It’s Not Travel Photography, But Photographing Travelers May Be Photography’s Next Big Thing


Photography: Paola Colleoni

On a trip to Paris with her best friend two years ago, Nicole Smith did what everyone does on vacation. As she and her friend stood at tourist sites, she would take out her phone, hold it at arm’s length and snap a few selfies. Sometimes the pair would buttonhole a passing stranger, hand over a camera and ask the passer-by to shoot a picture of them together. Not surprisingly, the results were, she says, always “meh.” Things changed though, when a friend in the city offered to photograph them in the style of a photojournalist as they wandered through the streets. The result wasn’t just a set of images that captured the spirit of her afternoon in a way that she could never have done alone, she says, but the beginning of a whole new business idea.

Two years later Flytographer now has professional photographers available to capture shots of vacationers as they tour the sites and sip cappuccinos in romantic cafes in 70 cities around the world.
Photography: Cadence Feeley

Customers can choose from three different kinds of shoots: thirty minutes in one location produces fifteen photos and costs $250; an hour in one or two locations generates 30 photos and costs $350; and two hours in multiple locations produce 60 photos for $600. The commission  earned by the photographer varies with the package but on average photographers can expect to receive 60 percent of the purchase price.

“It’s a fun, fast shoot.”

The photographers, though, only have to do the shooting. Flytographer will arrange the date, time and route of the booking, discuss the customer’s objectives and prepare a brief with all the details.

“It’s a fun, fast shoot and we usually capture the couple/family as they stroll around in a more candid, editorial-style,” says Nicole. “The photographer connects with the customer like a local friend.”

The question is how much demand there is for the attention of a professional photographer at a time when professional quality DSLRs are affordable to anyone who takes foreign travel, and when everyone is packing a camera in their pocket, complete with filters to turn even the worst of snaps into atmospheric mementos.

According to Nicole, Flytographer delivers a couple of important benefits that vacationers and travelers can’t produce alone.

The first is that everyone can be in the picture together, looking relaxed and at their best, (rather than at the end of an arm or having just rushed back into the frame.) The images are also more varied. Ask a local to shoot a picture and at best you’ll get a standard direct shot of you and you a friend standing in front of a building. At worst, you’ll get to watch a stranger running off with your iPhone or your Nikon. Flytographer’s photographers are expected to use different angles and vantage points to produce images that only a dedicated photographer can create. They’ll also be using their own equipment.

And those pictures will be high quality. They won’t be quick snaps but valued treasures that record a memorable experience.


Photography: Lauren Colchamiro

“People like ‘experiences’ vs more stuff and we are often told by our customers that their Flytographer photos were the ‘Best souvenir they’ve ever purchased,” says Nicole. “Too many people spend thousands of dollars planning a special trip only to return home in none of the photos, or if they are, someone else important is missing, or they are blurry etc. They also like that they can focus on soaking up the moment and being really present vs distracted trying to capture the moment through a camera.”

Photograph Honeymooners And Reunions

Customers tend to be couples and families but are often people making special, once-in-a-lifetime trips such as honeymooners or newly engaged couples, all-guy or all-girl vacations and multigenerational reunions. For the photographer, the shoot may sometimes have the same feel, and demand some of the same skills, as shooting a small event.

Altogether, in the year or so since the company’s launch, Flytographer has completed around 200 shoots across five continents. And the company is looking to expand, particularly in Hawaii, Orlando, Sandestin, Palm Desert, Scottsdale, Tremblant, Hong Kong and in the Caribbean, although it accepts applications from anywhere. Photographers in places with large numbers of tourists and small numbers of rival shooters will be in with a good shout of landing some useful extra work, and even photographers who travel a lot can find themselves shooting in different locations.

But you will need to impress. All of the company’s photographers are professionals with backgrounds that range from newspapers and magazines to corporate and fashion photography. Some are wedding and family photographers. Flytographer has also managed to land some adventure ski photographers who can capture shots of snowboarding clients as they fly down the slopes.

Nicole speaks with each of the photographers themselves, checks their background and makes sure that they have both solid technical skills and the ability to tell a compelling story through their shots. She also looks for people who have run their own business and understand the importance of delivering impeccable service. Applicants can apply at

That Flytographer appears so far to have had little trouble either recruiting photographers or finding clients is pretty revealing. That there is plenty of demand among photographers to shoot quick, documentary-style images for fees that may work out, after travel and processing, to around $100 an hour, is hardly surprising. But the fact that so many people recognize that there’s a limit to what they can do with their iPhones and even their DSLRs is highly encouraging. People may think that they’re photographers but they are recognizing that quick snaps taken on phones tend to stay forever unseen on the hard drives while professionally taken images are viewed and treasured.

It’s also revealing, though, that while Nicole Smith has used professional photographers, she’s not a trained photographer herself. This was a business idea that came from a client of professional photographers. If clients can spot opportunities for photographers, why aren’t more photographers doing the same for themselves?


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