part of my journey to become a better photographer I decided to meet with professionals, learn and know what motivates them and get inspired by their work and vision about photography and social media.
Lauren Bath as her website explains, is considered the “first Australian professional Instagrammer”. Her social media profile is one of the most successful in Australia, with an audience of almost half a million followers. She is not “only” a Digital Influencer, Lauren is also a jaw-dropping photographer. Widely recognised for her landscape and travel photography, she has recently become an Olympus Visionary (Olympus Ambassador).
Lauren has been very kind and did this interview despite being very busy. I’m sure you’ll find her answers to my questions very interesting and I hope you can get inspired and learn a lot like I did.
Lauren you’ve recently become an Olympus Ambassador. This is so cool, tell me about it, what led you to it, how does it impact your work and what does it mean for your career?
I was fortunate to be introduced to Kristie Galea, the Marketing Manager of Olympus, around 2 years ago and I knew immediately from our conversation that Olympus are a brand with integrity and values that align with my own. Kristie and I agreed that I would start by trying some of their gear and then we would take it from there. Within a few months I was using my Olympus E-M1 Mark I a lot and from here we started working on projects together, including the launch of the E-M1 Mark II. I’ve slowly been phasing out my old equipment and was completely humbled to be asked to join the Visionary program this year. The main benefit to my career has been massive legitimacy, but on a more personal level it’s incredible to have such an influential brand place value on what I do.
I can’t avoid asking you what’s your camera gear and your favourite lens?
These days I’m shooting mainly on my Olympus E-M1 Mark II, of which I have two bodies, and my full suite of pro lenses. I have the 7-14 f2.8, 12-40 f2.8 and 40-150 f 2.8 plus my favourite primes; the 17mm f1.2 and the 300mm f4.0.
My favourite lens is the 40-150 f2.8 for sure! It’s such a fast and powerful lens with great focal length range.
Can you tell me about your creative process when you are shooting?
I don’t really have one, I’m very much a reactive photographer. When I see something that I like I react to it and shoot it. Haha. I do try to build on my images. For example if I see a scene that I like I’ll try to go back and shoot it in good light and I’ll think about improving the foreground or adding a person to the shot (the classic “little person”) etc. Apart from that most of my favourite shots have been very much in the moment, you could say that I have a good eye for it.
What are the best 3 tips you can give to new starters in order to step up their photography game?
Number one is definitely to practice! The only way to get better is to practice and practice and practice! When I was learning photography I was using my camera most days and planning a minimum of two dedicated shoots a week on top of that. I was reading what I could on the subject, asking questions and doing everything I could to learn. Nothing will get you over the technicalities of your camera more than regular practice. Number two would be to learn your equipment inside and out! I’m guilty of this myself and my camera has functions that I don’t even know about but I’m working on it. The camera is just a machine, a piece of equipment that you use to fulfill your goal of taking a photo. Knowing it inside and out will dramatically increase your chances of success. (and I talk about this a lot in my beginners photography course, “Get Camera Confident”.) Number three is to consume a lot of photography! Live and breathe photography. Follow the best photographers in the world and take bits and pieces of what you love about their work to form the basis of your own style. They say that good artists copy and great artists steal. It’s important to develop your own eye but don’t be afraid to steal ideas, it’s all been done before.
Video is becoming more and more a relevant media on the Internet. Do you see yourself integrating it into your social media work in the future?
It’s funny that you ask because I’m currently going through a major overhaul of my business and looking to incorporate a lot more video in the marketing of my three passion projects; my online course, my Travel Bootcamp and my upcoming Zimbabwe Tours. Video is the way of the future for sure and if you’re not good at producing it then find someone that is and use video to tell your story.
Another unavoidable question, this time about the ‘gram. With recent changes to its algorithm Instagram has changed a lot in recent times. It’s much more difficult to grow an audience today, there is much more competition and it’s much harder to stand out from the crowd. How does this affect you as a professional Instagrammer?
As a professional I don’t play the numbers game on Instagram. I am extremely proud to say that I have never cheated on the platform, and in my mind this includes using any form of an engagement pod to give myself an advantage over others. I believe that true influence grows from having a purpose and a voice and no amount of fake likes will buy you that. To stand out from the crowd of shitty, entitled, short term players it’s really as simple as having integrity and purpose and a professional/ respectful approach to what you do. Don’t ever get caught up in the numbers game, that’s the best advice I can offer any creative person.
Do you believe people should still focus on Instagram as their main platform if they are starting from zero and want to become digital influencers?
