My Top Tips for Booking the Perfect Vacation Photographer (My FAVORITE Vacation Souvenir)

Considering booking a vacation photographer for your next trip? Read on for my top tips!

A man in a blue plaid shirt dips a woman with a pink and white dress in the middle of a street with a stone church steeple in the background.

Vacation photoshoots have become my absolute favorite unique souvenir to “collect” from the different countries Matthew and I have traveled to, and we’re building up quite the collection!

We’ve done couple’s photoshoots in France, Germany, Slovenia, Morocco, Colombia, and Vietnam. I’ve also done a vacation shoot with my oldest daughter when we visited San Diego together. The photos from each of these shoots have become treasured possessions and memories for us!

A man and woman stand next to each other by a large fountain with lots of water shooting out in a photo-shoot in southern France.
A man and woman kiss leaning next to a flowering tree on the side of a sidewalk with lots of plotted plants/bushes on the left and right of them.

Doing a vacation photoshoot, particularly on international trips, is something that I would recommend to just about any couple or family who loves traveling and exploring.

In this post, I’m sharing the tips and tricks I’ve learned about vacation photoshoots, including how to find a great photographer and what to do before the shoot.

Everything to Know About Booking a Vacation Photographer

>>How Early to Book a Photoshoot

A man and woman interlock arms in a cobblestone street covered with lights and garlands next to the small shops on both sides.
A man and woman hold hot chocolate in a cute maroon mug next to a wood pillar by a large Christmas tree.

I’ve booked photoshoots anywhere from 2 days ahead of time to several months ahead of time. We were quite lucky with the 2 days ahead-of-time photoshoot, but it was mid-week in December, not a weekend during summer.

I’d recommend starting to look at photoshoots once your itinerary is figured out and you’re completely sure of your travel plans. At a minimum, I’d start contacting photographers at least 1-2 months beforehand. If you must have a weekend date in summer, I’d start looking 3-5 months ahead of time.

>>How Much Does it Cost?

Our budget for photoshoots is $300 or less, and we’ve been able to find really quality photographers in our locations for that budget. Depending on your location, $200-300 can definitely be a reasonable budget!

>>How to Find a Photographer

A man in a gray plaid shirt dips a woman in a flowy red skirt on a intricate tiled garden with white and blue walls.

There are multiple ways that you can find photographers, and I’d look into a few of these options to find the perfect fit for you.


A man and woman stand next to each other staring into each other's eyes against a tiled flower pillar in a garden.

Generally, I start my search for photographers using Instagram. I’ll search hashtags like #CITYphotographer or #COUNTRYphotographer; e.g. #marrakechphotographer or #sloveniaphotographer.

I’ll scroll through and if I see a picture that I like, I’ll check out the photographer’s page. Anything that looks promising I’ll save on Instagram.

If you’re traveling to a country that doesn’t speak English, make sure you are also searching hashtags in that country’s native language.

For example, when we were visiting Colombia, I was searching for a photographer for Cartagena, but could not find anything! I finally realized that because almost no one in Colombia speaks English, of course they weren’t using English hashtags (d’uh!)

Once I switched and searched #fotografiacartagena instead, I found our (incredible) photographer.

>>Google Search

If nothing good is turning up on Instagram, I’ll next turn to Google. Usually I’ll search “lifestyle photographer in XYZ CITY”, “family photographer in XYZ CITY”, or even “wedding photographer in XYZ CITY.” I’ve actually had a lot of luck with booking wedding photographers – they are usually happy to do a romantic couple photoshoot.

In fact, this is how I found our fabulous photographer in Slovenia! I had found a few options on Instagram, but nothing that got me super excited, so I searched wedding photographers in Slovenia on Google, and found them on a “best wedding photographers in Slovenia” round-up article.

>>Vacation Photography Websites

The final way you can look for vacation photographers is through a dedicated vacation photography website, such as This is definitely the easiest option, as you can scroll through the photographers available in a specific destination and book one directly through the site.

This isn’t my top option, just because I feel like you end up paying more on Flytogether than you would booking directly with the photographer, and I always want more pictures than is promised through the website.

However, this is a great option if you just don’t have the time or energy to search social media or the web for a photographer.

>>What I Look For in a Photographer

A man and woman kiss on a wooden boat in the middle of Lake Bled which has crystal blue water with an island in the middle.
A woman reaches over a man shoulders on a wooden boat close to the shore of a blue lake.
A man kisses a woman's hand in the middle of a blue water lake with a lot of greenery on the island behind them with a large stone steeple rising above the trees.
Beautiful Lake Bled

No matter where I end up finding our photographer, there are always a few things I look for in their pictures:

  1. How posed and stiff do the couples look in the pictures? Does the photographer capture movement and natural moments, or are the pictures always just of a couple standing and looking at the camera?
  2. Their editing style. I personally prefer light and airy photos, so I usually don’t gravitate toward photographers who use a more moody, dark edit.
  3. Does the photographer use light well? Are there harsh lighting and shadows in their photos, or do know how to find well-lit spots and adjust camera settings to adapt to different lighting situations?

>>What to Discuss Beforehand with the Photographer

A mom and daughter hold hand walking on a sandy beach with gorgeous white and coral houses behind them
A daughter and mom walk on the shoreline of a blue water beach with the sun starting in to set in the background.

