Culture

Meet The Woman Who’s Made A Living Out Of Being Australia’s Best Instagrammer

You're jealous. Admit it.

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The Unstoppables is presented by Westpac

The Unstoppables is a series produced in conjunction with Westpac.

Insta-filter selection is a very serious part of my day, taking up the larger part of the Insta-uploading process. Obviously there are your staple skin clearing, contouring classics like Amaro or Sierra, the warming tones of Rise, basic black and whites or Kelvin if you like being unpopular and yuck. But for Lauren Bath, Australia’s most successful Instagrammer, the social media platform is not simply a delightful dip into narcissism, it’s a living.

“I was 28 and I’d just left my partner of ten years. One of the main reasons was because I wanted to travel. I left for about three months and came back to stay with my parents in the Gold Coast,” she says. And it was there, having taken a huge risk to follow her dreams, Lauren came across Instagram.

Calling in from an ‘Insta-meet up’ in Vancouver, Lauren Bath has become an unstoppable force online and in travel photography. Scrolling through her feed is a thumbnail sized journey around the world. It’s hard not to get a little jealous watching the ex-office worker live out her dream on snowy mountain peaks, sunny golden coastlines and lush rainforests. There are also the regular occurrences: otters and miniature ponies because otters and miniature ponies!

“I wasn’t as quick to get on board as you’d think. I certainly signed up during the first year but maybe ten months late,” Lauren says of jumping on the Insta-bandwagon, which was kicked out of the sheds way back in 2010. “I’d just got my first iPhone and was taking photos of stupid things… I came across a post on my RSS Feed about this ‘Insta-photo’ thing and how much fun it was – that it was a bit like Facebook but more fun and I was like, ‘Anything more fun than Facebook has to be good.’ I had no idea it was even about photography!”

You really otter take social media more seriously.

Since her first upload (a selfie her boyfriend took on her phone, since deleted), Lauren has clocked over 3,000 uploads. The result is up to 375,000 followers who smash the ‘like’ button on each of the four images she puts up each day. But, she didn’t get there by taking endless snaps of the amateur leaf a barista drew in her coffee.

“I suppose being an early adopter it was easier to stumble on this fresh community who taught me a little about filters, how to communicate and find interesting feeds – so I started getting a little more creative with my iPhone shots and taking part in daily photo challenges, like the one on today which is “#blackandwhitechallenge”.

Despite the ever so noble #nomakeup and #nofilter hashtags, few of Instagram’s 300 million users are famous for keeping it real, though for Lauren it’s everything. “I had a defining moment early on,” she says. “They had a big Insta-meet on Hamilton Island where I’d be able to network. I dumped a heap of weight, bought all these really expensive cocktail dresses, wearing a tonne of make up, I wasn’t swearing… what I’m saying was I wasn’t being myself. There was a lot of media there, some print journos and I thought a few people would pick me up, I thought it was going to be my break and nothing happened. And when the campaign ended I hit a complete dead-end. And looking back, I can see pretty obviously it was because, for the first time in my life, I wasn’t myself.

“So, when an opportunity finally came through again I was pretty forward. I was like, ‘Do I have to wear make-up?’ And the client said, ‘Well how do you usually look?’ And I said, ‘Well I usually look like this!'”

Just a regular day on Lauren’s #MyDubai campaign.

A favourite joke of Twitter and Facebook skeptics is that “social media is making us more anti-social.” On the contrary, the Queenslander says she owes pretty much her whole career to the real relationships she found on Instagram:

“Community and being engaged online means genuinely socialising and wanting to be apart of a conversation. None of this was just self-promotion,” she says with a slight dig to her critics. “There is a give and take in social media and people can see if you’re genuine pretty quick. When I needed help getting started, people were so happy to help with tips or technicalities. If I needed help getting a cool effect on a waterfall or with shutter-speed you could just follow the hashtags and ask. Now I’ve progressed a little myself I make sure I still take the time to respond.”

“I quit my job with nothing on the table, nothing coming up and no reason to believe anything would happen but I had been invited to a few media calls from tourism groups,” which Lauren explains are her main source of work. She’s been picked up by bookings.com, Top Deck and Royal Caribbean. “As you can imagine, the general print media sends in journalists, shows them a great time, they do a million activities, don’t sleep and try to write up their articles so a few days later they will show up in print media,” she says. “But I went along and just had to admit to myself, ‘Hey, these photos are kind of shit. I’m not out shooting sunrises or quiet spots, I’m at a fucking six-course degustation dinner that’s not really helping my photography.’ So I was just kinda thinking this isn’t not what I want to do, so I asked myself what I really wanted to do.”

mountain

What does your workplace look like? This is Lauren’s.

It’s Lauren’s ability to post photos in the moment, with no delay between her experience and the delivery, which has convinced clients of her value and enabled her make photography a full time career. Well I wanted to take pictures, I wanted to take pictures I liked, that would engage with my followers on social media and let me continue on my journey on photography and things like that. So I said to myself, if I want to do the things I like I need to be able to justify my existence, I need to explain to these destinations what I can offer and have them trust me and be able to go in and do things my way,” she says. “Even to the point now where I structure a full package of photography with blogging and even how to continue their online campaign long after I’ve left the sit.”

As for hashtags, Lauren Bath says: “Look, they’re not absolutely vital but very important. Make sure your caption is first and foremost about you. But a sweet tip is you can always put the hashtags in the comments section and that achieves the same thing without anyone noticing you did it!”

Go and get inspired/jelly at Lauren’s incredible Instagram account here.

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Brendan Maclean is a musician, actor, writer and occasional triple j presenter. He tweets from @macleanbrendan