The age of smartphones and social media has seen us all become amateur photographers, especially when we travel – if you travel and don’t post a picture of each place you visit on Instagram, did you even go on holidays?
Though the smartphone camera may be more sophisticated than ever, there is still an art to good photography and a difference between a photo for Instagram and one you’ll hang up on the wall and cherish forever, and so looking to help travellers go beyond generic selfies in front of tourist traps is Queensland startup Travelshoot.
Founded by Sarah Pearce and her brother Tim Jones, the startup connects travellers with local, professional photographers for high quality shoots, the idea coming from a trip Pearce took with her husband to New York a few years ago.
“A good friend had just started freelancing with his photography in the big apple, so he asked my husband Grant and I to help him out by being ‘your everyday couple’ in a sample iconic NYC photoshoot for his website. The images we got back from that shoot blew our minds. Unlike our usual travel selfies, this time we were both in the frame alongside iconic landscapes,” Pearce said.
The couple loved the photos so much they framed them and hung them on the wall; from this they realised there was potential to develop a business offering their experience as a service.
“Leisure travel is booming, and in the age of social media, the obsession with photos and sharing experiences online has skyrocketed. Bucket list holidays, family reunions, honeymoons and other significant occasions only add to the need to capture these milestone events. Travelshoot solves a gap in the market by introducing a new and unique way to capture significant and precious holiday memories,” Pearce said.
It took over a year to develop the model, with Pearce and Jones spending a significant amount of time talking with photographers and potential customers to flesh out the different types of packages that would appeal and provide value to both sides of the marketplace.
“We partnered with the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane and worked with their marketing and PR students on validating the business concept and the model, and the feedback that resulted from this exercise definitely helped us tweak aspects of the business,” Pearce explained.
“The evolution of the concept became about expanding our destinations, and working on how we could best partner with travel bodies and what processes we needed in place to support global partnerships.”
Customers can head over to Travelshoot and pick a destination, with each detailing itinerary options correlating to the three pricing tiers available. Once they book, Travelshoot matches them with a photographer in its network, and the customer is provided with their portfolio to see if they think it’s a good fit – so far, Pearce said the startup hasn’t had any requests from customers to pick another photographer.
From there, the shoot and itinerary are booked in, with the photographer and customer given a meeting point, and then the shoot itself takes place. Customers receive samples of their photos within 48 hours, and the full album in seven days.
There are almost 200 photographers now in the Travelshoot network, with Pearce explaining the onboarding process involves online interviews, portfolio and legal checks, and the completion of a test shoot with a real customer that “shows us they are legitimately as good as their portfolio says they are”.
“This test shoot also ensures we’re getting feedback from customers about their customer service and engagement skills – it’s one thing to be great at taking photos, but we only want customer centric and friendly photographers on our team,” she said.
Travelshoot offers three packages, with the Economy package costing $399 for a one hour shoot in one location, producing 15 edited photos. Customers are given access to the high resolution images through a private online gallery. On the other end of the scale is the First Class package at $899 for a four hour shoot across four locations, producing 70 edited photos.
The startup also offers bespoke packages for destination weddings.
According to Pearce, the response from photographers to the business on the whole has been positive, as she believes the pricing model is geared towards supporting professional photographers and “the art of photography”.
“We don’t work with student or hobby photographers, we only work with experienced photographers so we need to pay them fairly as we really respect their skillset. I think because we choose to do this and our model is about helping them focus on the bit they really enjoy doing; it’s a win win situation for everyone,” she said.
Pearce defines the startup’s broad target market as “anyone who travels and wants to capture extraordinary holiday memories”, however this boils down to women aged between 20 to 45 in particular given how much this segment invests in leisure travel and the emphasis put on wanting great photos.
The startup has partnered with a number of organisations in the tourism space to reach its target audience; a partnership with Flight Centre Group, for example, sees travel consultants discuss Travelshoot as an add-on experience for trips.
“Just like car hire, or travel insurance, a Travelshoot experience is the perfect add-on product for a partner to on sell,” Pearce said.
“It’s particularly well suited for trips such as honeymoons, surprise proposals, and milestone or bucketlist family holidays or destination occasions.”
The startup last month raised $500,000 in funding from Steve Baxter and QUT Creative Enterprise Australia (CEA) to help further its international growth and build out its team.
Image: Tim Jones, Anna Rooke of CEA, Steve Baxter, Sarah Pearce. Source: Supplied.