May 14, 2013 at 10:07 AM ET
If you think professional photographers only tail the glitterati, think again. A luxury that wouldn't have occurred to most travelers a few years ago, vacation photography is growing in popularity to capture the trip of a lifetime.
Paris photography instructor Sophie Pasquet has seen a sharp uptick in demand. “A lot of people were asking me if I was doing portraits,” she said, so in 2010 she launched You In Paris, offering visitors photos that feature them in the iconic city. Her vacation portrait business has doubled every year since, and she's beefed up her roster to six photographers.
Vacationers looking for alternatives to the awkward photos shot by strangers were on the mind of Nicole Smith of Victoria, Canada, when she launched Flytographer in March. Inspired after an acquaintance took photos of Smith and a friend on a trip to Paris that was so special she wanted to “capture it and put in a bottle,” she created a “scrappy start-up” to connect travelers with local photographers.
“Those photos ... I got goose bumps and I still do every time I see them because they capture those moments,” she said of the photos from the trip. “I thought, 'I would pay for this!' And aside from hunting and pecking on Google, there was no place to go (for this service).
"Business is already booming. I hear all the time: 'I can’t believe nobody thought of this before!'” she said. “We're in 18 places right now and we're getting requests for more.”
Smith handles everything from locating and vetting the photographer to payment and providing the photos. “One customer said it's the best souvenir they've ever gotten – instead of buying trinkets, they have a photo where everyone's together and having fun and nobody's missing. It's kind of priceless.”
Even travelers on a tight budget aren't out of luck. Flytographer offers a 30-minute package that includes 15 photos with their local photographers for $199. Prices range up to $599. Pasquet, as well, says she wants her portrait session to be accessible. Her most popular option -- a two hour, two location shoot -- runs €299 (about $387) but she offers a 90-minute option for about $300.
'Make them giggle'
Though hiring a photographer is popular among vacationers, not everyone is a natural on camera. “It can be intimidating,” Pasquet said. To relax subjects, “we try to make them giggle.”
Smith agrees. “They're not Kim Kardashian. They're not comfortable with a camera following them around. So we set up a game plan ... We figure out what mood or style they're looking for so they know what they're coming into ... they kind of have something to do with themselves and that helps ease things for some folks who are shy.”
Pasquet finds that a glass of wine before a shoot may help relax some travelers, but one couple “had too many,” she recalls. “They were quite, quite relaxed and felt very free. For the photographer it was maybe a bit more challenging to get pictures where they look their best!”
Other than being judicious in your wine consumption, Pasquet offers some advice for making the most out of a photo shoot. It starts with what you pack (leave the bold prints at home). “We tell clients to look at our Pinterest board for ideas on what to wear,” she said. She can also recommend makeup artists for anyone who wants to go all out.
Props give people something to interact with and can put them more at ease; people have brought balloons, umbrellas, even cigars. The ultimate prop may be an engagement ring – Pasquet's company has shot a number of proposals.
Photographers play a role behind the scenes of travelers' experience. But it seems they're not soon forgotten.
“A few weeks ago I received an email with pictures attached,” Pasquet said. “It was from my first engagement. The guy wrote: 'I don't know if you ever wonder what happens to the people that you take pictures of, but we got married. These are pictures of our baby.'
"I thought it was so sweet. At some point I was a very small drop in their life.”