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Practical Tips to Improve Your Travel Photography – They’re easy and effective too!

August 23, 2017

As the technology that goes into cameras improves, one could be forgiven for thinking that you can just sit back and relax after the photo’s taken, and by all means, you can.

Or you can do better without too much effort!

If you would like to take your holiday snaps to the next level, we suggest choosing your favourite few and running them through a program on your computer or phone to really bring out the best them.  It’s incredible what a difference spending just a minute or so on each photograph can do.

How we Bring Out the Best in our Photos

Let me start by saying, we’re not professional photographers (obviously, right?), we’re just a couple that enjoy capturing our holiday memories and sharing them with you.

We have however picked up a few simple tricks along the way to bring out the best in our photos and figure, if we can improve our photos, so can you.

Tap into Instagram

Regardless of whether we choose to post a photo to Instagram or not, this free app is our go-to editing tool.  If you see a photo on our blog, chances are we’ve run it through the photo editor on there.

Just Editing?  Flight mode’s your friend

If you’re not wanting to post your photo to Instagram, just flick your phone into flight mode.  This will disrupt your internet/data connection and when you go to publish the photo, you’ll find Instagram saves the new copy in your photo folder without publishing it to your feed.

Make sure you remember to delete out the queue though, otherwise the photos will automatically publish when you’re next online.

Lux it up!

Instagram followers a variety of different filters and though we played around with them when we first started using the app, we use one almost exclusively now – and it may be one you’re not even aware of.

Before doing anything else, I play around with the Lux option, testing out the impact that it will have on my photos.  Generally notching it up results in crisper, brighter photos with improved exposure.

From there, I sometimes go on to make additional edits, but often find that’s all a photo needs.

The ‘lux‘ filter sits apart from the rest in the app – you’ll find it on the top of the first editing screen (look for the sun icon), as opposed to sitting in the carousel below.

Other Useful Edits

If you flick over from ‘Filter’ to ‘Edit‘ on the bottom of your screen, you’ll find a series of options that all you to change one element at a time.

Not all photos require changes to be made here but I’ll sometimes use the following:

Brightness – If your photo was snapped in a dark location, a touch of brightness can make a world of difference to the details in it.

Structure – This can add definition to your photos, bringing out the details that might otherwise go unnoticed.  It’s especially well suited to architectural features and water but doesn’t always do well in photos with people.  Bumping up the structure generally increases the contrast and sharpness of an image so it can work wonders on the right photo – if you’ve already used ‘lux’ then be mindful of how much ‘structure’ you add on top.

Warmth – I don’t generally play with this setting but do find some cameras tend to produce colours skewed to being either too warm or cool (my GoPro for example), in which case I’ll do my best to correct it.

Saturation – Another one that I dont tend to use if I’ve ‘lux’ed my photos but I will sometimes amend the saturation (both up and down) so ensure my images are bright but close to life.

Vignette – Sometimes when you use ‘lux’ on your photos, some of the shadows are removed.  If this happens, I’ll sometimes add darkness back to the corners of my photo using this option.  It can also add a bit of variation to an otherwise plain blue sky and bring clouds to life.

Sharpen – Again, some cameras tend to take softer photos, in which case I’ll use the sharpen option to bring definition to the details should the picture need it.

You can do a lot by altering your photos but we always try to keep them as close as possible to what we saw with our own eyes.  Because we’re not professional photographers, we tend to shoot on ‘auto’ which means we don’t get the most out of our cameras generally speaking – by following these easy editing steps though, we find it pretty easy to bring life to our snaps and hope you’ll be able to too!

If you’re keen to see the difference some simple editing in Instagram can make, check out these examples.

As always, click to enlarge (if you want to see the details) – the first of each is the original photo and the second is the edited version.

We recon it’s worth spending a few extra moments to bring out the best in our photos – what do you think?

Looking for a great camera to up your photography game?  Check out these travel camera recommendations!

If you’ve found this post helpful, pin it so others can find it too!

An easy guide to editing travel photos on your mobile phone. Instagram is your secret editing tool to bring out the best in your vacation snaps! An easy guide to editing travel photos on your mobile phone. Instagram is your secret editing tool to bring out the best in your vacation snaps!

blogging Blogging 101

Is it Time to Reach Out to Companies for Complimentary Experiences and Products?

