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Francesco Salvaggio - Inside Instagram's Inspiring Travel Feeds

Francesco Salvaggio started out as a self funded traveller - he now finds himself at the top of Instagram's thriving new category of travel photographers capturing the world.

Sponsored by Salewa and Sandmarc, Francesco has proven himself as a budding icon on the booming social media platform. We take you through the photos to find out more about his lifestyle.

"I'm an advertising photographer based in Florence, Italy – and since 2007 I've been working with GettyImages, which is my main job.

My interest in photography started only a few years ago when I signed up for Instagram, specifically travel photography. As a kid I had always loved travelling with my family, which carried on into my adult life exploring new places with my friends or girlfriend. It’s definitely a passion of mine.

Thanks to my job with GettyImages I’ve spent a lot of time travelling, allowing me to mix leisure and business together, which is incredibly refreshing. Instagram just became a way for me to share all of my experiences. I wanted to show the world my best holiday photos, it's really as simple as that.

Currently I don’t make a living from travel photography, but in the future my aim is to push to make social media and Instagram a real source of income. The partnerships are growing which is really positive. I'm taking every opportunity I can get my hands on, and hopefully this will, in turn, get me to the position where travel photography can sustain me."

Who and what inspired you to become a professional photographer?:

"I can't say there is one single person that inspired me, there’s many. My main inspiration is my personality, I’m someone that wants to succeed in everything I do which constantly pushes me. When I decided I wanted to become a photographer, that was me putting all of my effort into learning and refining my skillset. There’s a lot of us travel photographers out there, but focusing on constantly furthering your skills and finding new ways to express yourself helps you to stand out.

There isn’t a formula for a good photo, it comes with your instincts, and this comes with experience. For me, the photo has to carry a message – something in which the viewer can connect with. The message has to be clear to appeal to others, it’s a skill in which you pick up with every photo, a shutter slide at a time."

Talk to us about your relationship with sponsors and clients. What does a typical job consist of, and what are the challenges that come with such a job?:

"So far all of my sponsorships have come from Instagram – so I can only talk about my current experience. My involvment with stock photography means that you don’t have any contact with clients from this angle, they simply pay to use your photo through the GettyImages website. It’s a shame, I’m sure a lot more could come of this if I was involved with the people who used my stock photos, but that’s the name of the game.

With Instagram, my profile has really grown in the past few months which has been really amazing to see all the hard work paying off. With the growth of followers I’ve had a lot more companies getting in touch with me. With outdoor brands, digital marketing through social media is a really big focus for them. To date, I've had a lot of partnership requests, ranging from smaller brands to large outdoor brands. It usually takes you earning their trust, sometimes sending you a free product in exchange for a post, which is always a good way to get your foot in the door, and prove how many people your post will reach. They want to see a return of investment, so your post likes and interactions are important. And they want to see that your followers are real – there’s a lot of fake profiles on Instagram that people can use to make it look like they have a large follower base.

If a brand sees your posts reach, and likes your photography after this initial exchange, the next step is usually to become an ambassador for the brand. This is usually with clothing or outdoor kit, involving you endorsing their product.

Alternatively you can get in touch with them, and if your account and lifestyle resonate with their brand ethos, then you have a good chance of reaching their target market. This really requires an impressive follower base and top quality photos.

Every partnership and collaboration you achieve, is just another addition to your arsenal allowing you to approach larger brands. It’s just like a portfolio. It takes time to grow your client list, and you have to provide them with a genuine return of investment."

What camera setup and editing software are you using at the moment and why?:

"I’m a firm believer that it’s the person behind the camera that does all the work, not the camera itself, but I keep the Nikon as my trusted partner. I’ve recently been using the Nikon D810 body, with either their 24-120 or 16-35 lenses – both super crisp. Beside that I have really started to utilise the DJI Mavic Pro recently. Being able to capture images from the air really adds such a different feel to the shot, it never grows old – plus who doesn’t enjoy flying a drone…

With my lifestyle and advertising projects I go with a different setup, which took a while, with a bit of trial and error, to nail. Sigma produce a super crisp line of lenses for Nikon, and I find myself using their 24mm, 35mm, 50mm and 85mm lenses a lot. They have a max aperture of 1.4 which makes them really versatile, it's really valuable when you're shooting on the go. As far as my editing goes, I use Adobe Lightroom to make all of my colour corrections, and then I put it through photoshop to remove any small imperfections. The editing is where a photo is really transformed, and if you put some real thought into the colour grading and the mood you want to create, your photography can improve ten-fold."

Being a travel photographer sounds like everybody’s dream, but is it as good as it sounds?:

"It’s pretty awesome if you're travelling around the Caribbean or the Maldives where you're blessed with nice weather, but in some of the more adverse climates it can become challenging. Personally I’m drawn to countries with colder climates like Iceland, Norway, Canada etc. And even though the weather poses more of a challenge, the sense of achievement when you manage to get that perfect shot is one that you’ll remember. I’ve spent days hiking through heavy winter conditions to spend a night in a tent, battered by freezing high winds, only to be met with the most spectacular sunrise. That’s when its all worth it. It’s the same with everything you do in life – the further you put yourself out there and push yourself, the greater the rewards will be. "

Follow Francesco on Instagram or Facebook @franckreporter

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