Nicole Darin had always dreamed of a Paris honeymoon. When she and her new husband, Michael Jenkins, arrived in the city in August 2017, they knew they wanted to capture their trip in the same way they did their Washington wedding: with a professional photographer.
“Leaving it up to a random tourist to capture us in front of the Eiffel Tower just wasn’t going to cut it after a lifetime of imagining it,” said Ms. Darin, 34, a Washington sportscaster.
For one hour in the early morning — at 6 a.m., before tourists arrived in droves — Ms. Darin and Mr. Jenkins strolled down Parisian streets with Olga Litmanova, a Paris photographer. They took pictures at the Trocadero, next to quintessential Haussmannien architecture, over croissants and coffee, and even by a random classic car they walked past. “Since she lived in Paris her whole life, she knew all the best spots to photograph us,” Ms. Darin said of the photographer.
Ms. Darin and Mr. Jenkins are one of a growing number of couples looking for the perfect honeymoon photos — and hiring a professional to take them. It all stems from a larger trend of vacation photographers. People want great images that they can share on social media, place in an album, frame in their homes, and serve as a reminder of an epic trip.
It’s not always easy to get good images on vacation. Couples often return from honeymoons with photographs, but the quality ranges from blurry selfies to poorly framed shots taken by other tourists. Most end up being of places, with neither person in the picture. Or, one half of the couple will be in all the shots as the other plays photographer with the iPhone on portrait mode.
It’s a situation Nicole Smith caught on to five years ago when she started Flytographer, a website that connects travelers to vetted, local photographers in their destination. The company currently has a database of more than 500 professionals in 250 cities around the world, including popular honeymoon spots like Paris; Santorini, Greece; and the Amalfi Coast in Italy.
“It wasn’t a common thing before, to book a vacation photographer in cities around the world,” Ms. Smith said, adding that a photographer “captures the spirit that would have been impossible without the third-party vantage point. It’s the best souvenir from a trip.”
In its five years running, Ms. Smith says her company has completed 20,000 shoots. Prices typically range from $250 to $650, depending on time and number of locations.
Many couples also seek out photographers on their own. Rodrigo Moraes, a wedding photographer based in Maui, Hawaii, says he has seen an increase in inquiries for honeymoon shoots in the last few years. The requests are so consistent that he has added official packages to his offerings, which range in price from $575 to $950. Mr. Moraes said that they make up 20 percent of his inquiries, a number on par with his engagement sessions. Weddings still constitute 60 percent of his business.
Mr. Moraes’s couples typically choose one of two sessions. The Simple Beach is an hour session at the beach. Many of these shots mimic those of engagement sessions, with romantic, posed frames in front of the Pacific. The other is the Adventure session, which tends to showcase more of the distinctive landscapes and activities you find in Hawaii with more candid, action-style shots. Couples may take a two- to three-hour hike through the tropical jungle or wander popular tourist destinations. “A lot of times we go on a drive and look for locations on the side of the road,” he said. “Maui is one of those places where anywhere you stop, you can make a beautiful image.”
For many couples, the experience ends up being more than a photo shoot. Mark and Janice Temenak explained that hiring a local photographer was like having a personal tour guide during their honeymoon in Tenerife, Canary Islands, off the coast of Africa. The couple booked Chema Nogales through Flytographer, with a just a note that they liked history. “Chema spent the entire shoot teaching us about the city, sharing the history of buildings and parks as well as recommendations for where to eat and drink,” said Ms. Temenak, 32, a lawyer based in Chicago. “It gave us a greater appreciation for the city.”
Ms. Smith said Flytographer customers often rave about the bonus opportunity to chat about regional culture with someone who lives there. “It’s sometimes the most authentic local experience a traveler has,” she said, noting that some photographers and couples hit it off so well they end up grabbing beers and food together after the shoot.
For other couples, the photo shoot serves as an extension of the wedding. “Weddings end up being about so many more people and relationships than the one between husband and wife,” said Christine Lim, a lawyer based in New York. “Your honeymoon can really be just about the couple.”
Ms. Lim, 33, and her husband, Kenneth Lee, 35, spent the beginning of their honeymoon in Seoul taking photos in traditional Korean attire to honor their joint South Korean heritage. The couple’s photographer, Allan Jun Kim, helped them rent a hanbok from a local shop near the ornate Gyeongbokgung Palace, where they posed for dramatic shots that they have since shared with friends and family. “It was the first time either of us got to be tourists in a country where we’ve previously only had familial obligations,” Ms. Lim said. “We loved it.”
Though capturing the memories is the top priority, couples do admit that social media played a role in their desire to secure great honeymoon images. Ms. Lim first found out about vacation photographers through a friend on Instagram. She admired her friend’s travel photos taken by a professional as well as those by social influencer friends. After receiving her images, Ms. Lim also posted to her feed.
Similarly, Ms. Temenak has shared several of her honeymoon photos. “Social media greatly affect my initial decision to hire a photographer,” she said. “I saw how beautiful photos turned out for other people. I wanted nice photos of the two of us on our honeymoon too — and not just selfies.”
For those who did a honeymoon photo shoot, the conversion is clear: They have since hired photographers for other trips, including a girls’ getaway, a mother-daughter trip, and the first family vacation with a new child. Ms. Smith explained that a huge portion of Flytographer’s business are shoots for reunions, babymoons, and general family vacations, in addition to honeymoons.
“People want good photos of themselves, and there’s a different energy to honeymoon shoots,” Mr. Moraes said. “The couple finally has a moment to relax and let all the work and pressure of the celebration melt away. They are really sinking into enjoying each other’s company at their dream destination. Those photos will live for a very long time.”