My name is Lauren Elizabeth Pirie Bath and, until three years ago, I would have told you that I was a chef by trade and a happy one at that.

I was born and raised on the Gold Coast Australia and throughout most of my life I knew that I would work with food. My biological father was a chef, my brother went into an apprenticeship and even my mother had excellent skills in the kitchen, taught by her own mother. I didn’t know what my job would look like, but I researched several possibilities including dietetics and nutrition. With an excellent academic record, I eventually entered university in a food science degree and spent my weekends cooking in a local restaurant.

Lauren Bath in her chef's jacket sipping a glass of wine

At age 27 I was working at a job I loved but I was bored.

I thought that I had things all figured out until my weekends in the kitchen started to mean more to me than my studies and I realized that I wanted to be a chef. When people know what my job is now they often assume that I was dying to escape the clutches of the hospitality industry but the opposite is true. I LOVED being a chef! I was truly passionate about my work and spent countless hours pouring over cookbooks, creating recipes and shopping at farmers markets for the freshest produce. I soaked up knowledge and found myself running one of the best restaurants in Cairns, Kingsford’s, without any formal qualifications. I guess that I’ve always followed my dreams with abandon.

Lauren bath with a purple shirt holding a camera

In early 2012 I was discovering a passion for photography, a journey that I would share with my best friend Garry Norris who took this photo of me.

At age 28 I was working in a job that I loved, I had great friends and hobbies, I was fit and healthy and I was bored stupid. I wanted to TRAVEL, I wanted more out of life and I had what can only be described as “itchy feet”. I moved to the Gold Coast and took a few trips overseas but I soon found another job, met my partner and found myself comfortable again. As much as there is nothing wrong with “comfortable” I was soon feeling bored again and I wondered if my life would have impact, if I could still do something to change my life and the lives of others. Innocent thoughts from a self-confessed responsible adult.

Shells being tossed in the surf on a beach

On an early morning photo shoot I discovered that I could take images that moved people. This photo “The Dancing Shells” was my favorite at the time and received hundreds of comments on Instagram.

It was at this time in my life that I discovered Instagram. Like so many others Instagram changed my life. For a start I realized that I had a creative side outside of the kitchen, I could take photos and I was pretty good at it. First on an iPhone, and soon after on my first Nikon, I was learning the basics of composition and exposure and I was hooked. More so than the picture taking I was discovering I had a voice and Instagram was a platform that I could use it on. I talked about anything and everything with my growing community, my work as a chef, my increasing interest in photography and life in general. Soon it was more than just photography I was hooked on, it was social media too.

A shell submersed in the sand on the beach at sunset

By mid 2012 I had my Instagram formula down pat; shells, sunrises and seagulls. Still to this day I have followers tell me that they don’t care if they ever see another shell photo and others telling me how much they miss them.

I won’t gloss over how it happened, or pretend that I wasn’t aware, but in less than eighteen months I found myself with 200,000 followers. Instagram, once a small intimate social media space, had found it’s feet and people were joining in DROVES. As an established user (I started in August 2011) I was often online, taking pictures daily and my uploads were usually trending on the Popular page, now known as the EXPLORE page. In early 2013 200,000 followers was a BIG deal in Australia and brands were starting to notice me. I secured opportunities with Kia, the Australian tennis open, Hamilton Island and Tourism ACT and all I had to do was take photo’s and share them on Instagram. The glimmering of an idea was starting to form in my mind.

Bright coloured sunset on Hamilton Islands Australia with the silhouette of palm trees

An opportunity to visit Hamilton Island was my first inkling of the possibilities of Instagram in the tourism industry.

On the last day of 2012 I found myself washing dishes at the Italian restaurant I worked in, everybody pitches in on busy nights and New Years Eve is the busiest, and I was just thinking “is this it?” 15 years of cooking, washing dishes, working New Years Eve (and birthdays and Christmases) and moving from restaurant-to-restaurant and I just wasn’t really getting anywhere. Being a vegetarian meant that the big restaurants would never hire me, being a cautious “responsible” adult meant that I would never open my own place. I was just standing still.

The next day I made the decision that would change my life. I would become Australia’s first “professional” instagrammer; I would make my dreams come true.

A bright red crab on Christmas Island

Yes I wanted to go to Christmas Island to photograph red crabs. Yes, Yes, Yes.

So what is a professional “instagrammer”?

