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Instagram tips for travel photos (how not to annoy the rest of the world!)

I was recently asked by Conde Nast magazine for my thoughts on the etiquette for posting travel pictures on Instagram without being seen as a bragger (or as they refer to it, a smoaster – a social media boaster). Personally I don’t think there’s a magic formula for this, all social media channels, Instagram included, are a personal space where you express yourself to the world so ‘acceptable behaviour’ varies from person to person.

There is however a very delicate balance between inspiring people – sharing those special moments, places and experiences – and plain old bragging to try to impress people and make them jealous. The latter of which is often just in order to try to assert an image or ‘status’ to the rest of the world. It really boils down to the kind of person you are and what your reasons for travelling are.

As with any kind of social media, always think before you post, this is just as important with Instagram, photos can just as easily offend as written words and often more (trust me, I know!) so take care with yours – check out our advice below:

1. Choose your shots carefully
More important than the written description (at least initially) is the type of image chosen. It’s not that certain types of image are wrong – a day at the races may include images of bubbly as this is part of the experience, similarly, if you get upgraded on flight, it’s understandable that you want to share your good fortune, but it again comes back to your underlying attitude (and the attitude of the network you have). We’ve all seen those rub-your-nose-in-it pictures of ticket stubs for flight upgrades, or free concert tickets, etc (and probably all thought the same thing!) These types of pictures really aren’t the most engaging. It’s much better to share something of interest to people, and let them feel involved… A picture of the backstage area at the concert you got the free tickets too, or your seat on the plane with all the little amenities you are given as a result of the upgrade so that are truly sharing the experience and maybe giving people something they haven’t seen, rather than just flaunting a picture of a set of tickets (actually a completely uninspiring image on their own). You could also join the selfie wagon, taking a picture with the tickets and a big genuine smile, or a selfie in the middle of the concert so people can see how you really felt. After all, what’s more important, sharing an amazing experience and how much you enjoyed it, or telling them what you’ve got and how much you’ve got?

2. Think about your attitude and tone of voice
A photographer’s attitude towards travel really comes through in the updates that are posted – through the language used in the photo descriptions and hashtags, as well as the type of image itself. It’s this tone of voice and attitude that generally turns people on or off. Personally, I treat every trip as a gift and feel incredibly grateful to be able to see these places and be in a position where I can share with others, some of whom may not have the opportunity. If you are genuinely humble about your travel experiences (and your outlook on life in fact), you will naturally describe your experiences in terms of the emotions they invoke – feeling grateful, feeling happy, feeling lucky, this is an amazing, etc – and you’ll find yourself using descriptions such as awesome, amazing, unbelievable, gorgeous, fantastic, stunning. These are all words and phrases that people can easily understand and appreciate the sentiment. When you start taking these things for granted and your tone of voice becomes cocky and self-important, then people are not involved in the experience and the arrogance becomes irritating. Descriptions such as “this is the only way to travel” ,”we wouldn’t do this any other way”, “another bottle of free champagne, why not?” And you are talking less about the place, people or experience, and using your updates as more of a status checklist of where you’ve been and what you’ve done, which becomes much less engaging, inclusive or inspiring.

3. Vary your content
When actually taking the pictures, think about composition – is it natural or is it too contrived? I had a recent example in Goa a couple of months ago, we were celebrating and so one night we had a bottle of champagne, and drank it whilst swinging in hammocks on a beautiful abandoned beach at sunset. All of these elements could combine to create the ultimate trophy travel picture, but we didn’t disappear and brush our hair, put some make up on, and take a million pictures until we found one where everything was perfect. The picture we took and shared shows a couple of us girls bedraggled from having just been in the sea, whilst you can see the champagne flutes in the picture, it’s not the first thing that catches your eye, the focus is on the hammock and the obvious fun and laughter from our body language, and we actually didn’t even capture the sunset in the background, we didn’t need to, you can tell by the light that it’s that time of day. This is so much more engaging for our family and friends than a framed picture of four perfectly made up girls pouting and posing, holding a bottle of champagne in front of a picture-perfect sunset.

Again, it’s all about balance, if you only post the occasional trophy travel picture (let’s face it, we’re all human and there are times that you have a picture that is going to make people jealous and you can’t resist sharing), then your network accept this (just don’t be surprised if they mock you for it!) However, if you regularly use your social networks as a platform to boast and assert your status, then your network is going to be very quickly limited to those individuals who also use travel as a trophy and want to compete with you.

It was a great article from Conde Nast Middle East, with tips and advice from several other travellers, if you want to read the full article, check it out below.