Reaching Out To Amateurs

Posted on 7/2/2012 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Professional photographers shooting travel photos have another new competitor. is collecting iPhone photos from tourists and selling them for $10 each. To get started uploading pictures all the photographer needs to do is go to iTunes and download the app.or go to The photographer receives a 50% royalty, payable through PayPal monthly.

The site was launched in Sweden a little over a month ago. Since then over 12,000 unique users have submitted images and over 40,000 images have been uploaded. There have been over 12,000 downloads. Each image submitted is reviewed before it is posted on the site. To date about 40% of the images submitted have been accepted, but it seems likely that as they try to improve the quality of their offering an even smaller percentage will be accepted. The site is now being promoted in the U.S. and UK. It is expected that once people in these countries become aware of the site there will be a dramatic increase in both uploads and downloads.

The co-founders are Alexandra Bylund and David Los. Bylund worked for a Swedish travel agency that purchased five to ten photos a day from iStockphoto. But even with iStock’s huge collection she found it difficult to find photos of many of the specific locations she needed and people who looked natural with faces and body shapes customers would recognize as resembling themselves.

Byland told one interviewer that one of the problems they faced in trying to use microstock sites was that if we found a good photo or a nice face all the other travel agencies found the same one.
The founders have raised $250,000 in funding from angel investors and a grant from the Swedish government. Their most prominent investor is Roland Zeller, founder of Switzerland’s biggest travel site,


Foap also takes requests, or in the app’s parlance, it takes “missions.” If a business wants a very specific photo — say, a girl standing on a sidewalk in New York City wearing yellow polka dots — they can send out a mission with a description and deadline. This shows up in a tab at the bottom right of the app. Anyone can go out and attempt to shoot the photo the company is looking for and submit it for review. The company chooses the one they like best and the $10 fee is split between Foap and the photographer.

Downsides For Image Creators

– Despite the fact that uploading is simple the creator will still have to tag his images and that takes time. As the collection grows a few simple tags will not be enough. Will tagging be worth the trouble? The goal is to be able to supply every user with something unique. To the degree that is possible most images will sell very few times, and of course a huge number of images will never sell.

It is one thing for a tourist to enjoy taking images for his own remembrance. It is another to spend time tagging them if there is minimal compensation for the effort. Foap’s pitch is that any sale is basically found money, since otherwise tourists would never think to monetize their smartphone pics. But, there are costs to monetize and the costs are likely to exceed the benefits. Just because something is possible doesn’t make it economically productive. Nevertheless, a huge number of people will probably give it a try with the hope that it will pay off.
2 – Images can be paid for using credits which are purchased at a discount. The minimum purchase is $180 for 100 credits (20 images) and greater discounts are available for larger purchases. Thus, creators will get less than $5.00 for many uses.

3 – Foap customers are not looking for artsy photos of the kind often posted on Instagtram. They don’t want photos with faux-vintage filters and frames. According to Bylund photos need to be “as raw as possible” so buyers can touch them up and do their own manipulation.
4 – Model releases are likely to be big problem unless Foap edits out most pictures with close ups of people. And yet one of the reasons for launching the site was to find “people who looked natural with faces and body shapes customers would recognize as resembling themselves.” They can’t have it both ways.

Reviewers choose whether to put images in editorial or commercial categories. However, they have no way knowing whether the image has a good release or not. Given the way the images are being sourced the basic assumption should be than none of the images have releases. However, whether the customers will understand that distinction is a big question.

Foap advises photographers to “get permission from your subject before trying to sell an images showing a person’s face” and has a clause in its terms that says the photographer must have the appropriate releases. But they are not checking for those releases. My bet is that most photographers will ignore this requirement until there are some significant damages suits.

The site's agreement effectively denies any responsibility whatever for whatever happens to anyone or anything at any time.

Copyright © 2012 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


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