Kodakit: Cheap photography cheapens photography

My name is Benoit Florençon, and I’m a photographer based in Paris. I was recently approached by Kodakit, an entity of [Eastman] Kodak, which promises photographers regular jobs with big companies in exchange for extremely low pay.

Benoit Florençon. Photo: Tobias Kegler.

I agreed to meet with the CEO of Kodakit and its photographer community manager a few days ago to discuss what they had to offer.

I ended up deciding to decline the offer and wrote them an email I’d like to share here, to both warn unaware photographers of such practices and to spark the debate on how to protect ourselves better.

Below is my email response to them:

Dear [Person One] and [Person Two]
I’m choosing to email you back in English so that you can share my thoughts with whoever you think is relevant.

First of all, I would like to thank you for inviting me over to the Kodakit presentation. It was an interesting experience to meet you both. I will, however, have to decline your offer to be part of the Kodakit adventure for the following reasons.

I believe that client communication is as important as a brief and a budget, and it is what makes a relation trustworthy, an assignment successful, and a business partnership grow forward. Photographers are not just trigger fingers, clients are not just bank transfers, and reducing all that to a text message sent by an algorithm is not the best way to value anyone’s work.

[Person One], [Person Two], both of you mentioned Uber during the meeting, saying that your model was based on the same concept. I would like to correct this notion: Uber, as well as Airbnb, invite folks of all walks of life to become ‘taxi drivers’ or ‘hosts’. Both those models are based on an extremely common set of skills, all of us here could be Uber drivers if we wanted to. Kodakit on the other hand, invites professionals to work on jobs that require a decent amount of skills and gear, but still drives low wages, loss of copyright, and disproportionate assignments in the name of recurring work.

No, [Person Two], I cannot lower the quality of my work to meet lower expectations. I haven’t practiced for years, invested thousands of Euros in gear, and sharpened my skills over hundreds of hours of shooting and editing to be able to simply ‘forget’ how to take a good photo when I start shooting. Ask [Person One] if on a job, he could forget his years of experience to wilfully, say, create an unsuccessful company, or knowingly release an app that is sub-standard; I don’t think such a switch exists.

The issue I have is that you are asking for a lot, and giving very little in return. You are asking pros to work in very non-professional conditions. I’m not worried for Kodakit though, a lot of photographers will happily sign up and make money in the short term, not seeing the big picture (no pun intended). In the long run though, I’m afraid you will be a threat to the survival my industry, and the very job I cherish. I’m still impressed by the numbers about the photography market you quoted during the meeting. Out of all of this money, you can really only negotiate with [The Client] US$250 per shoot for your photographers?

You want to be beneficial to the photography industry? You want to be respected by professional photographers and give hope to beginners? You really want to do something to make photographers’ and their clients’ lives a better one? Let’s talk. I have plenty of ideas who would make a lot of sense, shine your household name all over the industry and make everyone happy. So far you’re not helping the industry, you’re leeching off it and giving minuscule drops to the very people your survival depends on.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. My short answer would have been: my gear and skills are not adapted to your needs. Looking forward to an answer if you deem it necessary. But either way please delete my account from Kodakit as I couldn’t find the option to do it myself in the interface.
Kind regards,
Benoit Florençon

I have plenty more arguments that I didn’t include in this email because I didn’t think they would be pertinent to them. What motivated me to share it is the answer I got from them, when I had left some room for dialogue:

Hi Benoit,
Thanks for taking the time to giving us feedback. Fully appreciate your perspective and understand your point of view.
We will remove you from the list.
Best Regards,
[Person One]

Benoit Florençon is a French professional photographer specialising in architecture, fashion and portrait photography. ProCounter republished this post with permission, following the growing number of on-demand Uber-style photo businesses emerging in Australia, such as Kodakit and Snappr.
Click here to see his work.

 


4 thoughts on “Kodakit: Cheap photography cheapens photography

  1. Unfortunately, new business models in this ever changing world are based on low price products and services irrespective of the levels of craftsmanship involved. Today’s business ethics are all price driven.
    The value of experience and skills is devalued. The drivers of these businesses won’t listen to complaints of being unappreciated as it’s not in their vocabulary. Captivated by the end result of their business ventures, they only want profits. Nothing egalitarian in their plans. So, I guess we have to look elsewhere for a satisfying work model. Go it alone or hook up with like minded (and rare) associates where you’re all on the same page. At 65 I have worked through the transitional stages of the last 30 years of business evolution in thephoto industry and can’t afford to dwell on the old days, as good as they were. As I clean out my old archives and sift through the remains from my marketing company’s significant photo industry involvement, I just have to detach from the past and go where the work is. We have seen the demise of Kodak Express, Konica Photo express, Rabbit Photo, Paxtons and Procam, Fletchers Photographics and Kodak. Even with the AIPP, the older members with 30-40 plus years of experience in this field are seeing the devolution of skills honed over the years as younger participants move in, move the goalposts and move on. It’s a fast changing world. Not as much fun as it used to be.

  2. It was great to read your e-mail thank you very much for sharing it. My partner is a photographer http://floroazqueta.com specialising in food and interiors- he was approached by a similar organisation https://www.splento.com and he decided to decline for similar reasons as yourself. I particularly like your point on the effort to create something that is sub-standard- against your professional background built from years of work and investment. I was wondering about a support network for professional photographers in relation to this growing situation (highlighted in the other reply)- something I (we ) will think on- but anyway I (we) wish you well in continuing in your high quality work (as oppose to sub-standard) as a professional photographer.

  3. Hi Benoit, and thank you very much for sharing this information – I was actually quite surprise to find someone sharing thoughts on KodakIt. I also was approached by them like 5 months ago, regarding their launch of London property photography services. I found the fee offered to be quite ok for what they were asking, in their guidelines (fee of £200 – for something that can be photographed easily for 30 minutes). Their offer was way better than what 500px were offering on behalf of photographing properties for TriVago (especially TriVago guidelines easily results in at least 2 hours photography and there is selection process, by their editor, where your images may be rejected). The thing is till present day I haven’t heard anything fro KodakIt – last time I send an email, to the person who was in touch with me, I was told that they were still sorting out stuff with their London partners.

  4. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight for commercial work, we shall fight for weddings and portraiture, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air (thanks to DJI), we shall defend our industry, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on with film, we shall fight on with digital, we shall fight on with Leica and with Hasselblad, we shall fight on with Canon and Nikon (if we must); we shall never surrender…
    So where is our Churchill when we need him, or her? Who is going to lead the fight against the tyranny of aggregator sites and the scourge of the exposure economy?
    Do we go quietly into the night or do we fight for our futures?
    Benoit has made a stand, and rightly so! Why are we letting ourselves be dictated to by our clients? Do we decide the price of our morning coffee, our groceries or our utilities?
    We need to be making a stand, naming, shaming and then boycotting and blacklisting organisations who don’t value creatives before it is too late.
    But we must do so unitedly, because together we have a collective voice as loud as those who see us hurt.

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