Honeymoon with a photographer

NEW YORK • Ms Nicole Darin had always dreamt of a Paris honeymoon. When she and her 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 sportscaster.

For one hour in the early morning - at 6am, before tourists arrived in droves - the couple strolled down Parisian streets with Ms Olga Litmanova, a Paris photographer.

"Since she lived in Paris her whole life, she knew all the best spots to photograph us," Ms Darin said of the photographer.

The couple are one of a growing number of people 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 is not always easy to get good images on vacation. Couples often return from honeymoons with photographs, but the quality ranges from blurry wefies to poorly framed shots taken by other tourists.

It is a situation Ms Nicole Smith caught on to five years ago when she started Flytographer, a website that connects travellers to vetted, local photographers in their destination.

It has a database of more than 500 professionals in 250 cities, including popular honeymoon spots like Paris, Santorini in 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".

Prices typically range from US$250 (S$341) to US$650, depending on time and number of locations.

Many couples also seek out photographers on their own.

Mr Rodrigo Moraes, a wedding photographer based in Maui, Hawaii, 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 US$575 to US$950.

The couples typically choose one of two sessions. The Simple Beach is an hour 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 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, the experience ends up being more than a photo shoot.

Couple 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 Mr Chema Nogales through Flytographer, with 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 Janice Temenak, 32, a lawyer.

"It gave us a greater appreciation of 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 traveller has," she added, 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 Ms Christine Lim, a lawyer.

"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 honour their joint South Korean heritage.

Their 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.

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.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 09, 2019, with the headline 'Honeymoon with a photographer'. Print Edition | Subscribe