August 15, 2017

If you’ve been blogging for a while you may be thinking about connecting with other travel-related businesses.  Doing so can be a great way to further grow your content whilst saving yourself some money in the process.

Just how does one go about securing complimentary services and products in exchange for reviews though?

That’s what we’re here to help with!

Do I Have Enough Followers/Hits to Start Reaching Out?

It’s easy to look around at other bloggers and think that your social following isn’t high enough or that you’re not getting enough hits to your blog.

Try to ignore that if you can.  What you can offer is potentially of great value so don’t let those doubts get to you!

A limited number of views to a well-targeted, engaged audience is worth more than a great number of views made by an unengaged, un-targeted audience.  The rise of the micro-influencer is real!

Think about those times you’ve seen a friend post a review on their Facebook wall and you’ve thought ‘awesome, I’ll have to check that out for myself’.

The content you create works in the same way for your followers, regardless of how many there are.

What matters more than your stats is what exactly you can offer.  For any deal to make sense it has to work for both parties, but don’t worry, chances are you bring a lot more to the table than you even know.  Sometimes quality does matter more than quantity.

Be Genuine – Keep your niche in mind

First of all, it’s important that the companies you reach out to are ones that you would want to promote in the first place.  If you weren’t receiving a complimentary product or service would you still be interested in them?  If there wasn’t a trade off, would you still want to write a feature on your blog?

As a travel blog looking at bucket-list adventures, it wouldn’t make sense, for example, for us to partner with a fitness supplement.  We’re not an authority in that space and it’s not an area that either of us have a particular interest in (though for our own health, we probably should be!)  By comparison though, we love connecting with brands that offer adventure activities, city exploration, memorable accommodation, tech gear and adventure clothing brands.

Seriously, look at some of the amazing companies we’ve had the pleasure of working with and places we’ve been.  We love them through and through and that’s what it’s all about.

If the brand you’re thinking of approaching spins your wheels then you’re off to a great start.

It’s Not Always About the Numbers

Ignoring your statistics first of all, what is it that you’re good at?

Do you write highly engaging narrative style blog posts?  Is quality research second nature to you?  Can you write an informative city guide with the best of them?

Maybe you have a keen eye for photography or a knack for being in front of the video?  Are you personable beyond compare, with the ability to build genuine relationships with people from any background?

If you take your audience out of the equation, you’ll be able to focus on finding your point of difference without the self-doubt that may have plagued you earlier.

I’m not suggesting for a moment that your audience doesn’t matter but let’s pretend for a second that you don’t have anyone reading your blog (though clearly that isn’t the case!)… if you create amazing content which is then shared on by the company that you’ve worked alongside, that content still has value, right?

Likewise, if you create an amazing post now that lives permanently on your site which over time grows in popularity, that post continues to reach your growing audience.

Let’s Put the Numbers Back in the Equation – Look on the bright side

Every business has a strength.

Take us for example – though we started with the blog, it was Instagram that really grew initially for us so when we first started reaching out to potential collaborative partners, we made sure to explain our key strength – social media.

We use our media kit to share the information that potential collaborative partners might need to see to make their decision but focus on what we do best in regards to statistics.

We intentionally share our key blog demographs (specifically age, gender and location) as that information can really help a business decide if our audience fits within their target market.

You’ll notice we also provide testimonials from previous collaborations and links to some of the posts we’ve written so people can see we’re the real deal.  Unfortunately we’ve heard of some bloggers (though fortunately we don’t know any ourselves that fall into this category) who have a bad habit of over-promising and under-delivering – for this exact reason, we share details of some of our previous successful campaigns.

Whatever you do though, be honest in the information that you share.  It’s one thing to celebrate your strengths and focus on what you do well – it’s another thing to inflate what you’re able to offer.

So, Is It Time?

Quite possibly, yes.

Regardless of where you’re at on your journey, consider what you can bring to the table.  Can you offer something to a business that will potentially bring them genuine new leads?  Are you able to write a review so amazing that you’ll convince people to support them (only if they deserve it of course!)?

Try not to get caught up on what you’re currently developing and instead celebrate what you can offer.

Above all, any exchange should be a fair one.  Bloggers who are able to offer a lot generally require an additional payment for the services, whereas newer bloggers may still be required to make a partial payment on a high-value product or service.  When you consider what your time and offering is worth it will give you an idea as to what the trade-off might be.

