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Snappr: ‘Low pay, unrealistic expectations’

A US-based Snappr photographer has confirmed that after a year of using the on-demand photography start-up, the experience is identical to that of disgruntled Australian photographers – low pay, poor communication, and unrealistic client expectations.

Snappr is the ‘Uber of photography’, which matches vetted photographers across Australian and US cities with clients, and aggressively markets 30-minute photo shoots from $75 (AUD). Snappr handles booking, billing, and marketing of photography, and takes a 20 to 35 percent commission fee depending on the shoot.

The US photographer points out that by marketing photography ‘from just US$59’, some Snappr clients are primed to pursue the cheap 30-minute shoot rather than paying for a longer and well-paid shoot.

The Australian start-up, which relocated to San Francisco, has assembled large groups of photographers with varying skill levels, yet there hasn’t been much coverage on what it’s like working via the platform – despite it being one of the most ambitious businesses to enter the photo industry in the last few years.

Inside Imaging recently spoke to a handful of Australian Snappr photographers, who complained about obvious shortcomings of the platform. Given Snappr serves as a facilitator between the client and photographer, the platform ends up creating barriers for fairly routine tasks.

After reading this Inside Imaging article, Life as a Snappr, the US-based photographer (who asked for anonymity) felt inclined to share another opinion.

Here’s the full statement:

I have very mixed feelings about Snappr.

On the one hand, I landed some great assignments that I never would have received otherwise, with work jobs lasting several hours and paying a decent wage. I was thrilled by those opportunities!

But out of several dozen assignments, over a period of about a year, 65 percent were one hour or half hour shoots. I got so many bookings for half hour assignments, where someone wanted me to bring my gear to the location, set up, so the shoot, pack down my gear, and travel back to my place. All for the whopping fee of US$47.20.

I asked Snappr repeatedly to clarify to the client that these shoots requires more time and therefore more money, and they supported me in doing that. But when dealing directly with a client, the responsibility is on the photographer to clarify how long a shoot will take. As it turns out, people just love that half hour slot and have no idea of everything that’s involved in some shoots types where you need gear, such as real estate and portraits. Ultimately, I grew so frustrated that I wanted to refuse half hour shoots – they are really unfair when you factor in travelling and set up/pack down times. Not to mention I spent US$10,000 on my gear and would not even rent it out for US$50. If I were Snappr, I would do away with the half hour shoot and make everything a one-hour minimum. I can’t imagine a client complaining of a one hour minimum, considering how cheap it is compared to market rates.

The US Snappr fee schedule. All figures are in US dollars, and translate to a similar rate to what’s provided to Australian photographers.

I can’t forget one experience I had doing a half hour shoot, which charged the client US$59. One of the people at the event was teasing the guy who hired me, by saying “$59, eh? $59, eh?” suggesting that it was so rock-bottom cheap there was no way you could get good photos for that price. Yet, at the same time, the clients in general expect high-quality photos and the utmost of professionalism – without having to pay a fair rate for it. That is what I always aimed to deliver, despite receiving payment well below the market rate.

Some clients were sceptical when I explained to them that it would cost more if I go to their location, as if I’m just trying to jack up the price unfairly. Snappr does little to clarify how long a shoot should take when the client books the job online. Snappr also assured me that the majority of jobs would be booked for two hours or more, but this has been untrue in my case as most shoots are an hour and under.

What I found really shocking was that even some wealthy companies, which booked me for shoots of their high-level executives, wanted to do it on the cheap. That half hour booking. Snappr allows clients to tip the photographer, but in the end they didn’t even tip me.

And when the shoot went over time, I couldn’t just tell Snappr what happened. I had to get the client to contact Snappr, and for some reason it’s very hard to get clients to send such an email. Initially, the beauty of Snappr for me was that I didn’t have to struggle to get paid. But as it turned out, I found myself in that position

I tolerated being underpaid for months because I kept thinking that getting good reviews would help me rate higher in the algorithm, and I would get more assignments. But nothing changed. Good reviews seem to mean little. I kept getting these half hour and one hour assignments for less than US$100.

Then I would get these really unrealistic requests. The fact that Snappr would present them to me shows that not only clients, but Snappr also, does not have a realistic sense of what is possible.

I gave Snappr feedback but never saw anything change. My conclusion is that many people in the general public – professionals in various fields who demand to earn a fair wage to make a living – do not feel that photographers deserve to be paid much. The role Snappr is playing confirms that.

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