Someone Has to Say It
If I see one more cutesy photo of the Eiffel tower I'm going to vomit. The superficial travel photos are driving me absolutely insane. Hundreds of duplicates of the exact same photos of the same attractions. Over and over, just different people in new cutesy ways of posing in front of the same monuments. All for one purpose….and it’s not for memories. It’s only for likes and followers. Oh isn’t that cute, a photo of hot air balloons in Cappadocia….how original. Oh a beautiful ocean view in Santorini with a floating breakfast….Barf.
We Are Guilty
I will be the first to admit. My wife and I fell into the trap. Looking for that perfect photo, perfect lighting, perfect presets, perfect outfit, perfect time of the day, hundreds of photos, hours of editing all for that one “perfect” shot. Were we taking the shot for our own memories? Not really….most of it was for more likes and followers.
Yeah we are GUILTY and we hate it because we have no choice. If the photo isn’t amazing, we are faced with less likes and less followers. Why does it matter? To be successful as travel bloggers building a big following is critical. Taking average photos in average outfits in average places doesn’t cut it.
Sucked Into the Vortex
Aren't travel bloggers and travel influencers the same thing? Thankfully, no.
Travel Bloggers write in depth articles and share journeys that truly help people have a better travel experience. A “Travel Influencer” is a made up term for Instagram users with large followings who take “pretty photos”. They don’t teach you about the locations, culture or the truth about traveling.
Great travel bloggers are being sucked into this vortex of taking the “perfect photo” to appease the masses instead of using their talent to write content that truly helps people.
Lets talk about these so called “perfect photos” that inspire peoples wanderlust. For the most part they are only inspiring the superficial side of travel. The first thought that comes to most people’s minds is “Wow so pretty” and then “OOOHHH I could get an amazing Instagram photo there!” It’s gone so far that instead of researching the location and learning about the culture, the only thought that comes to mind is “I need that Instagram photo so I can get lots of likes too!”
I am about to break some dreams here. The “perfect photos” these influencers are taking are not so perfect and DO NOT make for a relaxing getaway. They are completely STAGED at a certain time of day often 4 or 5 am before any tourists are awake. A photographer will capture hundreds of photos to get ONE good shot. The poses are not natural and never anything you would actually do in real life. Let’s face it, between planning the photos, choosing the outfit, getting ready, staging the photo, taking the photos, editing the photo and then making the post and commenting after will take upwards of 12 hours! Yep 12 hours for one photo. This is not real life nor are the photos.
The worse part is the expectation that these photos create for regular travelers. These beautiful bright colors you see in the photos are never natural. When you arrive at these amazing locations, sure they are still inspiring but they just don’t quite look like they did on Instagram. Deceiving right? Every Instagram Influencers final touch to make the photos really “pop” are called presets. These are settings used in Lightroom that change the colors of the photo. So that once drab scene of faded paint is now a brilliant and bright picture.
So again I ask “Where is the reality in these photos?” Most Instagram users know these photos are fake but we continue to use our thumbs to hit the stupid heart button. It gets worse.
Ever wonder how at some major tourist attractions how these Influencers are the only people there? Photo editing has come so far that it is now easy to remove things and even people from the photos. Since when is having other people around us in a photo such bad thing? Oh wait, it wont get as many likes. Ever look at those massive breakfast photos and wonder who eats all of it? Or why did they order so much? It’s just for the photo and the answer is the garbage. It’s a complete waste and we were guilty of it once. Never again.
Reality For 98% of Us
Wouldn’t it be nice to travel the world to luxurious $1000 a night hotels in tropical destinations? An overwater bungalow in the Maldives, or maybe a private pool villa at the Four Seasons? Many popular Instagram Influencers out there are staying in places and accommodations that 98% of the people on this planet can’t afford. That’s the point right? They let us dream of these vacations that we can one day go on? I call BS! The problem is that the more luxurious and incredible the places are, the more Instagram likes they get! What about the places people can actually afford? REAL TRAVEL for the other 98%
A great example is a recent post from Instagram Influencers “Roamaroo” They mentioned that they are “craving real travel stories” and that they want to see “the good, the bad”. You can tell they want to be more real but low and behold the photo they put with this caption of craving “real travel” was the Four Seasons in Ubud. A complete contradiction from what they want to what they have to post to appease the masses. I don’t know how much “bad” you get at a Four Seasons.
It Gets Worse
Recently one of the largest Travel Influencers on Instagram “Travel In Her Shoes” Aggie Lal was accused of scamming almost $250,000.00 for selling a course on how to be successful like her. The problem with her course is that she wasn’t able to deliver any real direction on how to actually become a “Travel Influencer”. She didn’t even finish the course or deliver the promised content. The first assignment she gave people that purchased the course was to go and recruit one person in the first week to also buy her course!! Really?
She has recently made a public apology and stated the course was interrupted due to “poor wifi”. With $250,000 I could have taken a private jet to get good wifi.
We wanted the O.G of travel blogging Matt Kepnes of the highly successful blog Nomadic Matt to chime in with his opinion. He was around long before travel influencers and will be around long after. Instead of focusing all of his time creating “pretty photos” he has been creating helpful travel guides and useful information that travelers actually use. We asked him for his thoughts on “Travel Influencers” and the impact they have on how we travel.
It All Comes Down to One Thing..Money
The most successful Travel Influencers have racked up hundreds of thousands or even millions of followers. Is it because they want to help change the world and are so giving? No, for 90% of them most of the followers are purchased or come through bot like techniques. Ever heard of Follow/Unfollow? Many people aren’t even following people naturally with their thumb. An automated program will follow you one day so you follow them back. Guess what? A few days later the same program will unfollow you. Just another shady tactic of a highly shady Travel Influencer.
Once they build a large enough following, they then sell products without you barely even knowing. That subtle hotel suggestion or even that protein bar they had for lunch most likely was a paid advertisement. Lately Instagram has cracked down asking users to inform their followers it’s a paid ad. Do they have to legally? In the United States, it's now a law required by the FTC.
It seems Jack Morris from “Do You Travel” is loving his advertising deals…who wouldn't? I'm sure most people would sell out for tens of thousands of dollars. The only problem, I highly doubt he has an American Express in his pocket while he stares out into the jungle. Really?
I hope things change. I hope people start being inspired by reality again and want to go beyond this superficial layer of travel. In the mean time Kashlee and I are stuck in the middle of this uncomfortable place. How do we not sell out to appease the masses when demand dictates only “perfect” photos get the most love. Don’t get me wrong we love a beautiful photo too but we want more. We want to travel deeper, share more and learn more.
Who else is tired of the superficial side of Instagram?