At the end of 2013, it was reported that global penetration of smartphones reached 22 per cent, up from 5 per cent in 2009. That’s 1.3 billion new handsets.
While this has had a profound effect on many things – how we communicate, do business, engage with services, buy things – the smartphone has also been responsible for drastically changing visual culture.
Our smartphones allow us to snap a picture, edit it and share it within seconds. This is why 55 million pictures get uploaded to Instagram, 350 million to Facebook and 400 million to Snapchat every day.
For the first time, the number of consumer-generated images we see each day is beginning to outweigh the number of professionally taken ones. For brands wanting to get along in this new world, they need to think about image and photography differently.
If their content and communications are to earn attention, "likes" and shares, they need to look as though they come from this new world of consumer-generated images. Authenticity is key. "Old world" stock-photography services or expensive studio shoots just don’t cut it any more. We realised that brands needed to get their hands on pictures taken by real consumers. After all, why shoot your product in an unnatural studio when consumers are already shooting and sharing their own anyway?
But there was a problem. Getting such pictures is hard. There are permissions, model releases, fair payment – a nightmare for every agency or brand manager wanting to tap into this new visual landscape.
Why shoot your product in a studio when consumers are already shooting and sharing their own?
We created Foap with a mission to "make authentic content available commercially". To date, we have a global community of consumers uploading images to our platform via a mobile app. Brands and businesses can search images using tags and create bespoke photography challenges for the community. They can buy any image they like with full commercial usage for a small price.
We tapped into existing technology to solve the challenges – all done entirely through the app.
First, we used PayPal to ensure our community gets paid securely. When a brand chooses to buy a user’s image, the money flows straight into their account.
Second, on the legal front, we verify every user using a technology provided by a start-up called Jumio. Each new member is asked to photograph their ID/passport for the technology to check its legitimacy.
We even created a function that allows people featured in photographs to sign a model release form within the app.
With more and more consumer photographers emerging as a result of technological advancements – alongside a growing passion for the visual landscape – it’s an exciting time for brands to take advantage.
David Los is the chief executive and founder of Foap