Lately, I have seen so many posts of people complaining about Instagram and how warped it has become. I have written about my beef with Instagram a few months ago but the most prominent one is this post by Wandering Earl.
Consumers and brands alike seem to complain about Instagram influencers and how they are flooding the travel market with model-esque bikini shots and fashion images instead of storytelling and actual travel advice.
But love it or hate it, it is still one of the most important social media channels and I dare say, pay to play and crappy algorisms or not, it is here to stay. I don’t mind that as long as IG becomes a bit more inclusive and real. I think sometimes we just have to take this crazy medium which some call their office with a big pinch of salt and a good sense of humor.
It takes more than good light, a floatie, a tripod, and a self-timer to get an Instagram-worthy shot. What exactly goes on behind the scenes? I gathered some experts to spill their secrets and tell you what the craziest was they ever did for the ‘gram and maybe even share an outtake or two.
Keen to see what is going on behind the picture-perfect facade of your favorite Instagram shot? Come along and I will show you…
Picture perfect Instagrams?
Jackson from Journey Era
Turtles & butts get the most engagement and in Jackson’s case also cliff jumps.
“I shoot a lot of cliff jumping and it’s all about the timing and form of the jump to creating that perfect moment suspended in time. On this occasion in the San Blas Islands in Panama, I asked my friend to help me create a cool little shot jumping off the pier. The catch was is that he hates diving. I asked him to dive into the shallow water from a 2-meter high pier. For the gram, he agreed and went for the dive off of the pole at the end of the pier but unfortunately backed out halfway and what we have in the end is a moment of pure fear as he is suspended mid-air, horizontal, with no control over his flailing body. The onlookers loved it, bursting out in laughter and offering all kinds of hilarious hashtags to use when that photo was uploaded! We then switched the shot to a slightly different angle and lowered his jumping height to a much less scary 1-meter (shaking my head writing that height!). We were then able to capture that ‘perfect’ type of image with a mirror reflection on an effortless dive into the beautiful still ocean. Take Instagram with a pinch of salt and try and share the misses, bad photos and funny stories every once in a while. You will be surprised to see everyone relating with their mishaps in the comments rather than a multitude of ‘great shot’ remarks in the comments. No-one is perfect, especially for those who seem to be on Instagram. Just catch them when the camera isn’t looking!”
Read more from Jackson on Journey Era
Charlie and Lauren from
Wanderers & Warriors
‘We travelled to the south of Bali one day to capture a photo of the crystal blue waters over looking Melasti Beach.
After the hour drive, and finding the perfect angle from the cliff tops, we attempted that romantic lift that you see on the explore page. You know the real ‘couple goals’ shot.
The wind was saying otherwise though, and every time Lauren jumped I either struggled to catch her or the wind would blow her hair in her face. In the end we decided to give up but happened to catch this candid shot of us walking away and we loved it!’
Read more from Charlie and Lauren on Wanderers & Warriors.
The Catch Me If You Can
When you have to go with the flow…
“I have climbed trees, gotten too close to zebras and braved the top of Victoria Falls, all in the name of adventure and capturing the perfect picture. Last year while in Grenada I was trying to get the perfect shot with just the right amount of water from the incoming waves. Mother Nature had a different idea.”
Read more from Jessica on The Catch Me If You Can
Elaine from the Whole World is a Playground
Sometimes a picture is worth a 9-hour bus ride…
“A few years ago we went to Myanmar and I spotted a pic of an infinity pool overlooking Mount Popa, near to Bagan, and decided I HAD to go there for a pic. We assumed it would be easy to get there and hopped on the Bagan bus that morning asking the bus crew to let us off in the town closest to the hotel. The town wasn’t setup for tourists at all – after 9 hours on a bus we were still 30 minutes drive from the hotel and there were no taxis, no buses and we had no working phones, nowhere to stay for the night and it was getting dark. We were covered in dust and sweat and I was getting more nervous by the minute. Eventually, using hand gestures, we managed to explain our predicament to a local shopkeep who said he’d get us a taxi. 45 minutes later two local teenagers pulled up in a beat up car with music blasting and gestured for us to get in. After attempting to drop us off beside a troop of monkeys guarding the entrance to the actual Mount Popa (the mountain is famous for its monkey presence) at midnight we were finally able to get an offline map with the location of the hotel and, after much heated discussion and a joint effort to navigate we eventually found the hotel.”
Read more from Elaine on Whole World is a Playground
Cat from Walk my World
This is how you get into the swing of things – Insta-style.
“Just about everyone has seen a picture of that famous palm tree rope swing in southern Sri Lanka. There is either a graceful girl casually swinging in the breeze or a guy doing some daredevil hands out version. I knew when coming to Sri Lanka I had to get that shot.
We turned up just before sunset (because you need epic colors too, right?) and despite it being low season there was a bit of a queue.
I then saw how the swing actually works: you launch yourself from part way up the palm tree, there is a small foothold and other than that you just hang on. One after the other people swung beautifully into the sunset. It came to my turn and I realized pretty quickly that no launching would be happening for me. No worries they said, you can get on the world’s flimsiest chair and do it from there. It was no use as my arms and legs gave up, I managed all of 3 swings before bailing out.
Only afterward did I realize that I never actually stood up and rather than graceful I looked somewhat similar to a crab! After a second attempt – which was worse than the first – I knew it was hopeless and dashed behind the camera to take one of my partner instead.”
Read more from Cat on Walk my World and see her Instagram.
Jayne from Girl Tweets World
As a breakfast to be considered Instagram-worthy you need to be floating in a pool in Bali. That is the rule which cannot be broken even if eating said breakfast proves a difficult task.
