Should the AIPP sell photographers?

Snappr, an on-demand photography service, is starting to have an impact on the professional photography market. But for our AIPP members, it’s not all bad news. In fact, Snappr could be a great way to differentiate ourselves and our services.

Vittorio Natoli, AIPP president.

What are we charging?
As a profession, it appears that we are not charging enough, based on surveys conducted by the AIPP. Some of our members have a very small turnover (less than $1000 a week), and even smaller profit/wages. Much of this can be explained by an influx of part-time photographers.

In short, with such a huge influx of people offering photography services, it is a buyer’s market. While the experienced photographers can rightly claim that much of the low-priced photography is not of high quality, the customer either doesn’t care or doesn’t realise there is a difference.
However, numbers don’t lie. Unless you are charging a professional fee structure, you can’t afford to be a full-time professional earning a living. You can’t afford to put aside money for superannuation, buy new equipment or develop your skills.

All photographers seeking accreditation are required to demonstrate an understanding of business skills. Note, we’re not telling photographers what they should charge, rather we require them to understand what they need to charge if they wish to behave professionally.

Some people would suggest this is the AIPP’s key role: educating photographers about acting professionally. Agreed, the AIPP should also teach photography skills, but this is the Australian Institute of Professional Photography. It is the ‘Profession’ we need to focus on for our members – and the profession in general.

In some ways, with Snappr entering the market, it is doing us a favour.
Snappr is setting a base level for photography. And note that on Snappr’s website, it isn’t claiming to provide ‘professional’ photographers, rather ‘quality’ photographers – which is a great springboard for the AIPP and its members.

If you can hire a casual, non-professional photographer from Snappr for $250, then surely it is reasonable to pay a little more if you hire an AIPP Accredited Professional Photographer? If Snappr is successful, it will potentially take away work from our members. However, it can also grow the market, providing photography services to people in the past who would never have hired a professional anyway.

Of course, none of us know how successful Snappr will be, or if indeed there is a new market segment just waiting to be tapped. However, it is important for us to be aware of Snappr’s influence in our market – and then take advantage of it.
-Vittorio Natoli, AIPP president

What Is Snappr?
Snappr is a potential challenge for professional photographers. It could be what Airbnb is for hotels, what Uber is for taxi drivers. It means anyone can be a hotelier, a driver or a photographer in their spare time.
Snappr offers photography services. It registers people who own a camera and sends them out to take photographs, based on an online ordering system. It is low cost photography in bulk. It appears to have a big marketing budget behind it, but we don’t know how successful it really is.

Interestingly, Snappr used to offer wedding photography services, but these are no longer advertised on its website. However, it is competing for a wide variety of domestic and commercial work – events, graduations, portraits, fashion, products, food, family and real estate.

There is now some serious money and experience behind Snappr, with reported investment by YCombinator, claimed to be the world’s most successful seed accelerator.

So, what could Snappr do to the market? Snappr could control the bottom of the market, the ‘affordable’ photography customers. This could make it more difficult for newcomers to enter the profession because of how much marketing Snappr is able to do.

Snappr itself claims to be developing a market that doesn’t yet exist. It says around half its customers wouldn’t have booked a professional photographer because they couldn’t afford the $2000 they expected to pay. By offering a service for $100 – $200, suddenly there is a huge ‘appetite’ for photography services, it says.
We’re not only competing against Snappr photographers. There are thousands of other people out there with cameras taking photos for even less than Snappr is charging. Our differentiation is not just to separate us from Snappr, but all the photographers who don’t have accreditation.

Should The AIPP Sell Its Photographers?
Should the AIPP set up a website like Snappr and offer photography services to the public, provided by our members?

It is early days, of course, but if Snappr were to be very successful, if it did generate a lot of work and income for its non-professional photographers, what would this tell us? Would it indicate a new way to generate business for photographers?

At present, the AIPP comprises around 3000 individuals marketing themselves independently. What if we joined forces and marketed ourselves together? And what would our business model look like?

This is not a new idea and something the board have been thinking about recently. In the past the answer has been that the AIPP is not a sales agent. However, the AIPP has now invested heavily in accreditation and it is gradually building its brand in the general market. We have a good story to tell prospective clients, even better if we had a centralised booking agency.

In discussing the content for this article, even though there are no formal plans for the AIPP to become an agency or a service provider, we thought…but should there be? What are the opportunities for creating such a service? What are the challenges? What are the legal consequences?

Many businesses, such as Uber and Amazon, allow customers to rate the individual service providers. If the AIPP were to offer its members’ services, over time these members would build up a rating which should satisfy both our customers, and other members who are concerned that not all members offer the same level of service.

And level of service is a huge issue. The attraction of the Snappr model is that you can see a product and a price up front – pay this and get that. This appears to be their key to secure the client and after that they can look at add-ons (such as extra photos or prints etc). AIPP members should be able to do client customisation at a much higher level, but we need a way to engage those clients in the first place.

ImageBrief is another website that works a little like a dating agency. A client puts up a request (I need 5 photos of beaches in Greece for $500) and the photographers grab stock shots from their libraries and bid for the job. There are many models available.

So, the question is, should the AIPP look into providing such a service. And if it did, what would the model look like? Thoughts and suggestions are encouraged by all the usual channels!

– This article was collaboratively written by AIPP president Vittorio Natoli, AIPP executive officer Peter Myers, and Peter Eastway editor of members’ monthly magazine The Journal – where it originally appeared. This version has been edited for clarity, and to focus on the AIPP’s position on Snappr and the overall marketplace.

To read the full article click here.

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