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Taxis and your photo business

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What’s your photo business got to do with taxis?

Why the sharing economy might yet bite your business model if you can’t show value.

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People sharing cars and giving other people paid lifts – surely there are professional taxi drivers for that? What about professional photographers?, a new photo service in the US aims to become an “online marketplace where you can book a photographer or be a photographer”.


This service is based on a sharing business model that working photographers would do well to look at, since it has the potential to seriously alter how clients see what you do.

It also points towards things your business should pay attention to, to avoid falling to the next big disruptive influence in the business of photography.

The rise of Uber

sharing a car rideYou may have noticed the rise of Uber around the world, it pitches itself as a ride sharing business that matches up people’s transport requests with people able to provide the transport. All done via an App, which facilitates ‘transparent’ pricing, cashless payments and a feedback system for both passengers and drivers.

It will come as no surprise that it’s not popular with licensed taxi drivers and many of the regulators, in cities and countries around the world. [The Guardian]

Whilst there are valid concerns over for example, the safety checks that licensed cabs (and private hire companies) need to fulfil, and the tax and insurance status of drivers, many users of the service don’t really care about this and just want convenience and a (cheaper) ride.

For some more about what could go wrong, see ‘Uber’s very bad week

Disruptive business models

Uber is a great example of a disruptive business model that comes along and challenges the existing status quo. Ignoring whether it’s a good thing or not, it’s a model that can and will be applied in other areas.

It’s just over ten years since I established my photography business on the back of a massively disruptive influence in the photo business: Digital photography.

Digital wiped the floor with some photo businesses. Those that had stuck with a traditional business model for dealing with customers, found the ground shifting around them. New people (like myself) were coming into the business with a view to making the technology work for them and business models partly built around it.

Even 5 years ago, the forums were awash with people wanting regulation for professional photographers along with numerous other protectionist measures. [see Should we regulate pro photographers? – No thanks]

In looking at our own business, I’ve tried to emphasise the value we give clients, not the price. Competition on price is a race to the bottom and I choose not to take part.

Uber photos

meeting up at business networking eventThe other day I heard of a setup in the US that made me think of taxis. is a photographer/client match up service for people wanting photographers to cover an event.

Nothing really different there, until you look at their chosen business model.

As a wouldbe photographer on their site I get to place a photo of my choice, which links to a portfolio of images.

All the customer sees is this header photo, my name and my hourly rate. No text, no other information. There is a sign that my email/Facebook page/identity has been checked, but that’s it. speaking

Have a browse for photographers in Denver [] and see if you can spot the difference between a $25/hr. and $250/hr. photographer.

Maybe the $250 offers a very different package of what you get? Who knows, since as it says in the FAQ:

  • “We set out to make booking a photographer easy for customers and easy for photographers which is why we have our photographers work at an hourly rate. We do not offer package pricing.”

Maybe you offer bigger prints or special editing?

  • “How do I set add-on pricing for props, extra editing, etc.?
    In an effort to create a transparent community for our photographers and customers we have set out on redefining how the photography industry works. With that said, is set up for you to price yourself with an hourly rate that covers all types of events and editing.”

How about offering additional prints or albums?

  • “Who owns the rights to my photos?
    All photos uploaded by you the photographer into your portfolio are directly owned by you. All photos that you, the photographer, take at public events and upload to a public event album in your profile are owned jointly by you and us {}. All photos taken at a private, paid event that a customer booked you for through and are uploaded to a private photo album in your profile are jointly owned by you and the customer who booked and paid for the photos you took.”

If you’re a working photographer in the event field, perhaps you’re seeing who this business is aimed at?

  • “Who can become a photographer on
    Anyone who has a passion for photography and a DSLR camera.”


  • “How much experience do I need to have to be a photographer on
    None! If you’re a kickass photographer and have a DSLR camera then you can join our awesome community. We can’t wait for you to join us!”

Just in case you were wondering if there were any regulatory hindrances…

  • “What legal and regulatory issues should I consider before I become a photographer on
    Since doesn’t involve your car or your house there are no legal issues to consider. We’ve checked and luckily there is no law against taking awesome photos!”

Oh, that’s all right then, perhaps I won’t bother renewing my public liability insurance ;-)

For a more optimistic overview, see some of their own publicity. You don’t need to believe it, just accept that some do and that it might be a sign of something changing.

Who does this really affect? How to react?

Initially, just people running small photo businesses looking for local event work in cities far away.

But and this is the big but… if this model and others like it catch on, then look at it appealing to a wider and wider customer base. Even if it chips away at a market you don’t want to be in anyway, then who’s business will some of those displaced photographers target?

I’m not expecting a direct impact on my industrial work any time soon, but who knows?


Ask yourself what value your business brings to a client for a $250/hr.* rate – why are you worth it. What benefits does hiring you as a photographer bring?

  • *BTW you may have all kinds of reasons for not wanting to give an ‘hourly rate’, but if people ask and you don’t have one available, then make sure you’ve some pretty captivating reasons to explain your pricing and your business benefits.

There’s more about ‘value’ at:

I’m inclined to believe that fundamental shifts in the business of photography are inevitable, and that one like this could hit some businesses as hard as the change from film to digital.

I also believe that the photographers who will thrive are not the ‘best photographers'(whatever that means), but those with the best value propositions for their clients.

©2015 Keith Cooper – all rights reserved

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Site update: Thanks for everyone's support - work is still very sparse, but at least I've lots of videos, articles and reviews to write - if you've any suggestions or questions, please just let me know - Keith & Karen
...Get our Newsletter for new articles/reviews and why not visit Keith's YouTube Channel
...My book about how to use tilt/shift lenses is now available.

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