The urge to capture our travels is often irresistible. And we don't just want scenes we can find in postcards -- we want to be part of the photos; just count the selfie sticks the next time you're at the Eiffel Tower. But wielding the increasingly scorned (and often banned) sticks isn't the only way to chronicle your vacation. Enter vacation photographers.
While virtually unheard of a few years ago, a small industry has sprung up to allow travelers to get professional photos while on vacation. Flytographer, a company launched by Canadian Nicole Smith in 2013, leads the way. Her start-up was inspired after spending a couple days with her best friend in Paris, where a friend agreed to take their photos. Realizing quickly that travelers would pay for a service like this, she scoured the globe to find and vet pros that capture those priceless moments in a modern, photojournalistic style. Her service includes a conversation with a friendly Shoot Concierge beforehand, who handles payment, scheduling, and delivery of the digital photos. Flytographer now works with 350 local photographers in 175 destinations and is growing all the time.
Here's what you need to know before you book:
You'll have your own paparazzi.
There's no getting around it: unless you're already a celebrity, it feels a little weird having a photographer -- or two in some cities -- with a serious camera tailing you. Surprisingly though, you get used to it quickly. We've all become so accustomed to chronicling every move, and so many travelers carry their own massive cameras these days, that before long it's easy to relax. Passersby may check out what you're doing, but hey, let them think they're stumbling upon a VIP.
The photographer will chat with you for a few minutes before the shoot, which helps put you at ease. Plus, they're locals and tend to be sociable, with warm personalities, which makes it easy to smile. They may take a few posed shots, and will give you as much guidance as you like, but the best shots come from letting the day unfold naturally. Travel is full of wonder, and the smiles that come from discovery are the most natural.
It's not cheap, but it's worth it for special occasions.
Flytographer prices start at $250 for a 30-minute session that includes 15 digital photos that are yours to keep, print, and share as you wish. An hour package -- their most popular -- gives you more time to relax and wander, 30 pictures, and priced at $350. From there, sky's the limit; three hours, three locations, and 90 images costs $875. Keep an eye on Flytographer's Facebook page for specials and giveaways. Consider using the service for milestone getaways, like honeymoons, a child's first vacation, celebrating an achievement, or even family reunions.
Do your homework, be prompt, and dress appropriately.
Spend time reviewing the local photographers on Flytographer's website. With their varying backgrounds and approaches it's important to choose one that best fits your style. Once you've selected one and booked, your shoot concierge will ask for details about your preferences. If you're a super-duper planner, you might share a Pinterest board or Instagram account that illustrates your style. At minimum, take the time to explain your goals for the shoot. Need inspiration? Take a spin around Flytographer's Pinterest account. Check tips on Flytographer's blog for how to dress, and coordinate with your fellow travelers.
On shoot day, leave early for your meeting point. Showing up sweaty and stressed because you got lost is no good for anybody. Pro tip: don't overindulge the night before -- you want to be well-rested for those close-ups. On that note, try to plan your shoot for several days into the trip, when you've overcome any jet lag or transit weariness.
Take advantage of a local's expertise.
Take advantage of your photographer's abundant local knowledge; they can steer you to their favorite restaurants and overlooked local treasures. As you go about the rest of your trip they'll be busy editing. By the time you arrive back home -- within five days -- you'll have your gallery of hi-res digital downloads.
Check out other options.
This idea is picking up steam, and several other companies have rolled out similar services. Trip Shooter pairs travelers with local photographers in Europe. And for on-the-fly kind of travelers, brand new pinpic is promising. Decide on a whim that it's the perfect time for a photo shoot? Order up a local photographer just like you would a car. DIYers may prefer to coordinate with the photographers themselves; a search for vacation photographer and your destination may turn up an outfit like Better Travel Photos, which started as a photography class and branched out into portrait shoots in Paris and London.
Whichever you choose, it's safe to say you can leave the selfie stick behind.