Personal holiday photography the ‘next big thing’?

Australian start-up Travelshoot, which connects tourists with a local photographer for a photo shoot, has received a $500,000 investment from reality TV star Steve Baxter and QUT Creative Enterprise Australia (CEA).

The Travelshoot ‘family’ left to right: Tim Jones, CEA chief executive Anna Rooke, Baxter, and Sarah Pearce.

The Queensland-based business is run by siblings Tim Jones and Sarah Pearce, who came up with the idea in 2012 after a trip to New York where she was photographed by a friend for their portfolio.

After receiving the professional images, shot at the Brooklyn Bridge, she realised travellers visiting a destination would be willing to pay for a set of professional photos at iconic landmarks.

Pearce brought her brother on board and in 2015 they won $10,000 in a spin-off of Shark Tank, a TV show which has contestants pitch business ideas to investors. Pearce and Jones then approached investors and Baxter, a judge on Shark Tank, along with CEA bought in.

‘The whole idea of Travelshoot spawned from there not being a business that connected travellers to local professional photographers who had been vetted with clear, set pricing for the service and images,’ Jones told ProCounter. ‘We are also spending a lot of time, money and energy to try and highlight that comparative to the cost of an overseas trip, which can be upwards of $10,000, the cost in engaging your own photographer to capture the memories is well worth the money and is affordable.’

It’s a relatively new concept for professional photography, and Travelshoot isn’t the first to cash in on it.

The similarly-named Miami-based Shoot My Travel has ‘honed in on the rose-tinted travel fantasies of the Instagram generation’, The Guardian wrote in 2015. It offers the same thing – personal holiday photographers in over 170 destinations. There’s also Flytographer, a firmly established Canadian-based agency with photographers in over 200 destinations.

Between those two North American businesses, a traveller can find a professional photographer in most popular tourist destinations including Sydney, Melbourne, Gold Coast, and Brisbane. The photography comes at roughly the same price for similar packages. (An hour- to three-hour shoot at one or more locations costing between US$250 – US$875)
Travelshoot has almost 200 photographers covering 75 destinations around the world. Paris, New York, Bali, and the Gold Coast are the most popular destinations, and while the clientele are ‘a real mix’, it’s primarily honeymooners and couples using Travelshoot.

Travelshoot has the Australian market covered, with photographers in the Blue Mountains, Brisbane, Byron Bay, Cairns, Canberra, Coffs Harbour, Darwin, Gold Coast, Hobart, Melbourne, Newcastle, Perth, Sunshine Coast, Sydney, and Torquay

There are three different packages. The Basic Package costs $399. It’s an hour shoot at one location, with 15 edited photos; Gold Standard is $599 for a two hour shoot at three locations for 50 edited photos; High Flyer is $899 for four hours at four locations for 70 edited photos.

It also offers destination wedding shoots from $1500 to $5000, available as a separate enquiry.
It’s not clear what sum the photographer earns as Jones wasn’t willing to share this information, however photographers agree for a fixed amount for each package. This can be split three ways between a third party travel agency, Travelshoot, and the photographer, who takes the largest portion.

‘While we will not disclose the exact numbers, we do ensure the photographers receive the biggest portion for their work,’ he said. ‘We are not trying to take away from our photographers’ core work, whether it be weddings or big events, but rather act as supplementary income by creating a new market and encouraging travellers to use a professional photographer rather than relying on their own camera or smart phone.

‘The rates we pay our photographers are very reasonable, however we do have to consider the price sensitivity of a traveller who had never thought to engage a professional photographer before to do so.’

It’s difficult to find the rates photographers earn from any of the three mentioned holiday photo agencies. Google is littered with pages of stellar reviews and (sponsored) media exclaiming ‘forget selfies and hire a Flytographer!’ One photographer on Reddit said the pay ‘isn’t stellar’ but really enjoyed the work.

Chadner Navarro, a Conde Nast Traveler writer reviewed Flytographer in Lisbon, Portugal and said the price tag ‘was high, particularly considering that the photos are just of me hanging around in Lisbon’. He said it was a better fit for couples, honeymooners, and families on those ‘big-occasion trips, full of moments worth capturing’.

Each Travelshoot photographer is vetted by an in-house photographer, who reviews the portfolio, conducts a 45 minute Skype interview, and has them conduct a test shoot.

Travelshoot then uses customer feedback to ensure the work meets a standard and the photographer is friendly and make the client feel comfortable, Jones said.

The onset of budget-priced on-demand photography businesses (Snappr, Kodakit) has the potential to devalue professional photography by presenting amateur photographers as professionals, and pricing photography far lower than the industry standard. It’s a concern of many in the industry. But Jones said that professional travel photography is a new market, and Travelshoot intends to offer a premium product.

Travelshoot’s pricing isn’t far off what an established portrait or event photographer charges. However, it’s miles ahead of Australian start-up Snappr in terms of pricing, which offers shoots at a measly $59.

‘I can certainly see the concern particularly when looking at other services that devalue professional photography… by offering services at, say, less than $100 and only amateur or hobby photographers would have any interest – and in turn the quality of work will likely be fairly average.

‘We understand that there is a lot of work involved in a shoot including travel, editing, set up time and coordination of the shoot and as such we ensure we remunerate our photographers accordingly. Our screening process ensures that we aren’t engaging hobby photographers whose work doesn’t justify the rates.’

Travelshoot has scored partnerships with big names, including RACQ insurance, Helloworld, Student Flights, and others.

Flight Centre signed a distribution deal last year, meaning its travel consultants will offer clients Travelshoot packages around the world.

‘We are looking to continue to grow our network of destinations and photographers while also focussing on continuing to create awareness about our service and the benefits of using professional photographers for anything from a short trip away domestically to capturing the once in a lifetime honeymoon moments overseas.’

The Travelshoot Story from TRAVELSHOOT on Vimeo.

ProCounter contacted Shoot My Travel for this article, but did not receive a response in time.

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