Meet the Founder

Shoot My Travel: the photography company helping influencers get that money shot

Leah Montebello
January 25, 2024

Simpatica chats to Valerie Lopez, founder of Shoot My Travel, about her love for photography, the rise of the vacation photographer, and the company’s imminent rebrand to Angle.

Why did you become a photographer?

Valerie: I grew up in Colombia and I always found photography fascinating. My parents loved collecting art and I grew up exposed to a lot of art and photography. My mum and grandmother were both designers, so I come from a line of creatives. When I was 15, I had a really good friend who had a camera and I started taking pictures with it and later started a photography course. I loved doing it and realised I could start getting paid for it. At a similar time, my grandma passed away and left me an inheritance, which was like $1000 – a lot of money when you’re 18! I said I’m going to buy a camera and the camera I bought paid for my school, brought me more clients, and eventually allowed me to move to the USA.

With my photography, I started taking pictures of my community and then branched out. I was very creative with what I did. For example, I would go on Groupon and put my photography sessions at a discount rate to get clients in and after their first session, they would keep coming back at full price! I did lots of different tricks of the trade.

Where did the idea for Shoot My Travel come from?

Valerie: So it started when I travelled with my co-founder, Camilo Rojas. Working with his creative agency, we always had the problem of having great pictures of him and great pictures of me, but no good ones of us together. I said, if we are photographers and we are having issues, I can’t imagine the people who have no idea how to take pictures! Back then in late 2015/2016, everybody was also using selfie sticks, which always felt really insulting as a photographer!

Camilo and I said we have such a great network of photographers that we work with, why don’t we just put together a blog or platform where we can connect people? It started as a personal project and little did we know we would be the pioneers of vacation photography here in the USA. It became a big trend with the rise of Instagram and social media, and we knew we had unlocked something super powerful. I decided to actually focus all my attention and research on it. We launched in 2017 and grew exponentially up until last year because of the pandemic.

It started as a personal project and little did we know we would be the pioneers of vacation photography here in the USA.

The emotional part of it was when I told my Mom I was working on this project, and she brought a box of pictures to my house. My family is Colombian and my father passed away before I was born. However, it turns out my Dad used to hire photographers when they travelled and they were the pictures in the box. For me, it was super special. It was a silver lining of everything and the power of photography going beyond online; it was our personal history.

How does Shoot My Travel work?

Valerie: You go through the platform and select the city you are going to; we are located in 450 cities around the world. You can then choose the photography and the style – we like this because some photographers can capture different moods. You then pick a date and time and meet the photographer at an exact location. The photographer will take the pictures and then just 24 hours later they arrive edited and high resolution in your inbox. In terms of price, it depends on the city. But the most affordable is around $275 for 2 hours.

How do you vet photographers?

Valerie: We have an application process. They will apply and send us a reference and profile. They need to have two years of experience in the industry, then we have video onboarding as well.

Shoot My Travel

What is the demographic of Shoot My Travel users?

Valerie: Well 65% of people who buy our services are women between the ages of 25-45. They use it for family, as solo travellers, for honeymoons, or as couples photography. Then we have about 35% male, who are a little older at around the age of 30-50. These guys are travelling by themselves and want pictures from their trips. A lot of them use the photos for Tinder applications or dating sites! There are also a lot of surprise engagement photos, which is really romantic.

Why do you think photography is so important and how do you think our relationship with it has changed alongside the growth of social media?

Valerie: Photography started as a way to capture our history as a community, and this used to be the main driver. However, it’s evolved with the rise of social media and the iPhone in capturing our personal history. Now it’s almost like if you haven’t taken a picture of the place you visit, were you even there? If you don’t post it online, did you even go there?

Now it’s almost like if you haven’t taken a picture of the place you visit, were you even there?

It’s become the normal way we capture personal history, like a little door that you open into that memory. It helps compartmentalise your life and it starts even earlier now – like babies with Instagrams who have their whole life documented.

How does Shoot My Travel fit with the rise of influencers?

Valerie: We’re actually influencers’ best partners because when they travel a lot of them don’t have the budget to bring photographers with them (they get free nights rather than getting paid for the influencing job). So we help them create the content and are a much more affordable partner than a photographer from their hometown. Our photographers can also help them find really cute spots they wouldn’t know about otherwise. In reality, we’ve become their allies rather than the competition!

Shoot My Travel

Above: Valerie and Co-founder, Camilo after winning their pitch competition in Japan.

Covid-19 was tough for the whole of the travel industry. How did you guys evolve and adapt? What lessons have you learned?

Valerie: I remember on March 15th 2020 when everything changed. We didn’t know what was going to happen. Travel was the number one industry that was hit across all markets, and for us, it was like, ok let’s come back together as a team. We said we need to have a plan A, B, and C if this is going to last for a year. So we figured that out internally and said this is the perfect opportunity for us to work on our bigger ambition, Angle.

We started in the travel space because we think photography and travel are a match made in heaven. But we also know that everyone needs a photographer from personal to business. You need content across the board. In order to cater for this, as a brand, we needed to shift the gears to be seen as a photography marketplace rather than just a travel place. Angle is a platform that solves the inefficiencies of hiring a professional photographer for customers and businesses, and it’s pivoted the brand.

We started working on rebranding and spoke to customers and photographers. We deep-dived into what our new mission and vision would be. Our team built a whole new platform, which we’ll be launching by the end of the year. It’s been a great opportunity to see how we can move from customers to actual businesses.

Was this an idea before the pandemic?

Valerie: We started working on the idea for Angle in 2019 and we were debating when the perfect time to launch it would be. With the pandemic, we finally had the time to knuckle down and weren’t dealing with customers 24/7.  We will be looking at working with all business needs and we’ll be focusing on certain verticals to be able to scale. At the moment, this is corporate, events, and direct-to-consumer brands.

And finally, what’s your favourite type of photography and where is your favourite place to shoot?

Valerie: The best place I’ve shot is Cape Town, it’s one of the most amazing places. At the moment, I really love lifestyle photography. I love to shoot families, influencers, and bloggers: anything that has a bit of production and good styling. I like capturing magical moments as well because you can’t really capture those with your phone.

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