A US Snappr client has been left devastated, after the Snappr photographer she hired ‘sub-contracted’ their son’s baptism photo shoot to someone else, who failed to produce any images.
Natalie Westernoff is baffled and upset by what happened when she hired ‘Joe S’ from Snappr, and is considering whether she will take Snappr’s advice and ‘ridiculously’ re-enact her son’s church baptism with another photographer.
Snappr is a cheap on-demand professional photography platform that matches sub-contracted photographers with customers, with shoots starting from $109. The business was launched in 2016 by young Sydney entrepreneurs, and relocated to the world’s tech hub, Silicon Valley, after scoring US-based tech investment support from Y Combinator. Snappr is currently available in Australia, the US, New Zealand, Canada, Singapore, and the UK, and recently raised a further US$10 million to expand into new markets.
As for the customer experience, online review websites suggest Snappr photographers will be either excellent – or a nightmare. Product Review has 40 five star customer reviews, and 19 one star reviews of Snappr primarily due to no-shows to weddings.
When Snappr launched it was originally marketed as a solution for scenarios which wouldn’t otherwise require a photographer – dating profile pictures, LinkedIn portraits, graduation photos, and small-sized company events. It now gears itself toward all facets of professional photography, from once-in-a-lifetime events like weddings and baptisms, family and newborn photography, product shoots, commercial photography, fashion, real estate, and so on.
Who is Joe S?
For Natalie, using Snappr was easy and there were no issues until after the photo shoot. A sales person explained how it all works, she was given the photographer’s contact details, and someone turned up on the day with a camera.
‘This guy turned up who said he was the photographer. We were all wearing masks, and he looked similar so I didn’t ID him. I’m kicking myself for that now,’ Natalie said. ‘He said he took 600 photos and would upload them. During the whole ceremony he was clicking away. Everything seemed legitimate. My theory is he’s an amateur and deleted the images by accident, or didn’t have a memory card in the camera – something strange like that.’
When Natalie texted ‘Joe’ after the baptism, his attitude changed. It became apparent they weren’t getting the photos after the photographer said he wasn’t actually Joe, who used Snappr to sub-contract the job to him.
‘We went to the police because we were so upset that somebody else would turn up. We were horrified some random had taken pictures of my naked son,’ Natalie said. ‘If he wasn’t the person I had booked, then how he got the information, or got to the church – I don’t know. I have no idea if Joe actually exists; or if the photographer who said he isn’t Joe is Joe, and he messed up and doesn’t want to admit it.’
Snappr provided Natalie a full refund and eventually removed ‘Joe S’ from the platform. ‘Even Snappr were shocked. It’s clearly not something that happens often. But if they don’t vet the photographer, any joker can turn up and say he’s a photographer,’ Natalie said. ‘I was calling Snappr everyday, asking them if they vet the photographers and had contact details – a home address. Something more than what I have, which is a phone number and a profile.’
Natalie, a fashion editor, acknowledges hiring Joe came with extra risk as he had no Snappr reviews; and she would have been better off approaching a ‘proper’ non-Snappr photographer to capture the baptism. But she believes Snappr needs more safeguards to prevent incidents like this happening.
‘Snappr just raised US$10 million for its app, which is clearly flawed. How can you not have the kind-of information on your photographers to hold them accountable. From what I can gather, they have basically no information on this guy.’
The vetting process
How easy is it to become a Snappr photographer? Inside Imaging‘s editor, at best a keen amateur, put the Snappr vetting system to the test and was knocked back!
– The shame!
For the purpose of this exercise, Inside Imaging fabricated the Snappr applicant as being a hobbyist photographer who has landed a few paid gigs over two years.
The sign-up process is easy. Applicants provide contact details, including a home address and mobile number. Snappr doesn’t request proof of ID, such as a driver licence or passport. The vetting process doesn’t appear to include background checks into criminal history, or whether the applicant has a Working with Children Check.
The vetting process requires applicants to have an online portfolio – a webpage showing previous work. For this Inside Imaging whipped up a Flickr account, and uploaded 10 unedited images consisting of holiday snaps, party pics, and a few pet and wildlife photos.
Applicants need to write a passage about their photography background including the numbers of paid shoots. We claimed to have photographed a friend’s party two years ago, and the photos were a big hit leading to paid gigs; as well as shooting a few pet portraits through AirTasker. Something like nine paid jobs over two years.
The vetting process then asks what cameras, lenses, and lighting gear is in possession. Lastly, the process asks photographers to upload photos to show potential clients their portfolio.
A couple of days later, Snappr handed us the bad news. We weren’t the right fit for the platform. This is probably a good thing, as shoots would certainly have been butchered if left in this writer’s inexperienced hands.
So not anyone can become a Snappr photographer. Uncle Bob, for instance, would struggle. But the Inside Imaging test could have been more elaborate and nefarious. Next time, perhaps we’ll source free stock photos from Unsplash, which are more presentable than the holiday snaps we uploaded.