Picture this: You’re on a dream vacation in Maui with your significant other. The sun is setting over the Pacific Ocean and the light is just right for a photo that will inspire hundreds of likes on your Instagram feed. (By the way, check out ours!!) Sure, you could take 10 awkward selfies and hope that in at least one of them you both look naturally relaxed and happy — with the sunset actually in the frame. Or, if you’re staying at the Four Seasons Resort Maui, you can simply rely on photo ambassador Scott Miles (or SMiles as his name tag reads). His job is to take free photos of guests using their cameras or smartphones — #nofilter. So we picked Scott’s brain about beach photo tips, celebrity encounters, and the golden rule.
When did you first become interested in photography?
My interest started at age 13, when my dad gave me a Canon Sure Shot. Dad said to me: “Capture as many happy moments and memories as you can.” That quote has become my photo ambassador mission statement, because a simple photo is a priceless way to turn happy moments into happy memories.
What is a photo ambassador?
As the Four Seasons photo ambassador, I provide the free service of taking photos for our guests with whatever camera they have — usually a cell phone, point-and-shoot, or DSLR. We’ve found that people really appreciate this service because it allows everyone in their family or group to be in the photo, they don’t have to bother anyone else to take their picture, and the guests instantly have all the images. I think of the photo ambassador as the middle ground between guests taking photos selfie-style, or hiring a professional photographer.
How did you get such a rad job?
The photo ambassador position didn’t officially start until 2012, but it really began in 2010 when I started my career at Four Seasons Resort Maui as a Security Officer. Isadore Sharp successfully built Four Seasons based on the golden rule of treating others the way you’d want to be treated. During my very first shift on February 10 of that year, I noticed guests gathering at sunset and taking photos of each other. From that day forward – while thinking about the golden rule – I offered to take pictures for guests at sunset as often as I could. Because of all the positive guest feedback that followed, here I am four years and thousands of photos later with a job that doesn’t feel like work. I’m genuinely passionate about being the original Four Seasons photo ambassador… and I’m very thankful.
Give us a rundown on what a regular shift looks like for you.
Photo ambassador is still primarily a sunset service because that’s a popular time for photos. Most evenings I’m greeting guests and mingling – and proactively offering to take pictures. Guests can also make free appointments with me through our concierge, so I’m meeting guests for those prearranged photo shoots as well.
Is this a service that other Four Seasons properties will soon provide?
It’s possible that other Four Seasons could pick up the idea. But even if a photo ambassador isn’t available, I’ve found that Four Seasons’ employees are happy to take pictures for guests when asked.
What makes Maui an interesting place for photography?
Maui is a wonderful place for photos because it has the best weather on earth (most of the time) along with beautiful beaches, gorgeous flowers and foliage, island backgrounds, rainbows, sunsets, and the clear blue Pacific Ocean.
Any photography tips for vacationers?
I often notice guests have their cell phone flash turned on for all photos. Just before I take their picture, I turn the flash off, because many cell phone pictures tend to look better — and, ironically, brighter — without the flash. That isn’t always the case but generally you’ll get better results with the flash off – and the phone will be able to take photos more efficiently with the flash off, too. If you’re not satisfied with a specific picture without the flash, you can always turn the flash on and try again, or sometimes just changing the angle a little bit can help, too.
What’s your favorite off-property photography spot in Hawaii?
There are many to choose from, but if I can only pick one I’d say Makena Beach on Maui. If I had a bonus answer, I’d vote for Haleakala, Maui’s dormant volcano rising to 10,023 feet.
Have you taken any celebrity photos on the job?
Yes, but I don’t talk about any guests without their permission. Celebrities seem to have an extra appreciation for our photo service. Since I use the guest’s camera, they don’t have to worry about what might happen with the pictures because they’re the only ones with access to the photos.
What’s the advantage of having your photograph taken by the photo ambassador versus a selfie?
Selfies are great. I take them with my family, and I took one for this interview when you asked for my photo. The advantage of having the Four Seasons photo ambassador take your picture is it will likely result in a better looking photo with a little more background visible (which is especially nice on Maui), and a more comfortable pose for whoever is in the picture. I also know the best spots for photos depending on the conditions at that moment.
Editor’s note: We can’t think of many better places for a sunset shot than the beach at the Four Seasons Resort Maui.