Reframing Reality: Behind the Lens with Vaibhav Srivastava, Founder of PhotoSpot

By Brianna Ruelas Brianna Ruelas has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
Published on March 13, 2024

The perfect snapshot can define a travel experience, and PhotoSpot has come out as a tool for wanderlust enthusiasts looking to immortalize their journeys. At its helm is Vaibhav Srivastava, whose vision for a travel itinerary includes guiding adventurers to the heart of photogenic locales. This exclusive Q&A delves into the inception of PhotoSpot, revealing how a gap in the travel and photography sectors sparked the creation of a platform where destinations are chosen not just for their physical allure but for their potential to be captured through a lens.

Can you share the journey that led to the creation of PhotoSpot? What specific gap did you identify in the travel and photography industries that inspired you to start this company?

PhotoSpot’s mission is to help everyone capture memorable photos of their travels. As an influencer, I noticed an emerging gap in the travel industry. Social media photos and videos inspire over 80% of Gen Z travelers. However, most trip booking websites still follow the old model of directing users to popular tourist locations, which are only sometimes the best spots for photography. 

Take the Empire State Building, one of the most iconic structures in New York City and a frequent subject in news and influencer posts. When you’re at the Empire State Building, where most travel booking websites will lead you, you cannot take a photo with the Empire State Building in the background. This is where PhotoSpot steps in. We guide people in planning their trips based on the views and not just the physical destinations. 

One of my favorite spots for taking photos with the Empire State Building in the background is at the intersection of 34th Street and 9th Avenue. It’s only a couple of blocks from major tourist attractions, but you will rarely find any tourists there.

intersection of 34th Street and 9th Avenue
The intersection of 34th Street and 9th Avenue

How does your personal experience with travel and photography influence the vision and mission of PhotoSpot?

My background is in tech, and I am also a photography enthusiast. After leaving my job at Meta last year, I started taking long walks around New York City and posting photos from unique locations. New York City has a trove of photo spots in every season if you know where to find them. The most common question I received was: “Where was this photo taken?” Someone even offered to hire me to guide them around New York City to these photo spots. It helped me understand the latent demand for photo spots and the need for a product solution to find them. Since then, I have spoken with over a dozen influencers and photographers, and everyone immediately acknowledged this gap. Most people want to take their own photos; they just need help finding the right spots to get good photos. 

Having worked in tech for over a decade, I knew a simple solution could quickly be built. However, the key to adoption was to make it as close as possible to trip planning and not add extra steps for users.

Can you walk us through how travelers use PhotoSpot to discover unique photo spots and plan their travel itineraries?

Think of PhotoSpot as a combination of social media and travel planning. We are building a full-funnel experience for people who love to travel.

  • [Browsing]: When you visit the PhotoSpot site, you will see a feed of photo spots shared by other travelers, along with their locations. You can browse the feed, save photo spots you like for future travel, etc.
  • [Searching]: Once you have a destination in mind, you can go to the map view and see how and where other photographers have taken their photos at your destination. Save the photo spots you like in a collection, and it will create a map view of all your favorite photo spots. When you travel, you will have a handy map of exact locations and how to take photos.
  • [Planning]: Lastly, we are building an AI-based trip planner based on your saved photo spots. You will be able to generate your trip itinerary along with local details while making sure your favorite photo spots are included.

People love taking beautiful photos, yet somewhere between planning and navigating local challenges, the photography experience could be more balanced. Our vision is a world where people can focus on capturing photos at their favorite spots and spend less time on planning.

Could you elaborate on how PhotoSpot serves as a platform for travel influencers and photographers to share and map their unique photo spots?

For travel influencers and photographers, PhotoSpot creates a map of all the places from which you share photos. The example below is the profile of one of the travel photographers sharing photos from three different continents. This helps people see the breadth of your travel experiences and follow you: 

Also, unlike your social media feed, the discovery of your profile is dependent not just on engagement with your content but also on the uniqueness of your photo spots. The more unique your photo spots are, the more you stand out on map-based exploration. 

Photospot map-based exploration
Photospot map-based exploration

How does PhotoSpot foster a community among travel enthusiasts, and what tools do you offer to encourage interaction and content sharing?

Our motto is “Your lens can be someone’s destination; let’s PhotoSpot the world and inspire travel.” The world is full of amazing views, and most are free. We can help each other go beyond the usual tourist traps and capture our best travel memories.

One of our popular tools is “Collections,” where young travelers can share their favorite photo spots in themed collections. An example is a collection of favorite fall photos in New York City created by a user. If you are visiting New York City in the fall, I would recommend checking out the beautiful colors from these spots: 

Photospot Fall Favorite
Photospot Fall Favorite

What major challenges have you faced while developing and scaling PhotoSpot, and how have you addressed them?

Building a consumer product that requires a network effect to succeed is challenging, and several investor friends warned me about this. However, I was convinced of the demand for this product and decided to move forward.

We followed the cluster approach, starting with New York City by targeting tourists planning visits to the city and then expanding from there. The approach worked very well, and our Cost Per User was just one-tenth of the travel industry average. Since then, we have expanded worldwide to allow photographers and influencers to share their breadth of travel experiences. However, our targeting remains very location-based to address travelers planning specific trips.

What future developments can users expect from PhotoSpot? Are there any upcoming features or partnerships that you’re excited about?

We aim to make photo-centric travel planning as close as possible to how travel planning works today. From my experience working in tech, asking users to change their behavior to meet a need only sometimes works well.

  • We are integrating AI-based trip planning into PhotoSpot. Users will be able to collect their favorite photo spots and create an itinerary that includes them along with other experiences. 
  • Another feature our users have requested is tour guides. Navigating away from tourist destinations can be tricky for those new to a city or country. With PhotoSpot, users will be able to see tour guides who can take them to their favorite photo spots. We are trying to bring onboard tour guides who work with small groups and can stand out with their unique photo spots rather than the volume of reviews and the size of the groups.
  • Lastly, we want to build a community platform where people can discuss travel plans, get recommendations, etc. No matter how good an AI-based itinerary planner you have, there are always questions, and having a community of travelers/influencers to answer those can help a lot of people.

Where do you see PhotoSpot in the next five years, and how do you envision its role in transforming travel planning and photography?

Photo-based trip planning is still in its early days. However, with social media being the leading inspiration for young travelers, it is time for travel planning websites to address this growing demand. 

Our vision is a world where travelers focus on what they enjoy the most: browsing experiences and photos they like and then enjoying them. A combination of AI trip planners and human help can handle the rest of the work. Users have responded well so far to the concept of photo spot discovery and its incorporation into their travel planning. For those who have visited New York City before or are planning to visit, check out our collection of favorite photo spots that might need to be added to your itinerary.

By Brianna Ruelas Brianna Ruelas has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team

Brianna Ruelas is a Dallas-based account executive and news desk editor at Grit Daily. She is also a motivational speaker and singer, creative cultivator, and bestselling author. Reach her at [email protected].

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