“The moment I knew that I needed to get an (insta)grip was while shooting photos of a floating breakfast in Bali. If I’m completely honest I only ordered this gimmick for the pictures and I lost all dignity (and almost my husband too!) in the process. Behind the serenity of the shot, you see here was a frazzled me trying to hook the floating tray back with my toe as it drifted perilously close to the fountain. My poor husband was made to take 100s of shots of me trying to look like I was enjoying breakfast in what was an incredibly uncomfortable and impractical way to eat and when the photo shoot was finally over there was practically nothing left on the tray that was edible – just pools of melted butter and eggs overcooked by the sun. We laugh about it now but the romance was definitely dead on the day!”
You can read the whole story about her breakfast ordeal here.
Kathi from Watchmesee
Lesson 101: How to make a construction site look Insta-worthy “My feet were hurting. I had just walked 15 miles across the north of the Isle of Bute to reach this place in search for serenity. And what did I find? A construction site. Right next to the tiny ferry landing, a huge crane. Working men in bright orange jackets, looking over to me as if I was insane. I sit down on the narrow pebble beach, pick up some of the rubbish washed ashore, and take my shoes off. Finally, freedom. I walk a few steps to the concrete ramp leading into the ocean and put down my backpack. I balance my camera on top of my backpack, positioning it so that the ramp is in the middle, but you can’t see the construction site next to me. The working men keep staring, as I walk back and forth, back and forth – between my camera and the top of the ramp, where I sit still, mysteriously looking across the water. The battery in my remote shutter control had died. The reason why I had to go back and forth all the time, was because it was windy by the sea, and my backpack straps kept flying up and into my picture. By the time I finally got a shot where my arms didn’t look too crooked, my hair wasn’t flying and the backpack straps were low enough to be cropped out of the picture, my bus arrived, and I could finally make cheat my way to the end of the West Island Way on wheels.”
Amandine from Les Berlinettes
Row, row, row the boat… “This picture is probably the picture that took me the most effort in the past years but what would you not do to to get that Instagram picture. I knew that a picture on this boat remembering the small boats on the backwaters in Kerala. The only problem is, I can’t roam. It took me ages to start off the boat and come back to the “shore” and almost fall into the water by doing so. A good laugh for everyone around. ”
Read more from Amandine on Les Berlinettes
Sher from Sher She Goes
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Or your client.
“We were working with a sparkling drink brand and had the idea to do a picnic in Central Park but of course we had to do it proper IG-style so here’s what went into our shoot….
For this project, the brand sent us a beautiful wicker basket, several extra large mason jars, lemon themed plates, cutlery and napkins and some really cute striped straws. They certainly knew that great props make for great photos lol! To do it all justice, my boyfriend had the idea to shoot the campaign at this castle in Central Park and since we live nearby, we walked over. Of course, I didn’t get up as early as I should have and I naively didn’t realize quite how heavy camera gear + drink cans + picnic baskets all weigh up, so by the time we trekked over we were hot, sweaty and it was the middle of the afternoon, so harsh sunlight!
I get self-conscious shooting in public so at first, we took a couple photos off to the side, where it was empty and shaded. I knew we could get a better backdrop though (why walk all the way to the castle if it wouldn’t be perfectly centered in the shot), so we duked it out with the other tourists to set up our picnic stage right by the lake, floppy hat, yellow blanket and all.
The whole thing was so ridiculous but luckily my gigantic floppy hat covered my whole face (and my laughter). A cute little girl sitting nearby was fascinated and asked what we were doing. At one point she even took it upon herself to act as our assistants by asking some foreign tourists who were hogging the space to move out of frame (lol)! She was such a cute assistant we shared the drinks and picnic with her.
After it was all over, I sent the photos to the brand for review and in the end… they picked the first photo, in the shaded grass without the lake and castle that we worked so hard to get, ha.”
Read more from Sher on Sher she Goes
Nam from Laugh Travel Eat
Burn, baby, burn!
“It was my last day in Yangon and I was dying to visit the Tooth Relic Pagoda that I had seen on another blogger’s post. My friend refused to go because it was a smelting 38 degrees so I hopped on a Grab and made my own way there. There was absolutely nobody outside of the Pagoda because it was that hot. But I stood there, set up my GoPro with my tripod on the fence and spent half an hour taking photos and ignoring the burning sensation from the soles of my feet until I get the photo. My right arm, hidden by my body, was holding my phone to use as a remote – that’s the best way to take photos when you are traveling solo!”
Read more from Nam on Laugh Travel Eat
Nat & Rob from Love and Road
Blood, sweat, and tears are in order.
“I only have short videos of Rob swimming to the rock and trying to climb it for the shot… the final shot is great but he ended up cutting his hands on the shells when climbing the rock. Literally giving his blood for a good shot!”
Read more from Nat and Rob on Love and Road
And last but not least, I am sharing one of my favorite Instagrams. This shot was taken in Bintang Bay in Raja Ampat, an Insta-famous and definitely -worthy location in Indonesia. Oh, how excited was I to finally see it for myself on a recent liveaboard trip! Inspired by a shot that Jackson had shared, walking on the railing of the viewpoint which overlooks the bay, I thought I could at least sit on it. I wasn’t crazy enough to attempt a balancing act but what could go wrong just sitting there and admiring the view, right? Getting up was easy enough, getting down was a different story because a) I was wearing a mini-dress and didn’t feel like flashing all the other people on the platform and b) by now I had seen the razor-sharp karsts and the steep drop on the other side of the railing and was a tiny bit scared by my own bravado. Our cruise director John gave me a gentlemanly hand to get down, but still, I struggled. And while I made it back onto the platform I ended not on my feet but on my bum, legs up in the air like a beetle. Mind you, at this point, I wasn’ even embarrassed, I was just grateful to have dropped down on the right side of the railing no matter how ungracious or silly I may have looked.
Care to share your best Instagram pictures and what it took to take them?