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Bottom-feeding start-up exploits photography

Catalog, another start-up attempting to exploit and, frankly, trash professional photography, has secured US$1.5 million to fund a platform that delivers advertising photography from US$20 an image.

Catalog vs the rest of the industry.

The start-up plans to contract independent photographers, along with all the other necessary talent, to capture on-brand images for businesses at prices way below the industry standard. It’s a ‘two-sided marketplace’ business model, which pays photographers a pittance and disrupts the market – similar to the Sydney-based Snappr or Singapore-based Kodakit.

Catalog founder and ex-Google guy, Patrick Ip, has been doing the publicity rounds, boasting that his first client paid just $20 per image for an assignment quoted at US$7000 by an agency.

Pricing is based on the ‘product’ a client orders. The highest cost is US$99 per photo. For instance, a Flatlay package shot costs US$19 per photo and features a product on a plain colour background; a How-to package costs US$39 per photo and features a model performing an application; and a Close-up package costs US$99 per photo and has a model wearing or using a product.

These absurdly low prices manage to include the cost of not just a photographer, but also make-up artist, stylist, editor, model, apparel, producer, props, and location. Wow!

Photographers apparently aren’t paid per photo, but at an hourly or project rate that they can set. With prices set so low, there must be serious rate limitations set by Catalog.

It’s unclear how Catalog hires and vets photographers, and what cut of the earnings is shared between the photographer and the platform. Ip claims that Catalog targets small-to-medium-sized businesses, which can’t afford high-end photos but also want something better than stock photography.

‘It just shows how arcane the process is, where the only thing that is really a substitute [to Catalog] are stock images that everyone already has access to,’ Ip told Business Insider. ‘On the high end, the only other substitutes are in-house studios and agencies.’

While Ip believes he’s doing small brands a favour, he also seems to believe that Catalog is good for the photography community.

‘[Photographers] can’t quit their [day] jobs on one-off deals. They need to know that work will continue to come. [Catalogue] could become a way for [them] to do this full time.’

Ip even had a Twitter exchange with an advertising photographer, who pointed our that Catalog is harmful to the independent photographers, the industry and professional standards. Ip paid no attention, and instead tried to smooth things over.

Brad Trent is a New York commercial photographer. Source: Petapixel.

The US1.5 million seed funding comes from Moonshot Capital.

Inside Imaging will keep a (critical) eye on this one!

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