Once I’ve found a photographer or two, reached out to them, and gotten their prices, these are some of the other things I always discuss before committing to a shoot:

What dates and times are they available? If you can have a few date options that will work for you (including mid-week times), that will help immensely.

I also discuss what time of day they are able to do the shoot. If possible, I always prefer going out right after sunrise – the light is phenomenal and the streets are usually very quiet.

Of course, this isn’t always possible (in Marrakech, we took pictures in a museum, so we shot the hour before closing. And in Cologne, we were doing our pictures at nighttime, when the markets lights were on) but if it works for your location, an early morning time slot is so worth the early wake up call.

How long is the shoot? I usually prefer a one-hour time slot. Thirty minutes usually feels too short. I have done 2-hour slots on our vacation shoots, but they start to get really long and tiring at the end.

How many pictures are delivered? This is a really important item for me, and one that doesn’t always get discussed beforehand. I always ask for as many pictures as possible, usually at least 40-50 pictures.

Often, photographers will give a minimum number they will deliver, but end up delivering much more than that. Usually, photographers are willing to be flexible with the number of pictures you would like to get.

However, one time a photographer said they really could only deliver 30 pictures because it’s more work to edit more pictures, but I paid a little extra for her to deliver another 30 pictures, and I am so happy about that.

Turnaround time? I always like to know what the turnaround time is for getting pictures back, just so I know what to expect. Anywhere from a few days to 2 weeks is pretty typical.

>>How I Choose Photoshoot Locations

A man twirls a lady in a pink and white dress on the sidewalk of an arched gate with a garland over it.
A man and woman dance on the front of a brick and stone church with rusting metal artifacts on the other side of the street.

This just depends on the city or country we are visiting! I love a good city streets shoot, where the background is the unique architecture of wherever you are visiting. We did this in Aix-en-Provence, France; Cartagena, Colombia; and Hanoi, Vietnam, and I love how the pictures really reflect the country we were visiting.

Of course, sometimes we choose more specific locations. In Marrakech, we went to a museum that used to be a palace, and had gorgeous tiles and mosaics.

In Slovenia, we did a rowboat photoshoot on Lake Bled – an iconic spot in the country.

In San Diego, we did a beach photoshoot on Coronado Island.

And of course, we did a shoot in the Christmas markets of Cologne, and the festive Christmas spirit really comes through in those pictures.

Basically, I like to choose places that will easily showcase where we are, without standing in front of the most touristy attraction in the city. So, for example, I wouldn’t do a photoshoot at the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, or right in front of the Colosseum in Rome.

That’s just me, though – if you want pictures in front of the Colosseum, go for it!

I generally do some research ahead of time looking at places I want to visit that are a bit tucked away (for example, that’s now we picked our Marrakesh spot), and you can always scan Instagram for location inspiration.

Of course, always ask your photographer for location suggestions – they always have good suggestions or feedback on your ideas!

>>How to Pay the Photographer

A man lifts up a woman in a pink dress on a red bridge in Vietnam
A man and woman walk in the streets of a cute shop filled alley with vines coming over the balconys.

Usually, we pay the photographer in cash at the end of the shoot. A few photographers have requested we wire them half the money as a deposit, and then pay the rest in cash at the end of the shoot.

>>What to Wear for Your Photoshoot

The short answer is to wear whatever you feel most comfortable in!

Personally, I really like wearing dresses for photoshoots, especially a twirly dress that has a nice flow to it. The movement on a swishy dress can create some really pretty shots!

If you look at our pictures, you’ll see Matthew prefers a buttoned shirt and slacks. He mostly tries to compliment my outfit both with color and with doing more pattern if my dress is solid and solid if mine is patterned.

In my opinion, I think that unless you are doing an engagement/wedding shoot or have picked a location that is romantic/intimate, it doesn’t make sense for either of you to look to formally dressed. Likewise, you probably don’t want a graphic tee in most scenarios.

But you know what type of shoot you want, so go get it!

>>Tips For Getting Great Pictures

While your photographer will likely offer great coaching during the shoot, here are a couple of things we’ve found help us enjoy the experience and final product even more:

Relax – Being stiff or worrying about what others are thinking just makes the whole experience unpleasant. Who cares if others are looking at you??!! You will literally never see those people again, but you will look at these pictures for years and years.

Interact Naturally as Much as Possible – Gentle, natural movement is a photographer’s friend and you’ll like those shots better. Try to avoid just standing still and smiling at the photographer.

Try to Forget About the Photographer – Focus on your partner or your surroundings.

I always like a flowy dress – this comes back to motion again. The picture from Cartagena at the top of the post is one of my top favorites everrrrrr and a big part of what makes it so good is that swooshy skirt! But of course, just wear what you feel comfortable in.

Doing a Vacation Photoshoot – The Wrap Up

Look, it’s definitely time, energy, and money. It takes time to find the photographer, it takes time and effort the day of to get dressed up and take an hour or two out of your vacation itinerary to do the shoot. It’s a chunk of money.

And I’ll admit, even as someone who has done many, many of these shoots, I still get a little nervous right before we do a vacation photoshoot.

But it is always, always, ALWAYS worth it. I have never once regretted the time or money we have spent on these pictures! If you’re on the fence, I’d definitely say go for it. It’s a unique travel souvenir you’ll enjoy for the rest of your life!

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