Businesses are out there and as long as you’re honest in the information you share and put your best foot forward, at the very least you’ll provide businesses with the information they need to make an informed decision.

Would you like our opinion?  If you’d like to leave a link to your site in the comments below we’d be more than happy to share our thoughts as to whether you’re ready to start pitching.  Need help working out what you point of difference is?  We’d be happy to work with you to figure that out too!

blogging Blogging 101

How to Start Your Own Blog – A Beginner’s Guide

June 5, 2017

If you’ve been following our blog and thinking we have the best job in the world, you may just be right!

Travel blogging is certainly more work than it may look on first impression but there’s little better than playing a role in helping people live out their travel dreams to see the world.

We love it and you just might too!

If you’re thinking of starting your own blog – whether it’s travel, lifestyle, fitness, food or anything at all – we’ll talk you through the basics and have you on your way in no time.

If you have a message worth sharing (and yes, you do), we’ll help you find the platform to do so.

1. Decide on a Name

If you’re going to put yourself out there as a brand, you want to ensure it’s catchy, represents you well and will grow with you.

Will your brand still represent you in five years time?  

Will it work if you decide to move countries or have a change of lifestyle?

Does it clearly relate to your chosen field? 

Are people likely to misspell it and end up somewhere else?

Whatever brand you decide to go with it should last the test of time and make a great first impression with potential visitors.  Before anyone gets to know you, they’ll first come across your brand name – you want it to be awesome!

2. Lock-Down Your Social Media Accounts

Once you’ve got a name for yourself, take a look at various social media sites and check that your accounts at still available.  In an ideal word, you’ll want to have the same username for everything.

For example, regardless of whether you check on Pinterest or Facebook, you’ll find we’re Exploring Kiwis.  The same goes for all of our social media accounts.

Having the same name throughout all of your accounts makes it easy for people to find you and helps your brand look professional off the bat.

We suggest you start off with a Facebook business page along with a Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest account.  You don’t have to use them all right away but you don’t want someone sneaking in and snapping them up before you.

What if your accounts aren’t available anymore?  If you’ve got another brand option that was a close second, I’d suggest reconsidering that one.  If you’re set on your first choice then consider adapting your social media username – we could have been @exploringkiwistravel, for example.

3.  Stake Your Claim on the Web

What’s a blogger without a blog?

Though there are lots of platforms out there, you’ll hear a few names mentioned time and time again – WordPress, Blogger and Squarespace, most commonly.

I’ve used Blogger outside of travel blogging and though it is easy to use it doesn’t have anywhere near the level of flexibility that WordPress offers.

Remember, whatever you decide, you want it to be able to grow with you.

For this reason, we strongly suggest signing up with WordPress – it’s free to do so and super straight-forward.  Before you do this though, you’ll want to read the next step…

4. Find Your Blog a Place to Live

Once you’ve decided on WordPress (because you have, haven’t you?), you’ll need to figure out whether you want to be hosted on their servers (.com) or if you’ll decide to be self-hosted (.org).

If you’re planning to blog for an audience, you’ll want to be self-hosted from the get-go.  Doing this means that you’ll be able to host ads on your site when the time comes, you’ll have access to a professional looking email (which will be vital if you decide to reach out to companies seeking sponsorship or a collaboration) and you’ll be able to load up a variety of themes and plugins to customise your new blog.

When we first started Exploring Kiwis, we signed up for hosting with BlueHost based on the recommendation of some of the bigger bloggers.  Knowing what we know now though, we couldn’t make this recommendation ourselves to anyone.  Our site was frequently down and the customer service team wasn’t particularly helpful.

Based on the recommendation of our more down-to-earth blogging friends, we made the move to SiteGround and couldn’t be happier!

Web Hosting

We signed up to the StartUp plan and the team helped us every step of the way, transferring our blog over for us and, later, helping us transfer from http to https.  When you start with them, be sure to load up your https certificate right away (you guessed it, they’ll help with that) to give your site the best chance of being picked up by Google.

Psssst: If you’re ready to sign up, you can get 60% off hosting by using our SiteGround link!  The StartUp plan is normally USD9.95/month but for you guys it’s only USD3.95/month.