Even I didn’t know the answer to that question in early 2013 when I found myself unemployed and armed with just my camera and a healthy Instagram account. I wanted to travel, that itch had never gone away, I wanted to take pictures (and pictures and pictures, I never got enough) and I wanted to use Instagram all the time. I was addicted to the instant gratification that came from sharing my photo’s and the constant inspiration from the many accounts I followed back. I found a scrap of paper and I wrote down this …

  1. Travel
  2. Photography
  3. Social Media

Although I was naïve I vowed that if I was going to work for myself I would always make decisions that led me to those three things.

My next step was to start saying yes to people, yes I would love to go to Christmas Island, yes I would love to watch the Margaret River Surfing Classic in Western Australia, yes I would love to photograph “Behind the Scenery” of pristine Tasmania. Yes, yes, yes BUT you need to pay me…

Photo of baby turtles on the beach between two feet

This photo got almost as much attention for my strange feet as it did for the baby turtles and I realized that day that you need to embrace that which makes you different. I have ugly feet and I don’t care.

I needed to make a living and I didn’t know how. I wasn’t good enough to be a commercial photographer in the tourism industry, and I wasn’t really interested. I also couldn’t justify being paid just to make Instagram posts, not unless I could figure out a way to measure the value of them. I was confident to ask for a payment but not confident on what I was selling and I set about changing that. Through immeasurable conversations with the people I met I started to figure out what I was trying to sell, what the heart of my little business was, and it was inspiration. I wanted to inspire people to travel, nothing more and nothing less. I wanted tourism boards to hire me to inspire people about their destination. I just needed to couple this with a tangible product and I would be on my way.

My tangible product was my early package of services, which has changed little almost three years later. I sell the following

  • Travel Inspiration through an agreed upon number of Instagram posts
  • Social media style photos for my client to use on social media
  • Traffic through linking in my client’s @username and encouraging others to engage with them and,
  • Education, I can’t talk enough about my work and industry and thrive on seeing great results for my clients
Stunning blue water with mountain reflecting in Banff Alberta

One of my biggest early opportunities was to visit Alberta Canada, the first of many trips. It was here that I discovered I could take pretty magical photos, if I was in a magical place. haha

I am not a commercial photographer; the images that I take are good, they will probably never be great. I want people to look at my photos and think ‘I could do that, I could go to that place and take that lovely photo.’ I want the real stories that I share to inspire others to get a ticket and go somewhere. Somewhere local, somewhere far, somewhere cultured, somewhere exotic. Just somewhere. Travel shapes and changes you as a person and, in my mind, there is no greater pursuit than to travel.

Indigenious person in the Northern Territory of Australia

I realized early on that not every travel photograph I was going to take would be a people pleaser and I made my peace with that. I didn’t want to just travel to epic locations like Alberta, I wanted to discover the understated beauty of the Northern Territory too. I didn’t want to just photograph landscapes because people were of interest too.

From humble beginnings my business has expanded rapidly. I’ve found that I have a knack for marketing and a mind for planning and I now run social media campaigns for tourism boards across the globe. I vet and hire the best bloggers, instagrammers and photographers in the world for my projects. I consult on and plan trips that I sometimes don’t even attend. I educate industry and mentor people wanting to work in this field and I even speak at conferences and events.

And at the heart of it all are these three things;

  1. Travel
  2. Photography
  3. Social Media
Arial photo of Wild horses running through a wet field

I might not be an incredible photographer but I’m still new to photography and if this is what I’m shooting just four years after picking up a camera then I’m excited to see what I’ll be shooting in ten.

So when you see me in New Zealand skiing or in Dubai hot air ballooning or somewhere local enjoying simple pleasures I want you to remember that all I want in life is to inspire others to explore and I work damn hard to do that job.

As a one-woman show for almost three years, it’s almost time for me to think about expansion and I have huge ideas about how to help travel brands and destinations market using social media. I want to continue to travel to new places always but to find more time and balance in my personal life too.

Watch this space!

The Wanaka Tree in New Zealand

I might not be an incredible photographer but I’m still new to photography and if this is what I’m shooting just four years after picking up a camera then I’m excited to see what I’ll be shooting in ten.

You might never go hot air ballooning in Dubai but I hope that photos like this inspire people to want to do something. It’s a big and beautiful world out there.

You might never go hot air ballooning in Dubai but I hope that photos like this inspire people to want to do something. It’s a big and beautiful world out there.

 

Koala sleeping in a tree

I’m just as comfortable photographing koalas at my local theme park as I am shooting the northern lights of Finland.

 

Camels on the beach in Australia

If you follow me on any of the many social media platforms I’m now using I hope that you enjoy my simple approach to photography and my genuine passion for travel. Now stop reading this and go do something.