For photographer, Will Robb, it had always been a goal to work as a Lonely Planet photographer, whether he realized it or not. Growing up Robb devoured Lonely Planet guidebooks, taking particular note of the photographs that inspired him to explore new places.
As an adult, Robb worked in neuroscience, but it just wasn’t grabbing him with the passion he’d hoped for. On holidays he’d travel to places like Thailand and try to recreate the same photos he’d seen in the Lonely Planet guidebooks. Finding that he had a knack for photography, Robb began to take night courses to enhance his skills and the rest, as they say, is history.
Robb moved to Japan, taking a job at a university in Tokyo. Teaching gave him a great deal of holiday time, which was perfect for him to jet off to Southeast Asia and practice his skills. At some point, the idea of Lonely Planet started to seem like a reality. Robb bit the bullet and went through the initial application process, providing 200 images in the hopes that he would catch their eye.
Weeks passed but Robb finally got the call to advance to the second stage of the application – 500 high-resolution images. If this wasn’t a good excuse to do even more travel, he didn’t know what was. Over the space of a year, Robb took every opportunity to travel, taking thousands of photos in the process. By the end of it, he had curated his travel photography portfolio in the hopes that he’d make the final cut.
And he did. Robb was offered one of the most sought-after contracts with the infamous hub of the travel community.
Similar to travel writing, travel photography is rarely going to provide a full income for most people. Robb took on several photography jobs, including working with a Japanese Whisky Magazine, but Lonely Planet jobs were always filled with a challenge. In most cases, the assignment has gone out to their network of photographers, so you are challenged to come up with the most creative and epic photo, hoping to beat out all other submissions.
Robb’s claim to Lonely Planet fame was in snagging the cover of the Tokyo Guidebook (2012 edition).
What Lonely Planet has done for Robb since is to open doors. He parlayed his combined photography and travel experience into a small business doing photo tours in Tokyo, giving tourists the opportunity to learn how to use their cameras, take some iconic shots and learn a bit about the city in the meantime.
Returning to Edinburgh, Robb has recreated this successful model and now owns and operates Iconic Photo Tours in Edinburgh. Three times a day a team member or himself take small groups of tourists around the sights of Edinburgh such as St Giles’ cathedral, Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh Castle and the Grassmarket. Some tour-goers have a bit more experience than others, some none at all, providing Robb and his team with a satisfying challenge.
As a result of the success of their tours, Robb is expanding the model to the Highlands, hoping to take visitors on one, two or three day tours, taking visitors a little off the beaten track to help them get the perfect photo. And hey, there might be a whisky tour thrown in there as well.
Robb’s number one advice for amateur photographers? Ensure you practice the basic settings. Learn about ISO, adjust your shutter speed, fiddle with the exposure and play about with the aperture. It may not sound like much, but it takes a lot of practice to make the most of out your photo. The auto setting is not your friend. Most of all, just have fun in the process.
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