Travel Packages That Include A Professional Photographer Exist, But Are They A Neat Idea Or Overkill?
Do you take photos when you go on vacation? Not everyone turns into a shutterbug the second they leave home, of course, but I'm willing to bet that a good number of us do. If you do love a good vacation photo scrapbook, though, here's a question for you: Would you pay to have someone else take all your shots for you? The Guardian ran a piece on Thursday on the growing trend of travel packages that include a professional photographer to take all your vacation pictures for you, and, well… I have mixed feelings about the idea. I can't decide if it's super cool, or if it's overkill.
The Guardian piece highlights several different companies that provide professional photography services during their trips, including El Camino Travel, Shoot My Travel, and Flytographer. Said Shoot My Travel founder Valerie Lopez to The Guardian, “Nowadays, if we don't document it online, it's like it didn't happen. We created the service for people who like to travel light and don't want to worry about anything but being there. When you're worrying about taking a good photo you're not in the moment.” In some cases, these kinds of companies connect holiday-makers with photographers local to the travelers' destination; the photogs not only snap photos, but also act as tour guides, showing them around their city as they go.
I'll admit that the “meet up with a local” element actually appeals to me quite a bit; I'm a firm believer that the best way to get to know a place is to connect with someone who actually lives there, and if that local is also a photographer? Odds are they have a particular way of seeing that city that no one else will have.
And I can see how such a service might be useful in other ways, too. Not everyone — even in the age of Instagram, where simply slapping a filter over an image can make it look like the proverbial million bucks — has an eye for photography; we've probably all experienced that depressing moment when you look back over your vacation photos and realize that they're all terrible (something which was undoubtedly worse when you had to wait two weeks for your pics to come back from the developer). Having pretty vacation photos certainly might enrich the experience later on.
I also understand the whole wanting to "travel light and be in the moment” thing. When you're fixated on getting the perfect photo yourself, it's easy to spend your entire vacation trapped behind the lens (or your iPhone screen, as the case may be) — and when you do that, you run the risk of missing everything. You're looking at it, but you might not be seeing it. Having someone else take your photos for you frees you from the tyranny of your photo album, letting you enjoy everything fully as it happens while still getting some gorgeous photos of it to look back at when it's over. As El Camino puts it in their Instagram bio, it lets you “be a traveler, not a tourist.”
But on the other hand, the idea of having a professional photographer take my travel photos for me also troubles me — and for a few reasons, at that. I realize that the first one is a personal thing, not a universal one, but I still think it's worth noting: For me, taking photos during trips has always been part of the travel experience. Something you see hits you — just bowls you over with how incredible it is — and as part of both the memory-making process and in preparation for memory recall later, you take out your camera and snap the photograph. The action of doing so is as important as the resulting photo, and to remove that part of the equation turns the experience into something passive, rather than something active.
The second reason hooks into the idea of social media life curation. It's common knowledge that we present the best sides of ourselves and our lives on social media, carefully picking through all the bits and pieces to put together the most desirable image of our existences we can. Our Facebook pages and Instagram feeds may not be anything like our real lives, but as long as they look right… well, sometimes and to some people, that's all that matters. Presenting one version of yourself to the public and another to those closest to you (or even just yourself) obviously isn't a new phenomenon; furthermore, humans are complicated creatures, so all those “selves” aren't necessarily different people — they're just different parts of the same person emerging at specific times. But part of me also sees social media life curation as the latest way to “keep up with the Joneses,” so to speak — except that instead of your next-door neighbor, the Joneses are the entire Internet.
In the case of El Camino, the photos are delivered each morning — rather than making you wait until the end of your trip to get a hold of them — so that you can “immediately share [them] with your social media.” And maybe this is just me, but something about that feels a little… off. It says to me, “These photos exist for you to rack up 'likes' and 'follows'” to me, not “These photos exist to give something to remember later on.” It's about having someone else validate that what you're doing is cool, when we shouldn't require any validation other than our own. If you're enjoying yourself, isn't that enough? And, indeed, isn't that the point of traveling in the first place?
So, again: I'm undecided as to whether it's awesome or not. Ultimately, I suspect it all comes down to what you, personally, want to get out of your vacation — for me, it wouldn't be worth it; for loads of other people, though, it probably is. Either way, though, it doesn't really matter what I think—it matters what you think. You love it? Awesome! You do you. Because after all, what's a vacation but an mazing way to enjoy yourself, regardless as to what anyone else thinks?