Hiring a vacation photographer: Tips and things to know

November 16, 2022
Stacy and Mike strolling with Dublin Castle in the background

Have you ever returned from a vacation with stunning photos of scenery and the local sights, but when it comes to photos of yourself, you only have a few mediocre selfies?  That sums up most of the trips Mike and I have taken over the years, and after a pandemic-related travel pause, I wanted some high-quality photos of us on our trips to Finland and Ireland.  Instead of relying on our sketchy selfie skills, we hired vacation photographers in Helsinki and Dublin. 

If you're curious about how hiring a vacation photographer works, or if you're looking for tips to prepare for your vacation photo shoot, here's what you need to know.

Stacy and Mike in the doorway of a pink home in Huvilakatu, Helsinki

Where to find a vacation photographer

The simplest way to find a vacation photographer is to use a vacation photography service that vets photographers in popular vacation destinations.  Typically, you select your destination and pick from a few available photographers.  For our Helsinki photo shoot, we had a great experience with Flytographer—the booking process was simple, communication was smooth, our photographer was a delight to work with, and we got excellent images.  If Flytographer isn't available in your destination, or if there aren't photographers available during your vacation dates, similar vacation photography services include Angle, Localgrapher, Local Lens, and Captourist.

Another option is to find a vacation photographer on your own.  In Dublin, we booked a local photographer via Airbnb Experiences (simply search by your destination and a keyword like "photography" or "photo shoot").  You can also find local photographers via listings on Viator and Get Your Guide.  Our Airbnb Experiences photographer was very experienced and professional, and we're pleased with the photos.

The advantage of using a photo service is that you get a streamlined process and a vetted photographer.  However, this does come at a cost, as photo services are typically more expensive that finding a photographer on your own (we spent approximately $235 for Flytographer in Helsinki and $135 for Airbnb Experiences in Dublin).  If you decide to find your own photographer, make sure that they have a solid history of positive reviews, especially relating to communication and professionalism.

Stacy and Mike crossing the street in Huvilakatu, Helsinki

Whichever route you choose, when you're looking for a photographer, be sure to consider your schedule.  In general, photographers prefer to shoot around dawn and dusk, when the light is best for outdoor photography.  Will you want to wake up early for a sunrise photo shoot?  How will an evening shoot fit in with other activities you have planned that day or later that evening?

Cost is another consideration, especially if your photographer charges a base shoot fee and then an additional editing fee per photo.  Make sure you understand what is included and what the total cost will be.

Finally, make sure the photographer's style meshes with what you're looking for—peruse their portfolio and see what they tend to shoot, whether that's casual, romantic shots of couples or more posed, artsy fashion photography.  If you're planning a family shoot, make sure they have experience working with kids. 

Stacy and Mike sitting on stairs in Dublin Castle Garden

Packing for your vacation photo shoot

Since you won't have access to your entire wardrobe, put some thought into what you want to pack for your vacation photo shoot.  Make sure your attire is appropriate for the weather—if you're uncomfortable, it will be more difficult to look relaxed and happy in your photos.  For example, since Helsinki is cool in May, I wore tights, and we brought matching black umbrellas for our Dublin photo shoot since Ireland is often rainy (luckily we didn't need them). 

You'll also want to wear comfortable footwear since you'll be on your feet a lot, possibly on cobblestones or other uneven surfaces.  I wore my Tieks in Dublin and my Allbirds Tree Breezers in Helsinki—I recommend both brands as being very comfortable for walking, stylish, easy to pack, and available in a wide range of colors and sizes.

Stacy and Mike at Ha'Penny Bridge, Dublin

When planning our outfits, I found this style guide from Flytographer to be very helpful.  Basically, solids work better than patterns, prioritize comfort and fit, and opt for simple, classic styles.  If it's a couples or family photo shoot, make sure your outfits coordinate.  In Helsinki, I wore a off-white dress from Lulus, white tights, and pink flats, while Mike wore khaki pants and a blue and red plaid dress shirt.  In Dublin, I opted for a magenta dress from Express Factory Outlet with black flats, and Mike wore khakis and a blue and gray plaid dress shirt.

In addition to your outfits and shoes, make sure to pack any special accessories and makeup (I brought a Marimekko clutch for my Helsinki photo shoot).  If you're switching time zones, consider bringing Acure Radically Rejuvenating Under Eye Hydrogels and using them right before your shoot—they're a temporary fix, but they completely erase all signs of jet lag and insomnia.

Stacy and Mike eating gelato in Helsinki

The day of your vacation photo shoot

Make sure you have a way to communicate with your photographer in case there are any last minute changes—you may need to be flexible with timing based on the forecast.  This is especially important to keep in mind if you're traveling outside of the U.S. and don't have cell service; we had data via eSim and communicated with our photographers via email or the Airbnb app.

If you don't want a particular personal item in your photos, leave it at your accommodations—that includes purses, backpacks, raincoats, and the like.  You don't want to leave items unattended during the shoot, and your photographer will likely be carrying a bunch of equipment and can't take care of your stuff, too.  Thankfully, men's dress pants have substantial pockets so Mike could handle our phones and wallets, or you can bring a purse that will coordinate with your outfit and intentionally include it in the photos.

Stacy and Mike sitting on the edge of fountain in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin

Most importantly, relax and have fun!  I know that's easier said than done, especially if you aren't used to having your photo taken professionally.  If you're doing a couples shoot, it can be helpful to joke with your partner—it makes the smiles look more natural.

After your vacation photo shoot

Depending on your photographer, you might receive a set of edited photos, or you may get a preview of all of the images and you pick a certain number for them to edit.  Once you have your finished photos, put them on display!  Mpix does excellent photo prints—I've been using them for several years, and they're the service that most professional photographers recommend.

Stacy and Mike kissing in a side street in Helsinki, with their reflection in a puddle


If you've been considering hiring a vacation photographer, go for it!  Our photos from Helsinki and Dublin are a unique souvenir of our return to international travel, and I'm glad we have wonderful photos of us in such neat locations.

This isn't a sponsored post, and it doesn't contain affiliate links—we paid for our photo shoots out-of-pocket, as well as the clothing, accessories, and other products mentioned.  If you want to save some money on a Flytographer shoot, feel free to use my referral code: CODE1492214

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Photo of Stacy and Mike in front of Dublin's Ha'Penny Bridge and text reading "Hiring a vacation photographer: Tips and things to know"