Most people don’t actually know what it means when I say I’m a “travel photographer,” it is usually met with a confused look and followed up by some variation of the question, “do you mean you travel for free?” or “who even pays you to travel?”
So to sum it up, my clients are various stakeholders in the tourism industry. These could be hotels, adventure experiences, tourism boards, and beyond. When travel suddenly ground to a screeching halt last year, tourism also slowed down and there were times during lockdown where it completely stopped. Since being a photographer is my career and my main source of income, I was extremely worried — and for good reason: it’s been a tough year, to put it mildly.
Connection with Tamron
You can imagine my surprise when in early January 2021, still very much in the middle of the pandemic, Tamron’s South African branch reached out in an email asking if I would be interested in being a brand ambassador for them going forward. Of course, I said yes.
There is some background here as I have been creating content for Tamron SA on occasion for the past two years. At their request, I’ve also spoken at multiple events on behalf of the brand about my experience using their lenses. From my personal experience, creating a relationship with brands you’d like to work with is the best way to get on their radar.
About a week after accepting Tamron SA’s offer, I got an email from someone at their headquarters in Japan who said they like my style and asked if I’d be interested in shooting a launch project for their new Ultra-Wide angle lens. I’d be one of only a handful of people in the world to have access to the lens, so it was an honor to be selected for an opportunity like this.
Once I’d agreed to do the project, I signed a non-disclosure agreement, Tamron sent some documents about the lens, and then sent a brief with the amount and types of images they needed me to create.
The brief was split into three main parts:
- Photos (photos taken with the lens)
- Lifestyle (photos of the lens)
- Video (Cinematic showcase of the lens in use including the resulting photos)
The brief they sent included some of my photos, which were pulled from my social media channels and website.
My process when shooting a big project always starts with planning and pre-production. At the time, South Africa was just coming out of its second COVID wave which added an extra dimension of complexity. My initial plan was to travel to a location I had never visited before but all the uncertainty quickly led to me deciding to opt for three familiar locations instead of a new one in order to ensure I could get all the necessary content.
Being one of the first Black brand ambassadors for Tamron, I decided it was important to show myself in the video, so I enlisted the help of my friend and fellow content creator Dean Cothill. We sat down, chose the locations with consideration for COVID restrictions, and put together a story, mood board, and shot list for the project.
Once Tamron approved the mood board, I spent two weeks traveling to the three locations I had chosen: Cape Town, the Garden Route, and Blyde River Canyon (the third largest canyon in the world).
Coming up with a good plan makes the process of actually creating the content a lot easier. As an added bonus, when a brand approaches you because they like your style, it means for the most part you just need to create something you love and would be proud of.
Once I was back home I got to work on editing. There were various rules from Tamron when it came to shooting and editing the images, as we were showcasing the capabilities of the lens and had to keep the following in mind:
- Minimal cropping in post
- Mild edits
- Shooting at various apertures
- An even ratio of landscape versus portrait orientation
I sent Tamron around 150 images from which they made their selections. After some back and forth, they were very happy with all the selected images. The video followed a similar process.
The team at Tamron was super organized, knew what they wanted, and were easy to work with. The only hurdle was working with the time zone difference (which is manageable). They were a dream client that was efficient, knowledgeable, and allowed me to just shoot images I am proud of.
After a year of being mostly indoors, it was amazing to travel around South Africa again, especially with the support of Tamron and a really great lens. It is truly one of the most beautiful countries in the world and I’m grateful to live here!
For more information and technical specifications of the Tamron 11-20mm f/2.8 Di III-A RXD, read PetaPixel’s coverage here.
About the author: Shawn Ogulu is a branded content creator, freelance Travel and Adventure photographer, and filmmaker based in South Africa. He is also a director and producer whose body of work includes projects for tourism boards and brands from around the world.