The Life of an Instagram Photographer

By Emily Albertson, featuring @robybabcock

As a Social Media Coordinator, I have the opportunity to document different Pro Photo Supply events in a variety of locations. I tweet, photograph and post about our classes and lectures in our Event Center, photo walks around Portland, and workshops at special venues, such as our Winery photography workshop at Catalana Cellars over the summer. During the winter however, the weather and short days can be pretty limiting, causing me to be stuck in the office in front of my computer most days.

As you can assume, my office isn’t abundant with creative content, so I decided last week to get out of the office and to go on a “content creation” hike with Instagram Photographer Roby Babcock. Since Roby was introduced to photography and instagram four years ago, he now has amassed a following of over 44,400 on the popular photo-sharing app. Roby now goes out and photographs his adventures in the great outdoors on his days off, at least twice a week, along with his energetic silver lab pup Murphy.

Roby with his dog Murphy by Emily Albertson, Pro Photo Supply

We headed out on a cloudy morning to Abiqua Falls, a waterfall east of Salem that is a popular shooting spot for experienced nature photographers and novice instagram shooters alike. But for how many photos I have seen of the falls, I was shocked by how hard it was to get there. First we had to drive down a road blemished with giant craters (I do not recommend it without 4-wheel drive) and then we had to hike a steep and completely unmaintained trail to the river, which we would follow to the falls. The hike is short, less than a mile, but the only things to hold onto were giant nurse logs and old ropes, which were actually helpful since the trail has become so eroded from rain and frequent hikers.

When you do get to the waterfall though, it is easy to see why people find it so photogenic. With a cascading waterfall in the middle of a vast rock face, Abiqua falls is perfect for a wide-angle capture. Roby and Murphy immediately headed across the river to get a shot of the falls from a more unique perspective, a long-exposure shot from stage-left with the river stones in the foreground.

Abiqua Falls by Emily Albertson, Pro Photo Supply

As I watched Roby at work, a young couple came up the trail toward the waterfall. They looked about 19, and carried a tripod, camera and a pendleton blanket. Now that is the photo that I have seen many times before. Another couple of girls came up after them, immediately stacking rocks for their own mini photo shoot.

 

Six was beginning to feel like a crowd, so Roby, Murphy and I headed to Upper and Lower Butte Creek Falls, two small falls that are only a few minutes away from Abiqua. After our hike, we headed back to the car and wrestled Murphy into the back (Murphy always runs away when he knows it’s time to head home). As we made our way back to Portland, I asked Roby a few questions about what it’s like to be an Instagram photographer.

Pro Photo Supply: When did you first join Instagram?

Roby Babcock: I joined about 4 years ago, after I moved back to Portland. I was pretty lonely at the time, so I started going to Instagram meet ups in town. It was a great way to meet people and try something new. I’ve made some really great friends through Instagram.

PPS: What do you like to shoot?

RB: I started with landscapes because I was hiking so often, but my work started to become stagnant. I stopped getting followers because of it. I think people get bored with just pretty photos of nature that aren’t unique or identifiable in any way. But when I started taking photos of Murphy on our hikes, I noticed how many people loved him. So now I usually post 2 dog photos for every landscape photo.

PPS: What do you bring on a photo hike?

RB:  

  • Canon 6D
  • 24-105mm lenss
  • 16-35mm lens
  • MeFOTO tripod
  • Smartphone charger
  • Rain jacket and boots
  • A sandwich and a beer
  • Murphy
  • And for this hike, a Canon 8-15mm f4 Fisheye lens. (courtesy of Pro Photo Supply’s rental department)

PPS: What does a usual shooting day look like?

RB: I’ll go hiking with Murphy, take some photos, take a few videos during the hike for my Instagram story, then I’ll post the videos all at once when I get back into a service area. I usually post every day in the evening. And then I can spend up to two hours responding to people’s comments.

PPS: Two hours??

RB: Yeah, I get a lot of comments. And a lot of them are hard to respond to because they are just one-word compliments, but it’s important to interact with your followers. They appreciate interaction and honesty.

PPS: Do you make any money as an Instagram photographer?

RB: Sometimes, but I have to contact businesses pretty frequently. When you get to a certain number of followers, companies will give you free stuff to feature their product in a post, but I don’t need more stuff. It’s harder to actually get paid with money. I have been able to get Murphy sponsored, so that’s nice. I’m currently working on finding companies who need social media marketing, but it’s still a part-time thing.

PPS: What advice would you give to an aspiring Instagram photographer?

RB: I don’t really know why people ask that question. Everyone is unique in their style and story, so I can’t really give advice to a different person. The only advice I can give is that you need your own perspective, and then just work on it. Get better at that one thing you like, and not a bunch of things you don’t really care about.

Follow @robybabcock

You can check out the rest of Roby’s work on Instagram.

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