How Social Media is Messing with Your Travel Photography

Social media is rapidly changing the game in so many industries and creating jobs we never fathomed possible.  I think by now we're pretty well informed on its positive impact on society, but today I wanted to talk a little bit about how it can also have negative impacts on you and your photos in relation to travel photography.

Before I go further, I want to preface by saying that I have a love-hate relationship with social media, especially Instagram.  I love finding crazy talented and inspiring individuals, new places to explore, and communities bringing like-minded creatives together.  But on the flip side, it can bring you deep into the comparison trap and feeling inadequate.  While I'm well aware of the positive aspects of social media, I'm going to be focusing just on the negative aspects and how to overcome them on todays post.

Taking the fun out of creativity

It's totally normal (and okay!) to want to see how other photographers are capturing your new destination before you arrive.  But remember to take inspiration for what it is.  If you must get a famous shot of something, then by all means, go for it.  But don't go there just to get "that" photo that you saw on Instagram.  You don't want to spend your entire trip trying to purposefully get the exact photos that others have taken before you.  

Sometimes it's difficult to come to a place and try to see it with fresh eyes, especially if it's a place that's been photographed a million times before - I totally get it.  Do your best to capture what makes that destination unique to your experience.  Capture your postcard-worthy shot and then move on and take creativity into your own hands.  What new vantage points can you discover?  What details do you notice?  How does this place make you feel?  For more ideas, you can also check out my post on tips to capture your next adventure.

A perfect example of me falling for social media trends: taking this "coveted" photo at a popular coffee shop in LA. Anyone who knows me or follows my work can instantly tell that this photo is not very "me" at all.

A perfect example of me falling for social media trends: taking this "coveted" photo at a popular coffee shop in LA. Anyone who knows me or follows my work can instantly tell that this photo is not very "me" at all.

Perfectly juxtaposed with the photo on the left, this photo here is totally "me".  I had my fiancee snap this photo of me at Yosemite and I really think it captures who I am and how I look when I'm photographing.

Perfectly juxtaposed with the photo on the left, this photo here is totally "me".  I had my fiancee snap this photo of me at Yosemite and I really think it captures who I am and how I look when I'm photographing.

Social media can sometimes give us tunnel vision.  It can make us think we need to follow the trends, especially with mobile photography by framing, posing, or editing a certain way.  Think about how you would photograph if social media didn't exist - how would you frame or edit the shot?

It's not always about being wildly creative or unique, but take the time to realize what makes you you and how you can utilize that instead of drawing inspiration from others.

Getting into the comparison trap

This is a big one.  It's so easy to come back from a trip super pumped about your photos only to find someone on Instagram who's taken the same photos, but their's are ten times better.  There's two things you can do about this.

The first is to remove yourself from scrolling through social media.  I'm not saying delete your accounts.  Just take a break from looking through your news feeds and use that time to relish in your own photos instead.  Go through and edit them, organize them, show them to friends, post them online or on social media!  Looking through and sharing your own photos brings on self confidence about your work and brings the excitement of the trip alive, even after the trip is over.  Combat your knee-jerk reaction to scroll through your news feed with a trip down memory lane in your own photos.

The second thing you can do is this: when you're looking at someone's incredible shot of a place, remember that that shot did not come easy.  They didn't just show up and shoot (most likely).  They probably visited multiple times, waited for a specific time of day, and took a bunch of shots before finally landing on the one that you're comparing yourself to.  They also could have endured extreme conditions or situations to get the shot which may or may not be something that you're interested in in the first place.

With either of these tips, the best thing you can do is figure out how to turn your jealousy into a form of gratitude.  Be grateful to have traveled to an incredible place, to have experienced such a wonderful adventure, or to be on the path towards vastly improving your photography.  Remind yourself of these things and they just might cancel out your disappointment - at least for the moment.

Remember who your photos are for

Chances are those incredible photos you saw on Instagram were either taken for a client or for that person's photography portfolio.  When you're taking photos on your trip, remember who your photos are for.  They're probably not for a client - am I right?  They're for you to remember the incredible adventure that you're on and be able to share that memory with your friends and family.  So keep that in mind when you're scrolling through your social media.  

Cherish your photos and your memories.

A few mobile images from different travels - each of these revolves around a happy memory that I will forever hold dear thanks to these photos :)

If you're new to photography

If you're a new photographer starting out, you may be prone to trying to recreate shots you saw on social media - which is totally okay!  Just remember to explore your own creativity as I mentioned above and see what else you can bring to the table.  That is the only way to discover your style.

Now I'd love to turn it over to you - what challenges has social media brought to your photography?  How have you learned to overcome them?  Or what challenges are you still struggling with?  Please share your thoughts in the comments below!