It’s time for April’s Influencer Spotlight Interview: a monthly series designed to provide our influencer community with valuable insider information about the industry.
This month, I chatted with Caitlin Collins: a Berlin-based photographer and influencer who specializes in content creation through her business, Augusta Leigh Photography (named in honor of her grandmother, Augusta Leigh).
Caitlin and I first connected a couple years while traveling as Americans in Europe. I was instantly impressed by her outrageous photography skills and how she found a way to leverage them to move to Germany. As I’ve gotten to know her more and have traveled with her to several countries, I’ve learned so much valuable information that I thought was worth sharing about optimizing content creation for influencers – regardless of whether or not you’re a photographer yourself!
WH: Tell us a little about how you started your photography business and Instagram account.
CC: After finishing college in Texas, I set off to Europe with only a backpack and camera. I did a work exchange program called HelpX for 5 months where you live and work with families in exchange for room and board. I worked at places like farms and bed and breakfast’s and in my free time I wandered around small villages in Europe. This is when I first truly fell in love with photography and realized it was something I wanted to pursue. I began using Instagram to share my travel photos with everyone back home in hopes to convince them to see more of the world too. Fast forward a few years later I posted a photo of a friend standing at Machu Picchu which first got featured by @beautifuldestinations and then went viral. This jump started my Instagram account and my passion for sharing places of the world with others.
WH: You’re certainly good at taking photos of other people, aren’t you!? I’ve traveled with you many times, so I know first-hand some of the lengths you’ll go to for a good picture (ha!) With that said, I also know you’re fantastic about putting the camera away and experiencing what’s happening around you. How do you find this balance and what advice can you offer to fellow content creators who struggle to do both things well?
CC: You know me too well! I loved traveling with you and other like minded friends who have a passion for exploring and like to be on the go. I have struggled with the balance but have found that making a plan early on helps. Make sure you have good communication with your fellow travelers about what you have in mind as far as how the trip goes. It is easier to travel with other photographers who also want to get those great travel shots. You can also part ways on your trips and spend the afternoon doing separate things so that everyone is happy. It is important though to remember it’s not life or death if you don’t get that one shot. So many things come in to play like the weather, transportation problems, or loads of tourists in the way. I try to make sure I allow plenty of time in between shooting to enjoy the destination. Since the lighting is best in the morning and evenings, I try to make sure I get up early on the days I want to capture the sunrise or softer lighting and that I know how to get where I need to be (even if it means a crazy hike) to get to the sunset spot. That way- you have your day free in the middle when it is potentially the hottest or harshest light. I would recommend to people to try not to over-shoot. Sometimes you get camera happy and look back later on and think, “why did I take 15 photos of that one alley?”
WH: Great advice. You’re a content creation queen! Tell us a little about how you’ve leveraged those skills to successfully partner with brands?
CC: I think beyond any skillset there are several very important factors to make a brand partnership successful. For starters, always working with a company that you are truly passionate about! Otherwise it’s fake and people can typically see right through it. I also think think it’s important to always use clear communication with your clients regarding everything from deliverable expectations to deadlines (they will always appreciate efficient and timely work!) And of course, always use high quality equipment and editing tools to produce optimal content.
WH: Let’s talk more about editing. Your photos have such an identifiable style. What kind of feedback have you received from the brands you’ve worked with? I imagine they would appreciate that consistency…
CC: Yes, For the most part, I think I’ve always had great feedback because I try to ask a lot of questions and make sure before posting anything that it is something that they like! As you know, I obviously love color and light. I absolutely love working for brands because it gives you the creativity to try new things. It’s super fun taking a product that you like and bringing a photo to life with it. Every brand is different though and one has to be sensitive to who their target audience.
WH: What’s your favorite project that you’ve worked on to date and why?
CC: Probably a really fun collaboration I recently did with Rail Europe (3 Days in the Swiss Alps with Rail Europe). I got to bring one of my best friends along as we traveled around the Swiss Alps by train with some of the best views in the world. I got to photograph quaint architecture, snowy mountaintops, eat fondue, and dive into the brilliant Swiss culture. It was a dream!
WH: That does sound idyllic! Let’s shift gears for a minute. In addition to travel photography, you also have developed a business centered around food photography in Berlin. Tell us a little about that journey and what it’s like capturing content for multiple verticals.
CC: I’ve always been fascinated with food photography. When I was younger I was always experimenting in the kitchen and practicing food styling. When I moved to Berlin I got a job freelancing for Deliveroo where I got to take photos of restaurants and food for their website. Later on, I ventured into partnering with hotels and taking photos for them as well as writing articles about the food and experience. Travel and food go hand in hand pretty seamlessly, and both are so much fun! Not only do I get to take fun photos, travel around Berlin and explore cool neighborhoods, I also get to meet amazing foodies from all over the world (and eat the food!)
WH: Not a bag gig! What advice would you give to someone looking to get started monetizing their influence?
CC: Again, I would first recommend that they only promote products that they are passionate about- paid or not. I think it’s important to feel good about what you are sharing with your followers. Secondly, I would suggest taking lifestyle photos with the products and make them fun for the viewers. Once you have a portfolio of images, get out there and pitch yourself as much as you can! The more you do this and build the range of projects with your name on it, the sooner you’re likely to get brands knocking on your door.
WH: Have any predictions about “what’s next” in the influencer world?
CC: Yikes. It’s always changing so it’s hard to say! I heard recently that channels like Instagram and Facebook may come and go, but your website is where the real power is. Start making an e-mail list ASAP and focus on having a professional website that has a niche and isn’t all over the place (easier said than done though, right!?)
WH: Yes, social channels are certainly only one piece of the pie! Speaking of those platforms, what’s the biggest change you’ve noticed in the landscape of Instagram or Facebook, and how have you adjusted?
CC: I noticed that the Instagram algorithm is definitely not showing people in order anymore. A lot of times I see posts from 5 days ago and none of the recent ones from my friends. I try to just post what I love and engage with people that are interactive with my feed. I love making connections with other photographers and travel lovers so I really love Instagram for that. I think it’s a great platform to share your work and also talk about important topics, but not something to take too seriously at the end of the day.
WH: Well said! It’s a great way to connect with people from all corners of the world. Speaking of global matters… I know first-hand that the US and Europe have a laundry list of things they approach differently. Have you found doing business there vs. here to be fairly similar or different?
CC: I have noticed hundreds of differences when it comes to culture but when it comes to doing business in Germany, I have found it to be pretty similar. People are very friendly, punctual, and professional when it comes to working here. Instead of just a business transaction though, they want to get to know who they are working with. They are very generous just like they are back home in Texas. Ask me about cultural differences though and I could write a book (ha!) One thing I would love to change though- FREE WATER. I still can’t believe they charge for water at restaurants here. But other than that, I would say they are doing a pretty great job!
WH: Final question: what is the biggest piece of advice you can share with aspiring influencers (or those on the rise?)
CC: Make sure it doesn’t take over your life. Try to balance the amount of time you spend on it and then enjoy the real world. Try to ask questions like “Why do I want this?” and “What point am I trying to get across?” Lately I’ve realized I should start using my platform for things that I really care about: my passion for traveling and convincing other it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to do so, promoting why I am trying to choose a more vegan lifestyle, my interests in talking about plastic usage and how we can work together to save our planet (to name a few!) You have to want it for reasons that are greater than wanting to be an influencer.