The race to ‘Uber’ photography

‘On-demand services’ in the ‘two-side marketplace’ in the ‘sharing economy’ are booming. These millennial terms describe companies like Uber or AirBnb, which offer unbeatable prices compared to the competition in both the private transport and travel accommodation industry.
Fullscreen capture 14072016 112346 AMYoung entrepreneurs are exploring the boundaries of this business model, and for photography it’s only a matter of time.

‘Sometimes getting photography services is more painful than getting a cab. It’s such a fragmented market and there’s no existing system or marketplace,’ Matt Schiller, co-founder of Snappr, said to Startup Smart.

Snappr, based in Sydney, is the newest start-up on the block and the best contender to Uberfy photography.

Firstly an idea of pricing – which is well under what the average established professional photographer charges. A 30-minute shoot costs $59, one hour is $89, and three hours just $209. Snappr takes 20 percent of this rate, and a client walks away with 5, 10, or 20 digital photos, respectively, with the option to buy more at $15 a pop and to have them printed.

‘At our price-point, what we’ve observed is that people are buying photoshoots for things where previously they would not have been able to justify getting a professional,’ Schiller told ProCounter. ‘In particular, LinkedIn profiles, smaller-sized company events, and even dating app photos! So rather than just undercutting competition on price, we see ourselves as building a new photography market that wasn’t there previously.’

Someone booking a shoot chooses a location, date and time.

Snappr matches the client with a photographer depending on the type of shoot – event, profile or portrait, wedding, engagement, product, or fashion shoot . Any type of photography can be book – shoots that fall outside general event, portrait and commercial categories can be booked with a custom order.
Fullscreen capture 14072016 112918 AMThe idea for Snappr came after Schiller found many (semi) professional photographer friends complained that marketing and advertising was the biggest challenge to a photography business.

‘This is where Snappr can really help the industry, as we have the scale to do large, creative marketing campaigns. This is where our main focus will be in the coming few months,’ Schiller said.

He’s not joking about large marketing campaigns, either.

In 30 days Snappr secured over $200,000 in investments – before it was even two months old – and closed the seed funding drive raising almost $500,000. While the investor list is tight-lipped information, there appears to be an overwhelming interest in Snappr from investors who ‘experienced pain’ booking a professional photographer.

Schiller said the company is currently organising free public liability insurance for its photographers, who undergo a ‘very rigorous application and vetting process’.

‘It covers everything from equipment checks, portfolio reviews, professional experience, and a customer service test,’ he said. ‘The downside of this is that most people who apply don’t make it onto the platform. But the upside is that the quality of the photographers on Snappr is amazing. For that reason, we haven’t had a single incident of unprofessional behavior.’ Yet.

Indeed, Snappr asks freelance photographers applying to detail how many years experience they have; their photography interests; paid work; a list of gear and experience; portfolio checks; and requires them to suggest four things wrong with a poorly composed and lit photo. When the platform first launched over 500 photographers applied and only 10 percent – 50 – made the cut.

So there are measures to prevent the wedding photographer from hell finding their way onto the platform!

This isn’t the first attempt to Uber photography. Kodak recently tried to do it, launching KodakIt in Singapore. But there’s not enough iTunes reviews to give it a star rating, suggesting it fell flat on its face. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer company.

In the US Picr, the ‘Air BnB of professional photography’, was set to launch in late January. Despite the website appearing red hot, boasting 22,000 photographers, no photographer is available for a portrait shoot in New York. It says ‘coming soon’.

An earlier pioneer, Picquest, has practically vanished from the internet.

In Australia a contender to Uber photography is Envato, a hugely successful Australian start-up which is a digital freelance marketplace. In 2011 it launched PhotoDune, a stock photography marketplace. Photo retouchers can be found on Envato, but a marketplace dedicated to freelance photographers is yet to exist.

However Envato is more like Gumtree, and has less control over listings from freelancers – it acts more as a platform to facilitates communication between a client and freelancer.

Snappr is the hottest contender, as Schiller and co-founder Ed Kearney have already successfully Air BnB’d hire wear through GownTown, their first start-up.

Co-founders Kearney, Schiller and photographer Adrian Lee. Source: AFR.

Co-founders Kearney, Schiller and photographer Adrian Lee. Source: AFR.

GownTown was launched in 2013 and sells university gowns to graduating students, covering all major universities. Universities rent gowns to students at a high cost, so GownTown slipped in to sell gowns cheaper, and for keepsies.

Eventually graduation photography and framing was added to its offerings after GownTown partnered with another start-up, Kapcher.

Yep, Kapcher is another in-demand photography marketplace thingy. It’s more a private social media network to connect photographers to clients. A project brief is submitted online by a photography buyer, photographers return with pitches for ideas to sell themselves, and the individual then chooses who to hire. Wedding, food photography, editorial – it’s all there.

Startup Daily interviewed Thai Huynh, the founder of Kapcher, in 2013. The article states he was inspired to build Kapcher when he realised his amateur photography wouldn’t stand up against the established studios and their strong reputations.

So GownTown utilises Kapcher photographers, offering similar packages to Snappr. Again, they’re cheap – $59 for a 30-minute shoot and five high-res photos.

On the GownTown website it has a table comparing its photography with official university photography. It argues that a $59 personalised shoot, with whatever backdrop and free retouching, beats paying $355 for an identical shoot to everyone else. Pretty convincing pitch, provided the photos are half decent.

Source: GownTown.

Source: GownTown.

Reed Graduations, the university photography business with most contracts in Australia, told ProCounter it was aware of GownTown but did not wish to comment. Sniff.

The three start-ups – Snappr, GownTown, and Kapcher – all have one thing in common: they utilised Fishburners, a non-profit co-working community space in Sydney catering to tech start-ups.

Fishburners has some serious big name sponsors, including Google, NAB, News Corp, Optus, PwC Australia, Amazon Web Services.

News Corp supports Fishburners and helps its members reach their individual goals ‘by leveraging our extensive media network for the benefit through media coverage, partnerships and mentorship’. Google provided a six-figure sum to renovate the space in 2014.

‘We wouldn’t be where we are today if it wasn’t for the advice and support from the Fishburners community,’ Kearney said to Startup Daily in 2014. ‘Being part of Fishburners is like having a 50-strong advisory board that has expertise in every area of running a successful startup.’

Although, this doesn’t explain where $500,000 in investment came from. But if anyone is going to Uber photography, it looks like Snappr is the frontrunner.


2 thoughts on “The race to ‘Uber’ photography

  1. 59 bucks for a photo shoot. you will certainly get what you pay for, some guy or girl wanting to be a photographer and just starting out, which means the photos will be of just starting out quality. If you need a pro photo shoot, you will need to hire a pro, probably someone who knows what he or she is doing, and they are fairly rare – the good ones, and expensive. You can’t be a pro and charge peanuts.

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