Instagram is still an extremely important platform for influencer marketing but nobody knows what’s around the corner. Keep your eyes open, do what you’re passionate about, that which fuels your fire and spend most of your creative energy on creating amazing content.
Hot (and very delicate) topic. Numbers. It seems like people are obsessed with it. What do you say to those who see in big numbers of likes and followers the main form of satisfaction on this platform?
I’ve kind of answered this already in your previous question about Instagram and my advice is the same. Numbers mean nothing, influence and integrity mean everything. If you have a purpose and you’re creating great and valuable content then the numbers will organically follow. You only get out of this life what you put into it.
So, how important are those numbers in order to work with brands and what is your advice for creators with a small audience that dream of being paid for travelling?
Having big numbers on Instagram does serve one purpose, it makes you more desirable to “some” brands. In saying that, my numbers are as low as they’ve ever been in the past 7 years and I have more work than I could possibly hope to do. My clients do need numbers to an extent but they hire me because they know that I have massive influence over my circles because of how I’ve established my own personal brand. I stand for fairness and value and respect and doing good by the world. I inspire people because my journey has been inspiring. And I’ve gotten to where I am with hard work and by helping others and through sacrifice. Numbers should be the by-product of sharing your journey, not the aim.
How were you able to turn your passion into your amazing career?
Omg, it’s awesome that you’ve asked. I’ve been so fortunate for all of the events that led me to where I am now and the more I reflect on what I’ve built the more certain I am that the universe has been telling me something and what has happened to me is integral to my higher purpose on this planet! (Which ultimately is to help others and to work in animal conservation, that cliche “make the world a better place” line. )
Without taking a HUGE amount of time I’ll start by saying that I was always academic, capable and ambitious as a young adult but a lot of that was lost to me in my late teens. I felt very cornered into setting “small” goals and living a small life and I spent many years just working for the man and spending my money on crap I didn’t need and falling into society’s cycle.
When I downloaded Instagram in 2011 and started my photography journey there was a massive feeling of serendipity, I felt like I was on the right path. My “gut” started to talk to me, or should I say I started to listen to it. When my gut told me to quit my job to spend more time on Instagram I did that and it was the best decision I ever made. There was a strong combination of following my intuition but backing that up with hard work and good business and people skills.
In a more defined way, I worked very hard on creating beautiful content and securing clients that would hire me to travel. I started to research and learn about destination marketing and applied what I learned to my own social media deliverables. I’ve now been working in the tourism industry for 6 years full time and I’ve done over 250 jobs in that time.
What skills should people master in order to do build a career like yours? And what is the best way for them to learn those skills?
To be honest I never really recommend that people aspire to have the *exact* same career as me. Every influencer is different and it’s important to focus on your own strengths. In saying that I would always recommend that anyone trying to break into the industry has some skills in photography and writing and some social media reach on any platform, or their own blog. These skills will assist greatly to set yourself apart from the pack.
Do you have a fun story from one of your travels that stand out?
I have so many fun stories from my travels, it’s hard to choose! A great one was when I was on a job and I had the brilliant idea to buy an inflatable pink flamingo and float my friend out to sea on it. Unfortunately there were strong currents and wind and the ocean was full of jellyfish, meaning my friend was being washed out to sea with no way to paddle back in without being stung by the jellyfish. By the time that particular shoot wrapped up I was laughing so hard that I had a headache.
What do you hope viewers get from your work?
On a superficial level I hope that my audience is inspired to travel more and get good travel information and stories from my posts. On a deeper level I hope to communicate to my audience the sort of person I am and what I do in my daily life to make a difference in the world. My efforts to start supporting more conservation projects, my interest in different cultures and bigger issues in the world, my desire to minimise my footprint, my healthy lifestyle (and getting healthier by the day) and my love for my family.
You’re always hopping around the world to beautiful destinations. Scrolling through your Instagram gallery is like travelling the world in real time. Where next?
I’ve got Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Antarctica coming up! Super exciting times.
Thank you so much Lauren, you’re the best! I really look forward to keep getting inspired by your adventures around the world and by your amazing work.
Lauren has put together an amazing online photography course that you can find here: Master your camera and share inspiring moments in the world
And to learn more about how to start a business as a Digital Influencer here’s where you need to go: The Travel Bootcamp
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If you want to know more about Lauren’s favourite lens, you’re lucky.
I wrote a review about it a while ago, find it here:
OLYMPUS 40-150MM F/2.8 Pro lens – The Best Review
List of useful articles on my blog you might also like:
A complete review of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II
Study Photography. University or not?
Stories are the new Instagram feed