Better holiday pics, without using a selfie stick


If you find yourself vacationing in Budapest, Hungary, you could preserve travel memories by taking a few arm-length, low-quality cellphone selfies that will likely fail to capture the magic of your visit.

Or you could hire someone like Dana J. Ardell, a Budapest-based professional photographer who knows photo spots you’ll never find in a guidebook and who can deliver stunning pictures — with your whole travel party in the shots.

Ardell is a photographer with Flytographer, one of a growing number of online services that help travelers find and hire a photographer to take pictures of them during a vacation, including in Japan.

“People who believe memories are the best souvenir” are among those who will find value in photo services, says Flytographer founder and CEO Nicole Smith.

Still, the cost could run a few hundred dollars, so be smart about whom you hire. Here’s what to know about hiring a pro to take pictures on your next vacation or bucket-list trip.

Why hire a photographer?

Vacations usually involve a lot of planning, money and great moments. “The problem is, the photos don’t always match that marvelous time they’re having,” Smith says.

Smartphone cameras are decent, but they don’t provide the same caliber of pictures as a professional camera and lens. Plus, phone cameras aren’t usually operated by a skilled photographer who knows how to incorporate the best light and properly compose a shot and later edit the images.

Travel photos often involve two undesirable choices: a selfie stick or handing your camera to a stranger in hopes they take a decent shot of everybody. It’s the reason Ardell hired vacation photographers for trips to Amsterdam and Glasgow, Scotland. “I know, personally, even as a photographer, if my husband and I are on vacation, we end up getting solo shots of each other or arm’s-length selfies that aren’t very flattering,” she says.

If you plan to turn a vacation photo into a wall-worthy print, you’ll want something better than a cell phone snapshot. “Nobody’s going to blow up a blurry selfie with seven chins,” Smith says.

Photographers who live in your destination know where and when to shoot — when the light is most favorable and where you won’t be jostling with other tourists during busy times at landmarks.

Part of the benefit of hiring a trip photographer has nothing to do with photos — it’s interacting with a resident, gaining insight into how locals live. “We chat the whole time,” Ardell says. “I love giving recommendations on my favorite places to eat and things to do around the city.”

How much it costs

Hiring a vacation photographer typically isn’t cheap, but it may seem surprisingly reasonable for a vacation costing thousands of dollars.

Sessions are typically priced by time. With Flytographer, shoots start at $250 for 30 minutes, though Smith says an hourlong session with 30 photos for $350 is more common. It’s customary to pay the full price when you book. With Local Lens , another booking service, pricing varies by city but generally is about $200 for a half-hour session to around $500 for two hours. Another service, Localgrapher, says its most popular package is one hour, which includes 35 photos for $350.

How to book a pro

You could do your own research to find someone in the place you’re visiting. But online booking services make hiring a photographer easier, especially if you’re going abroad and don’t speak the language. With many of the services, including Flytographer, Local Lens and localgrapher, and you choose the city, then read biographies of local photographers, look at their portfolios and pick one.

Research a photographer’s style and note the professionalism of their website and social media channels. Seek information on timing of photo delivery and what format they will be in. Find out about refund policies and quality guarantees.

According to Smith, an hourlong session offers enough time for photos at a couple of locations and gives vacationers time to warm up in front of the camera. But a half-hour shoot can work for those tight on time or budget. Also remember to book early. Booking several weeks out means a wider selection of photographers, dates and times.

If you’ve taken fabulous journeys but your photos just don’t match, hiring a vacation photographer might be the ticket to preserving memories.

This article, written by Gregory Karp, was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet.