While traveling, we all know how important it is to snap the perfect pic (or ten) for your Instagram grid or upcoming blog post. While have a family member or S.O. play photographer for the weekend is what many of us do (hence the term, #instagramhusband), it might not be the best way to truly embrace your trip and make the most of every moment.
But what if we told you there was a way to essentially pack a photographer along with you for your next trip? We recently heard about Shoot My Travel, a company that can make all of your travel blogger dreams come true! In fact, we were so fascinated by the concept, we decided to sit down and do a Q&A with Shoot My Travel founder and CEO, Valerie Lopez! Read along to get to know her and the story behind her amazing company:
Let’s start off by you telling us a little bit about your background and how you got to where you are today!
I come from a family of Colombian immigrants that came to the US in the 80’s.
I was born in Miami and raised in Cali, Colombia. Cali is the city where salsa was born!
I grew up surrounded by art–my dad was a big art collector, my mom and grandma were designers. When I turned 15, I started exploring the world of photography, I fell in love and decided to learn it professionally. I wanted to become a photojournalist, so I enrolled in journalism school in Bogota, Colombia, but the political angle the major wasn’t what I was looking for so I transferred to University of Miami to study communications and art and paid all my expenses doing freelance photography.
I met my boyfriend Camilo Rojas (he is the most talented graphic designer and artist I know!) in this process and moved back to Miami. We started traveling quite a bit and saw that we had no pictures of us together and thought of hiring a photographer for our trips.
We started working on the idea for Shoot My Travel and we shared it with my mom. She was very emotional and shared with us the photos of her and my dad when they traveled. My dad use to hire local photographers everywhere they went together. This was very important and emotional for me as well, as my dad passed away when my mom was 5 months pregnant with me and I didn’t have the pleasure to meet him, so this was the universe saying, “he has always been by your side.” You can read more about our story here.
OUR STORY I – Founded by Valerie Lopez and Camilo Rojas, the idea first came to them while vacationing during the summer of 2013. Surrounded by unbelievable landscapes and stunning architecture, Valerie, a Miami-based photographer, was torn between the desire to get behind the lens, and also be in front of it. Wanting creative and spontaneous shots of them on vacation, Valerie and Camilo imagined this would be the perfect opportunity to work with a photographer – but had no idea how to find one in a foreign city. After many awkward selfies and out-of-focus shots captured by strangers, they realized they may have just discovered a niche in the market of travel photography…
Tell us a little bit about Shoot My Travel. What inspired you to start the company?
As artist we’ve always been big believers that personal projects that are close to your heart are what transform and impact society. We’ve always dreamt about building a company that could turn all of our passions: travel, culture, fashion, food, design into something we could share with others, create jobs and fund more adventures! Shoot My Travel was built on that need to share and live our passion and here we are today!
How does the process of finding reliable photographers across the US and abroad work?
This is one of our favorite parts! The photographers apply only through our online application that has key questions. We go through each application as a team, we review their portfolio and read through their answers carefully, as this says so much about their personality and intentions. After this, we go through all of their social media, online presence, and any information Google can provide us. We then send them an approval email and our photographer agreement.
Can you walk us through the process of booking/meeting up with a photographer on-location?
The booking process is super simple, easy and intuitive. Once you have downloaded the iOS app, you select your destination, choose your prefered photographer and book a package. After we receive the booking confirmation, your photographer will chat with you directly in the “chat” section. Once you have the time of your life during the photo tour, we will deliver the photos 24-48 hrs after via a private gallery link. The same process takes place when people book through the website.
Have you always been interested in photography?
Always! From a young age I felt the need to express and share the way I see life and photography has allowed me to capture those perfectly surreal moments that you just stumble upon by mistake and create a personal dialogue with my environment.
" We met with our photographer Carolina in Barcelona's Gothic Quarter and she also took us through the El Borne district – a few areas we hadn't explored before. I can't believe how fast we received the photos! We booked the session on our last day in Barcelona and by the time we flew back to Vancouver they were already in my inbox. The experience was fun with our 8 month old daughter and great to see her personality shine through now – last we had professional photos done was when she was a week old. Very special to have these photos done on our trip." 📸Carolina for SMT Barcelona . . . #barcelona #familyphotography #familytrip #newborn #travelwithbaby #shootmytravel #packaphotographer #vacationphotographer #findaphotographer #holidayphotographer #personalphotographer
These days, it seems like every business has a presence on social media. What role does social media play for Shoot My Travel?
A huge role! Social media has allowed us to share what we do with all types of travelers and people. We have worked with influencers worldwide and it has been a great way to spread the word. We are a peer to peer shared economy concept, so social media is part of our core.
What has been your most rewarding experience as a business owner so far?
Definitely and without a doubt being able to create jobs for hundreds of photographers worldwide. As a freelance photographer, I know how hard it is to make it out there and to contribute to all of those artists in monetary and emotional way is priceless.
Most challenging experience?
Going against everything everyone’s expectations of what you should do as a woman.
As a company going through the development process of the new booking platform, it was a very challenging and extensive process. But, we made it and it feels so good!
If there were one thing you wish you knew when you first started your business, what would it be?
Not everything is creative and fun. There is soooo much project management, business development, lawyer stuff, team building, coordination, meetings, conference calls, presentations, pitching, and emails–omg so many emails! I send out about 70-100 emails a day, and it’s exhausting, very exhausting. You will work more than ever in your life, you will say no to happy hour and give away Sundays in bed but that is what makes a difference. You HAVE to love what you do or else you will be miserable. And then there is the milestone you overcome that makes up for all of the sacrifices you make and fills your heart once again for you to keep going at it.
What are your goals for the future, both personally and professionally?
Personally to continue learning and driving our business into success by being a great leader, learning from our mistakes and overcoming challenges. As a company, to launch the Android version of our app and close our funding round successfully.
Special thanks to Valerie for taking the time to answer our questions!
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