Your Photographer Promo Should Look Like This

Your Photographer Promo Should Look Like This

In the four years since its founding, Tiny Atlas Quarterly (TAQ) has earned a stellar reputation as both an innovative travel magazine, and well as an exemplary example of 21st century photographer marketing. The online magazine has also had forays into print, and recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to produce an fashionable camera bag. We spoke to co-founder Emily Nathan about the evolution of TAQ.


You started Tiny Atlas Quarterly with Liz Mullally and Jake Huffman in 2012 as a way to showcase personal work in a “magazine” format. At that time, what did you think was missing from the existing outlets for creative work (e.g. traditional blogs, printed promos, editorial, etc)? 

When I started Tiny Atlas there was not really a magazine like it. There was a riot of new print magazines and blogs were in full swing but, as far as I knew, there wasn’t a publication that was from a personal perspective in the way blogs are that also had an editorial voice in the way magazines do. In my career as a photographer, when I was shooting for travel magazines, I was always expected to bring home a certain type of image. I felt this was usually a more generic approach. I always put the more “artful” images in my portfolio from my travel shoots — much different work than the “hero shots” a magazine would choose, or the perfect blue sky, the perfect steam rolling of a hot latte, etc… etc… I also realized that during advertising shoots, we would put together an enormous effort in order to achieve a great production and this often involved editorial style travel research for on location shoots but this research, this side of the work we did, was never published or shared. Clients didn’t usually have an interest in sharing the back story even that really made the shoot. Tiny Atlas was a way to put it all together and include the realness of a place.


Other than time, what have you found most challenging in maintaining TAQ?

The most challenging part has been growing the magazine financially. It has an incredible social community & one of the most used travel hashtags in the world but it still needs to grow with revenue while maintaining artistic integrity.

When you produce a shoot for TAQ, are you generally pitching the properties (hotels, restaurants) or are the brands coming to you?

Initially I just paid out of pocket (eek!) for my shoots. Then I realized it was just not sustainable (since I was paying my whole crew and all travel expenses). Now, most stories come from other photographers and most of my shoots come from projects that are pitched to me. Properties and brands do come to us, and often relationships grow out of a natural place. For example, an art director of a brand or property might start following us on Instagram, which starts a relationships that I can cultivate.


Are you generally working on barter for these types of projects? And if so, is this the “new normal” for personal work?

Anything I really want to shoot, I pay for (in general). It is truthfully such a pain to ask people to give you anything in the travel world and I don’t like asking crews to work for free. I am a mom and crazy multi-tasker with TAQ so I don’t have time for someone to change their mind and not come to a shoot since I am not paying them. If you pay people to work, they magically always can make it. It is much more straightforward.

The photography has always been beautiful. You’ve also integration illustration into some of the stories. Why? And what has this process been like?

Thanks on the photography. Well, I am a photographer, so the goal was to showcase photography and immerse people in a photo story in the way you are immersed in a new place when you hike, drive or fly there. You don’t know where you are going and you find out along the way. This is the feeling of going through a TAQ shoot. For illustration, most of our favorite magazines have beautiful design and a good amount of illustration. I think Liz initially really wanted to include illustration as well. The illustration is one of my favorite parts of the magazine (although often when people share our work, they just want photos). When Jake built the site, we wanted to have live type that went over photos and illustrations to make the magazine feel special. All the blogs were just scroll through experiences and photos and illustrations and words were all separate. Collaborating with illustrators, I have always thought through features and pulled ideas from pinterest boards of art and design and illustration that I love and then reached out to illustrators whose work seems like a good fit with the style I am envisioning for a shoot. Then we have a conversation about it, share some visuals and do a round or two of design.


I recently worked with designer Mark Sloan on a feature in the Faroe Islands, which was an amazing experience. Mark is such a talented designer, the final piece was awesome, it is here  After we worked on this shoot I asked him if he wanted to re-do our branding as it was time for a refresh. We are just now launching all of the new brand work and I am thrilled with the result. Next step is the site.

Given the visual nature of the site, do you feel any pressure to redesign the look-and-feel with any regularity?

Yes. Right now I’m focused on the Kickstarter for the camera bags. But yes there is a strong desire to redesign the entire site (and there has been for a couple years). We have been working with a developer or some new blog pages for the site and they are great. One of the goals of the Kickstarter is to come back with the resources to redesign the whole site.

Everyone is saying we’ll be seeing more and more video content – particularly within social media. Do you think there will be more emphasis on video in TAQs future?

I love seeing video from people traveling that do our snapchat/Story takeovers. It’s more engaging and really gives one more of a perspective of a place. Even though our main focus is photo, I can definitely see video having more of an emphasis in our social media in the future. Lots of photographers and directors have pitched video for our magazine but the quality has not equaled the photography so I have held off. We have our first Tiny Atlas Trips taking place in October and November and we are hoping to have the time and resources to put together some great video elements from those trips.


How has the rise of Instagram and Snapchat affected your vision for TAQ?

We reach so many more people on social and the magazine (even the digital version which is obviously much less expensive than the print) is so much more expensive to create so we have deferred to publishing much more often on social. Because our #mytinyatlas   hashtag ( which is on course to reach 2 million posts in the next couple months) is one of the biggest in the world in travel, the growth on social is great for us. We would still love more  resources to work on magazine initiatives on social of course.

What inspired you to make the SOLAS bag? 

As a photographer, I’ve always wanted a casual camera bag I can take with me everyday. Most of the camera bags I’ve used in the past are too bulky and I end up not taking anything or wrapping my camera bag up in a tote. This bag is intentionally designed to be lightweight, practical, stylish but still protective for a dslr & laptop.  Kickstarter link is here.

Do you see TAQ collaborating with more brands in the future? 

Certainly. We have worked with lots of brands already and working with brands is what I do for a living so it is an easy and natural fit. It takes time to find the right brands to work on the right projects but they all need visual content and that’s what TAQ is all about. We are collaborating with some brands on our upcoming trips as well. We have worked with Teva, Leading Hotels of the World, Preferred Hotels, have an upcoming partnership in the works with Fujifilm north america and more.


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This article was written by

Allen Murabayashi is the co-founder of PhotoShelter.

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