All you need to do is sign up to the plan you want through SiteGround by following these steps…

First of all, choose the plan that will serve your initial needs – for most people that will be StartUp.  Don’t worry if you plan to grow your blog, there is flexibility with the page views and it’s easy to upgrade when the time comes that you need a bit more grunt.

Next up you’ll either need to supply them with your existing domain name or register for a new one.   It’s much more professional to have a custom link (like than .adding wordpress into the mix) so again, set yourself up for the long term – do it once and do it right.

If you already have an established blog, hosted elsewhere, SiteGround will take care of the transfer for you at no charge – honestly, this team was a godsend when we came to do our transfer.  They made the whole process so easy!

With those steps completed, all you’re left to do is to decide on how long you’d like to sign up for, enter your payment details and go ahead and load up Word-Press with their 1-click installer.

Too easy!

If you’re not technically inclined then drop SiteGround a message through chat – they’ll help you through the process of adding WordPress to your account (whether it be through their 1-click installer if you’re setting up a new blog or a transfer for your existing one).

5. Fine-Tune Your Blog

Now that you’re set up you can have some fun choosing a theme, adding an ‘About Me’ page, setting up your author profile and just generally getting your site looking great.

Themes and styles are easy enough to change so don’t get too caught up this – find something that will do the trick for now and have a go at making a simple logo to represent your brand.  We chose a font we liked the look of and made a logo ourselves – it doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy.

Before you start publishing posts, we do suggest you take the date format out of the URLs – apparently Google prefers this and you want to do everything you can to start growing your organic traffic.  It’s a slow game but one you want to start working on from day one.

To do this head into Settings and then Permalinks – set this to the post name option.

In addition, to get your blog functioning well we suggest you also add the following free plugins:

  • Yoast SEO – Get a head-start on making your blog Google-friendly.
  • Akismet Anti-Spam – This will prevent spammy comments from overtaking your site.
  • Contact Form 7 – Add this to your contact page so people can easily message you (you don’t want to miss out on that sponsored post, after all!)
  • SumoMe – Here you’ll find lots of options to help you convert readers to potential subscribers and help generally spread the word about your awesome new blog!
  • Ultimate Nofollow – When you do eventually work with brands, it’s important that you use ‘no-follow’ links so your site isn’t penalised by google.  This plugin makes doing so super easy.
  • WP Smush Pro – Help squash all of your big photos into internet-friendly versions, speeding up your site.

6.  Get Blogging!

With your brand name decided, WordPress self-hosted with your own custom URL and your social media accounts safely locked away, it’s time to get started.

Anybody that knows me well will tell you that I’m a great starter but not the best finisher in the world.  This might just have served me well in blogging though as getting in and giving it a go really is a great place to start.

Don’t get caught up on perfecting your posts right away.

Don’t worry about how many people are reading your posts.

Make a start and learn as you go.

There’s lots of information out there to help you on your way and as you find your own voice and learn the ‘best’ way of doing things, your style and methods will evolve.

When I look back at my first few posts, I can’t help but laugh.  Without them though, we wouldn’t be where we are now so as much as I cringe, I don’t have even an ounce of regret.

Keen to start your own blog but not just yet?  Pin this post for later…

A practical guide to help you open your own travel blog. Hosting, URLs, social media, plugin suggestions, post basics and more - if you want to start travelling the world and writing about it, this guide is for you!

This post includes affiliate links – it doesn’t cost you a cent to use them but doing so will help us keep Exploring Kiwis running.  We only recommend companies that we stand behind 100% and have happily been using ourselves.

Blogging 101

Instagram Intensive – How to Build an Authentic Following, Fast!

February 19, 2017
Grow Instagram Following

Instagram can be an amazing way for travel bloggers to to connect with fellow travellers (both bloggers and the everyday-run-of-the-mill-amazing-travellers) and strike up meaningful relationships with people you’d otherwise never cross paths with.

It’s also a fantastic way to connect with brands and help influence the way people travel.  If you’ve had an incredible experience, there’s often no better way than to show it visually, but with a small following, how can you ensure your content gets out in front of the right people to actually make a difference?

We used these strategies to grow our Instagram account from a personal one (where I literally posted snaps of my cats and home renovation – exciting, right?) to a fairly successful travel blogging Insta account with over 36,000 followers.

If we can do it, you can too!

If you’d like to get a better insight into what we’ve done to grow our account just drop your email in the following form and we’ll flick you all of our top tips right away!

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