Influencers drive the influencer marketing industry. They have interesting stories about how they came to be influencers and why they choose to live their lives via social media.

Their first-hand experience working with brands and expertise in other areas is extremely valuable to other influencers. Our influencer AMA series is where top influencers share their stories, successes and learnings with their peers and aspiring influencers.


— Tell us about your journey from chef to photographer.

I was a chef for 15 years, a career that I loved, when I started using Instagram as a hobby. Because I was working in a job that was relatively low pressure I finally had the time for a new interest and photography became that interest. I was instantly hooked on using the app and within a few months I had my first 5,000 followers.

From there I bought a camera and started to take my photography more seriously. I was still working as a chef throughout a period of massive growth on Instagram and was fortunate to grow from 5,000 followers to 200,000 followers during this time, within 18 months of first downloading the app. From here I made the decision to quit my job to dedicate more time to my photography and have the time to take the travel opportunities that were coming my way. The rest is history!

— That is an amazing and inspiring story and it’s truly impressive how quickly you experienced that growth! Tell us more about your photography philosophy and how you incorporate that when working with brands.

My entire photography philosophy comes down to the fact that I love to shoot my surroundings and I don’t like to limit myself to a niche, luckily that philosophy works incredibly well in the travel industry. I approach each job as an opportunity to capture a variety of subjects and to tell the story of my travels through a series of images, rather than a single image. Instagram is the perfect platform for me in that way.

— Your philosophy definitely pays off, your photographs are truly stunning. What are your favorite tools to use? Camera, accessories, editing software, etc.

Thank you! I’m using the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II camera and a full range of professional lenses. I use Lee filters, a Gitzo tripod and an f-stop camera bag. All of my editing is done in Photoshop but I take roughly 3 minutes to edit a shot, all the hard work is done in camera.

— What was your first brand collaboration? In what way is that similar to what you’re doing now?

Like so many others my first opportunity was with Daniel Wellington watches. Haha. This was way, way back before anyone had heard of them. I must have been one of the first influencers to ever work with them, it was 2012. I was paid with a watch and I did a branded post.

My methods since then have changed a LOT! For a start I only work with tourism boards and a handful of travel related brands that are very closely aligned with my own brand. I also charge fair rates depending on the job; sponsored posts cost more than travel-based campaigns. I am very conscious of only posting content that is of value to my audience and creating the same work that I would create if this wasn’t my job.

— I love your commitment to quality content and staying authentic to your voice! What is the most unique campaign/ collaboration you’ve worked on?

I’ve worked on a lot of unique jobs but one of the most exciting was when I was the campaign manager for an Australian influencer campaign in Dubai. I hand picked 22 Australian Instagrammers to come on the trip plus facilitated a competition to select two winners to join us. With the gang of 24, plus me, we hit Dubai in a big way and to this day I think it’s still the biggest instagrammer campaign for a tourism board in the world.

— Wow, that sounds amazing! Tell us about some of the biggest obstacles you face in creating sponsored content or in brand collaborations?

Definitely educating the client on what works and what doesn’t work. There’s too many brands trying to use influencers as an advertising platform without taking into account the fact that they know their own audience better than anyone else. I flatly refuse work for a variety of reasons on a daily basis. A big piece of advice for anyone looking to work with influencers is to take the time to listen to them and respect their creative judgement.

— I really could not agree with you more and I am constantly advocating that marketers should bring influencers into the creative process and let them help to create the campaigns. Let’s switch gears a little bit. You started a conference! Tell us about how you decided on that undertaking and what it’s been like so far.

I’ve actually started TWO conferences! The initial idea came from Georgia Rickard; she came to me and said “We should start a conference where a travel writer, a travel instagrammer and a travel blogger get together to teach other people how to get paid to travel.” I thought it was a great idea and suggested Elizabeth Carlson as our blogger and the Travel Bootcamp was born! Each of us are so successful in our respective industries and so passionate about protecting these industries that we looked at it as an opportunity to help mold the next generation of travel influencers and writers.

From here the obvious next step was to branch out into industry and teach them the best practices on how to work with people like us; how to choose influencers, how to write new media itineraries, how to combine new and traditional media in the best ways possible and many more of the questions we are asked by clients regularly. The new event debuts in September and is called the “Modern Travel Media Summit” and we have secured TravMedia as our major sponsor.

On both sides of the table we want to help others, help strengthen the industry and give both aspiring influencers and brands a platform to learn and share.

— That is wonderful to hear, I think we are in a unique position to help shape how the industry will evolve and I love to see trailblazers like you getting involved! Now for one last question and I am really intrigued to hear your answer. Do you have any predictions for Influencer Marketing in 2017 and beyond?

As traditional marketing and advertising continue to change I predict seeing more interest in influencer marketing but I think this will reach a tipping point as brands start to realize the importance of choosing the right influencers and doing their due diligence in recruiting people that are truly influential.

In the coming years I also expect to see an increase in the amount of brands dedicating resources to detecting when a potential influencer has cheated. I predict that these people will be held accountable if they have grown their accounts using unfair methods, for example buying likes and followers and enlisting pod mentality to increase their engagement. These numbers contribute nothing to the campaigns they are hired to work on and I believe fraud cases will eventually ensue in court.

Influencer marketing will only remain a viable marketing option if influencers maintain professionalism and integrity in their endeavors.

— Very insightful! Thank you again so much for taking the time to share your story and thoughts with us!

Learn more about Lauren by visiting her profile.