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Flytographer is new company that makes holidays picture-perfect

Victoria’s Nicole Smith has come up with a way to avoid the disappointment of mediocre vacation photos that fail to reflect the mood and experiences of a special holiday.
Nicole Smith founded Flytographer as an alternative to often disappointing self- or stranger-taken vacation photos.

Victoria’s Nicole Smith has come up with a way to avoid the disappointment of mediocre vacation photos that fail to reflect the mood and experiences of a special holiday.

Her new company, Flytographer, matches travellers with experienced photographers in 21 cities around the world to capture memories in photojournalist-style pictures.

The service is an alternative to returning home with “selfies” (photos people take of themselves, typically on cellphones) or shots taken by strangers willing to snap a picture of you and your travelling companions.

Smith, who has worked in marketing, came up with the idea after meeting her best friend, who lives in Copenhagen, in Paris in October 2011. “We had two days in Paris alone. It was just like this incredible gift.”

She was eager to get pictures, thinking, “I need to capture this so I can relive this in the future.” But all the photos were “blah.”

Luckily, a friend of her friend joined them and was a good sport about taking lots of pictures of the pair in different locations. Those photographs gave Smith the images she wanted. “When I saw the photos after, I had goosebumps instantly.”

Flytographer was launched in late March, filling what Smith sees as a void in the marketplace. It’s part of the Accelerate Tectoria program, delivered by the Victoria Advanced Technology Council, to help new technology entrepreneurs get started. Test shoots were carried out in Paris, London and Buenos Aires to refine her business model.

The company reached a massive audience last month when it was featured on NBC’s Today website, leading to further exposure in U.S. media. It also prompted 80 photographers from around the globe to apply for work.

Travellers count on photographs to evoke the emotions and thrills of a carefully planned vacation that can cost thousands of dollars. Canadians who are planning to travel this year will spend an average of $3,078, according to the 2013 BMO Summer Spending Report.

Smith is aiming to create a one-stop-shopping company for different locations. The number of cities served will grow as demand rises and new photographers are vetted.

Flytographer hires English-speaking photographers who are checked for talent, personality and reliability, Smith said. Photographers respond to what customers want — such as romantic or fun pictures.

A Flytographer photographer met Victoria’s Nicole Ardiel and four of her best friends in New York in May for a “very affordable” one-hour session.

“It was brilliant,” she said. “We just pretended we were glamorous celebrities as we walked along the streets of New York.”

Normally one of the group, often Ardiel, is missing in photos because she is taking the shot. This time, the friends were all together. “It is absolutely the best souvenir.”

She raved about the quality of pictures and the fun of working with the photographer, who took candid and posed photos. Smith first sent them to a salon, where they were served champagne while having their hair done.

In Europe, the company has photographers in London, Paris, Amsterdam, Florence, Berlin, Barcelona, Madrid, Lisbon, Copenhagen and Stockholm.

In North America, Flytographer serves New York, Honolulu, Maui, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, Victoria, Toronto and Guadalajara. In South America, the service is available in Buenos Aires. Photographers have just been lined up on Oahu, and Smith has plans to continue to expand services and locations. She is talking to a luxury hotel chain about working together.

Digital photographs taken by Flytographer are delivered via email, Smith said.

Three options are offered and customers can request personalized shoots. Flytographer offers gift cards.

• $199 US: 30 minutes in one neighbourhood and a minimum of 15 digital photos.

• $349 US: 60 minutes in one or two neighbourhoods and 30 digital photos.

• $599 US: two hours in multiple locations and 60 digital photos.

Customers can book shoots through Flytographer, which makes all the arrangements and sends out a “game plan,” including date, time and place of meeting, a picture and cellphone number of the photographer (to assist in finding each other in busy locations). “I want the experience to be a seamless customer experience from end to end.”

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