I have loved photography since I can remember. I grew up in a house that holds boxes and albums full of family photographs and holiday snaps. One of the things I enjoy most when I travel is spending time taking photos of the places I visit. I enjoy it as a hobby and I love having the memories to look back on. I love Instagram and following other people’s day-to-day and travels via the social media platform.
The trouble comes when Instagram takes over reality to a point where it makes us feel bad about ourselves. There are dozens of luxury travel accounts that post absolutely stunning pictures of beautiful influencers in remote corners of the world, shots empty of other tourists in the background and amazing birds eye views of tropical islands captured by drones. I follow some of them. I think they can be great to encourage people to want to see more and to travel to places they may not otherwise be aware of. They’re an escape, too – it’s nice to look at a pretty photo, right? The thing to bear in mind is, it’s quite literally these people’s jobs to make destinations look that desirable. They are paid to do that. They spend a lot of time on those photographs, and no matter what you think of that as a job or career, that is what it is. But we need to remember that this is not real.
I’ve often wondered what it would be like to backpack now in terms of how Instagram affects people and the way they travel. When I first travelled in 2011 Instagram barely existed. I took hundreds of photos on my trip – loads of landscapes, plenty of photos of friends and me jumping in front of sunsets and there’s a whole sub category of photos of me staring off into the distance taking in a view. Clichéd, sure, and perhaps viewed as a bit wanky by some, but it was fun. I am all for an organised fun photo. But those pictures took a few quick shots to capture, not twenty minutes of dozens of different poses and outfit changes – something that actually happens now. A friend who has spent a lot of time recently backpacking tells me he’s seen people walk into cenotes in full length gowns. This isn’t Vogue, people.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to take nice photos on holiday. There’s no issue in asking your partner or your friends to take a few photos of you on a swing on the beach or relaxing by the pool in your new floppy hat or whatever. Want to post a fire selfie? Great! I want to see you looking confident and happy with how you look and I will comment telling you just how much you’re slaying. The problem comes when we feel like we have to be at 100 all the time; when we worry we don’t look good enough or slim enough, haven’t nailed the right angles, the photo isn’t ‘wow’ enough. The problem lies where it takes over your life (or holiday) to the point where you’re spending half an hour orchestrating a photoshoot by the infinity pool of your all inclusive resort in order to get the ‘perfect’ photo for Instagram, constantly analysing the angle of your body and the way the light falls on your skin before you’re happy with one to put on your grid.
Take beach photos, take pictures by the pool, take all the clichéd snapshots you want – enjoy it! Just don’t spend all your time at one of the great wonders of the world solely doing so – don’t miss everything around you. The reason you’ve travelled (I hope) is to experience different cultures, see unique sights, relax – not because somewhere is ‘instagrammable’. Having photos to treasure from your travels serves as a wonderful trip down memory lane, but don’t miss making the memories in the first place for the perfect shot. Drink in the places you travel to. Don’t let Instagram make you feel like you’re not good enough. It’s supposed to be fun, not bring you stress and anxiety over the next photo you’re posting. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather see a photo of someone looking like they are genuinely having a good time on their trip instead of what looks like an outtake from a high fashion shoot with a five figure budget. Let’s bring a bit more reality back to Instagram.