A recent Queensland University of Technology (QUT) study has found that photographers believe online middleman platforms like Snappr, Kodakit and Imagebrief have damaged the sustainability of the profession.
QUT surveyed 51 photographers about the rise of the ‘gig economy’ – new businesses, better known as start-ups, which contract an army of temporary workers for short-term jobs.
‘Digital platforms are said to provide workers with new opportunities to find work, make money and work flexible hours,’ says QUT’s Dr Penny Williams. ‘We have seen a proliferation of digital platforms catering to photographers such as Oneflare, ImageBrief and Snappr, because most photographers are self-employed or freelance and their work can be irregular. It seems likely that photographers would see digital platforms as a useful way to generate income.
‘Some allow them to upload images for royalty-free sale, others provide links to their services, or ask for quotes in response to a photo shoot brief. Newer platforms in the industry offer direct booking services at pre-established prices. Photographers pay a subscription to list their services and receive a booking or a quote request.’
Australian start-up Snappr, which relocated to San Francisco, has established rock bottom prices, with on-demand photography packages starting at $59.
Marketing and reaching clients is a challenge for some talented photographers. The digital platforms promise to provide work. The cost to photographers either a cut of the sale or a fee to be listed on the platform.
Snappr, for instance, takes a 20 percent cut of sales – meaning the 30-minute $59 shoot earns a photographer $47. This doesn’t take into account travel times, post-production, and other associated costs, along with the reliability of work.
The ‘gig economy’ has revolutionised, liberated, and damaged a number of industries.
But this effect hasn’t yet been felt by the photo industry, Williams says.
‘Photographers are motivated to develop a creative reputation and social relationships with clients that bring repeated work over time and so the way a platform influenced this worker-client relationship, determined how likely photographers were to use the platform. This research shows that the way platforms function is likely to have significant but different effects and usage by particular groups of workers.’
Of the 51 photographers surveyed, 55 percent had deliberately avoided the platforms; 25 percent were listed with only two not scoring jobs; and 20 percent were past users, most who had left due to not receiving work
QUT hardly managed to survey a sample rate of professional photographers for its research, however Williams drew a conclusions which many would agree with.
‘Photographers felt that digital platforms often restricted their ability to develop quality, long-term client relationships while damaging their creative reputation and driving down the level of their income,’ she said. ‘Some felt the time, resources and costs involved in a platform-derived job outweighed the potential for income generation. For these reasons, photographers resisted seeking work through many digital platforms – although some types of platforms were considered less damaging than others.’