Flytographer, St. John, USVI

Vacation Photography in St. John

A St. John Photoshoot + Tips for Vacation Photos

Amidst this surprise trip to St. John for the weekend, I also booked us a 30 minute shoot with St. John-based Flytographer, Savanah Loftus. I chatted with Savanah over the phone before we arrived to get her thoughts on our options for a quick thirty minute shoot. She gave me a few thoughts on circuits that she typically does: 1) A focus on Cruz Bay using the vibrant colors and fun qualities of the island’s main town; 2) a beach shoot; 3) a shoot playing off of the ruins near Caneel Bay in St. John. I’ve seen photos from all three settings and all are pretty incredible for different reasons. Before meeting with her, I had my mind set on a beach shoot. I wanted something playful but still romantic to capture the essence of our first wedding anniversary.

Flytographer Vacation Photography

When the day arrived, the skies were hazier than they had been the previous days. We had heard about this ‘Saharan dust’ and were finally understanding what it was: it left this bizarre hazy layer on the island, muting the colors which was especially noticeable at the beach. When we met up in Cruz Bay, I mentioned it to Savanah to ask for a bit of direction. She quickly pointed us to a Cruz Bay shoot where we could play off the colors in the town instead of relying on the colors in the sky.

Flytographer Vacation PhotographyFlytographer Vacation PhotographyFlytographer Vacation Photography


No question about it, Scott and I both felt awkward to begin with; having your photo taken in public with people quizically looking on makes the whole thing feel even less natural. With a thirty minute shoot, you have to get comfortable pretty quickly to take advantage of the brief time that you have with the photog. Savanah did a great job of trying to make us feel natural and put us in situations that didn’t seem too forced. All in all, we both thought the photos turned out fairly well. I chose to have a vacation photographer primarily to have a few photos from our first anniversary that we were both in. We always end up leaving trips without more than one or two decent photos together and I was determined to make this trip different. Keep reading for a few tips for getting the most out of a vacation shoot based on our experience and what I think I could have done better.

Flytographer Vacation Photography

Tips for Vacation Photography

Take the time to get ready.

1This seems obvious, but don’t discount the time that it takes to get prepped. You’ve scheduled vacation photos so you have great memories to look back on, so make sure you take the time for hair and make-up, as you would for any photo session. When the shoot day rolled around for us, we were having too much fun to get back to our place at a reasonable time (we were out snorkeling earlier, too, so you can vaguely see mask lines on my face). I had an hour to shower, get dressed and do my hair and makeup; not nearly enough time to put the effort in that I had originally intended. I had planned on beachy waves and photo-ready make-up (remember that make up looks a bit washed out in photos), but instead barely had time to blow dry my hair in full. When the photos came back, I wished I had just taken an additional 30 minutes to prep accordingly. Again, seems obvious, but carve out the time so you like how you look!

Coordinate without matching. 

2You’re probably wondering what to wear for vacation photos — I know I was. I scoured the internet and tried to find pictures that could inspire our wardrobe, plus I asked our photographer for tips in advance. She gave me great advice: pretend as if you’re one big outfit. Coordinate your colors, but you don’t have to be too matchy-matchy (read: khaki shorts and white button ups). As long as you stick with a palette, the colors will work together nicely. I actually loved these palette ideas by Kiawah Island Photo for inspiration.

Of course, if you’re the kind of couple that’s good with the matchy-matchy outfits, that’s great, too!

Cover your arms.

3This may not be relevant to all women out there, but it’s worth mentioning as something to take into consideration when planning your outfit: cover your arms. I toyed with the idea of wearing a pretty, lightweight blouse with shorts instead of a sleeveless maxi and I really wish I did. Different angles, lighting and positions can create images that aren’t the most flattering, plus a nice blouse is pretty timeless. Someone had actually shared this tip on another site, and I digested it and promptly discounted it. Now, looking at others’ outfits from photos that I love, I’ve seen a common thread: the girls are wearing blouses or lightweight sweaters that look effortless and are supremely flattering. 

Get comfortable with each other.

Flytographer Vacation Photography

4Seriously. You think that you and your hubby (or boyfriend/girlfriend/fiance) are comfortable together, but you’ll be surprised at how awkward you are when a camera is pointed your way. When your photographer asks you to ‘flirt’ with your husband, what does that look like? For me, without having really thought about it before hand, I awkwardly touched his shirt, and Scott would pat my back (like we were friends on a baseball team). I’m sure you know how to flirt with your significant other, but again – when someone asks you to flirt and is taking pics of your interactions, it’s not quite as natural! 

Depending on how comfortable you are (or not) with an audience you may clam up, so it’s good to know that you have a default glance or kiss for the camera.

Grab a drink beforehand.

Flytographer, Cruz Bay, St. John, USVI

5Grab a cocktail before the shoot! Scott couldn’t have felt more awkward for the first ten minutes. Who am I kidding? couldn’t have felt more awkward for the first ten minutes! During our first photo opportunity, Scott looked at me, glanced around awkwardly, and said, ‘I don’t want to do this!’ The entire situation felt so unnatural for him. He warmed up to it, but it took 30 – 40% of our shoot  (if not more!) for us to settle in. If you’re okay with grabbing a cocktail before hand, grab a cocktail. Had we grabbed a mojito before the camera started snapping, we may have let go of our insecurities a bit and enjoyed being the camera’s focus for 30 minutes.

Flytographer, Cruz Bay, St. John, USVI

All in all, we were grateful for a sweet photographer who helped ease our fears and we were pretty happy with how our photos turned out. I learned a lot from this first go around that I’ll certainly employ next time, but I think we were both happy with having a few frameable photos from the bunch.

For those that have tried a vacation photographer, do you have any tips to share with those that are looking to hire someone to capture some special moments?

xo from the islands,

Shannon Kircher, The Wanderlust Effect

More about Shannon Kircher

Shannon Kircher is the founder and editor of The Wanderlust Effect. Founded in 2009, she has continued to document her international escapes as an expat in Europe and the Caribbean. Additionally, Shannon is the founder of Compass & Vine, a luxury boutique travel design firm, and is the Director of Marketing for the Frangipani Beach Resort. Shannon holds an MSc in Social Policy and Development from the London School of Economics and is a current candidate for WSET Level 3 in Wines & Spirits.