TORONTO—Even with the popularity of selfie sticks, some travelers are still yearning to come home with good old-fashioned photos not captured on a smartphone—and they’re willing to pay for them.
Despite his own credentials as a wedding and portrait photographer, Nathan Walker decided to enlist the services of a local professional while vacationing in California with his wife Brandi, son Jett and daughter Willow.
He settled on Kelly Paulson of Wild Whim Design & Photography, whose work he discovered on Instagram.
“I definitely had a style in mind that I was looking for and she fit the bill,” said the Edmonton resident behind Nathan Walker Photography, who also works full-time as a graphic designer.
Wild Whim bills US$350 for a 30-minute photo session—which includes 30 high-resolution images—or US$500 for an hour-long session with one or two locations and at least 75 edited images.
Walker said he could think of no better souvenir than some family portraits, and opted to scale back on other trip extras to pay for the photos.
“You buy a souvenir and it breaks or it gets thrown in the garbage—but photos are a lasting thing.”
Jen Whalen of Mountain Bound Photography based in Banff, Alta., has had vacationers from the U.S. and U.K. seeking her out to capture idyllic portraits against the backdrop of the Canadian Rockies.
Her most popular package is the hour-long “Lovin’ Life” tour and photo shoot for $300, but she offers additional options for those seeking longer excursions to locales like Lake Louise, Moraine Lake and Jasper.
“People will say things like: ‘We wouldn’t typically hire a photographer for our vacations, but this is our once in a lifetime trip … so we’re splurging,”’ said Whalen.
“A lot of people will say ‘I want to get this printed on a canvas,’ or ‘We want something for our living room.’ People certainly still do want to print them out or have them framed.”
Guests at Fairmont Hotels & Resorts have the option of incorporating a photo shoot during their stay at several properties in Alberta, B.C., Ontario and Quebec.
Photo sessions can be purchased in blocks of time from 30 to 90 minutes ranging from US$225 to US$450, said Alexandra Blume of FRHI Hotels & Resorts.
The luxury hotel operator partnered with Canadian-based startup Flytographer, which already offered its photographer-for-hire service to vacationers in 171 locations around the world.
Flytographer founder Nicole Smith said most customers are looking for high-quality images that can become family heirlooms over time. Beyond the photos themselves, there is the added benefit of gaining the local perspective of a resident—their photographer.
“A lot of our customers feel like that part is equally as important as the photos themselves. It’s just that authentic connection with a really cool local who is doing this because they genuinely love to meet people from all around the world and host them around their city.”
Rob Taylor, vice-president of public and industry affairs with the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, said he sees the vacation photo service as a bucket list-type of activity that would be particularly relevant to the 35-plus crowd.
“Travel is not a tangible good that one buys. You’re buying experiences and you want to try and capture those memories,” he said from Ottawa.
“There’s the memories that one wants to keep for themselves. There’s also the promotion of the experience, the bragging rights that you have. And if you can capture it not only for your own souvenir but to post some compelling photography … there’s a value to that.”