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European photography start-ups implode

Scores of photographers working via on-demand photography start-up, LemonOne, have been left out of pocket following an acquisition-gone-wrong by a competing start-up, Boom.

According to LemonOne founders, who were fired by Boom along with other staff, photographer payments from September and October are, at best, frozen until insolvency proceedings are concluded.

The two European businesses, the German LemonOne and Italian Boom, join the likes of Kodakit as companies that failed to capitalise on the on-demand photography business.

Boom’s acquisition of LemonOne in June 2022 led to the downfall, after Boom investors turned off the funding tap that was integral to cover basic business expenses.

LemonOne, founded in 2017, was a subscription-based photo shoot booking platform that specialised in real estate, food, and travel photography.

LemonOne offered customers three subscription packages that buy a prescribed number of shoots, with the more expensive packages offering additional services. While no prices are quoted, the cheapest package buys between 10-100 ‘standard’ photo shoots per year, and the most expensive is 1000+ ‘tailor-made’ shoots as well as upgrades like cloud storage and customer support.

The LemonOne photography pay rate isn’t provided, but as of June 2019 it claimed to have signed up over 6000 freelance photographers and videographers.

Boom, founded in 2018, is also a subscription-based ‘visual production platform’ with big plans. Talk of becoming the Amazon of photography, which uses AI machine learning algorithms to apparently automate processes and strip professional photography down to its bare essentials.

Here’s a 2021 interview excerpt with Boom co-founder and CEO, Federico Mattia Dolci, from EU-Startups:

‘“Software is eating the world,” wrote Marc Andreessen, in an essay published in The Wall Street Journal in 2011. In the space of 10 years, the music industry shifted from CDs to Spotify. Netflix did much the same with video streaming. What about photography? Now it’s our turn. We are designing a Content-as-a-Service platform to transform a traditionally physical service — that handles complex logistics — into a digital, hassle-free service for worldwide businesses. It will be a scalable environment that manages visual content lifecycles.

The content thus becomes the vehicle of an epochal transformation. Technology is the first true value and vehicle for a radical chance to solve the famous ‘innovator’s dilemma‘. It’s a new arena, in which it is possible to design an ever-growing, multiple-act company that continuously evolves, builds new products, and expands into new regions or verticals and boasts superior unit economics, long-term cash flows, and agile and data-driven product development.

That’s why I truly believe that Boom’s solution is nothing short of revolutionary. By offering a plug-and-play technology that manages the whole visual content lifecycle we remove the pain of supplier management, logistics, production, and delivery. Boom does it all in 1/8 of the time, securing high-quality output.’

Classic tech bro speak, oozing with confidence yet not saying much. At the time, Boom had raised over €15 million from investors in three years, including US$7 million in 2020. It’s ironic given that in 2021, Dolci published an article in Medium about ‘building a start up that will last’, and wrote:

‘Raising millions and burning capital is no longer a source of pride, either. Do you know why? Because revenue and cash still fall faster than expenses.’

This seemingly unstoppable forward momentum landed Dolci and his co-founders on the Forbes European 30 under 30 Technology List 2022.

While Boom was heralded as a European start-up success story, photographers were less enthusiastic about the platform. A Petapixel commenter from 2020 claims Boom pays just US$70 for a two-hour shoot of food photography. Another stated Boom failed to pay an invoice after 90 days – surely a bit of machine learning could have handled paying the invoices?

While someone gazing into the crystal ball and said: ‘I have seen so many of these types of companies come and go. The most amazing part is that any investor thinks that this will be successful and invests in these type of operations. It’s biggest efficiency will be in burning up cash.’

LemonOne’s founders, Maximilian Schwahn, Lorenz Marquardt and Timur Kayaci.

Boom’s acquisition of LemonOne was described by EU-Startup as continuing the growth of a groundbreaking platform in skyrocketing sectors: e-commerce and visual content.

The deal meant the Italians and Germans will, once again, pool together their respective teams to establish a base in both countries, with LemonOne’s clients and photographers joining Boom.

The relationship has since gone awry and unfortunately it’s photographers (and investors!) who may bear the brunt of this failed venture. Here is an e-mail from LemonOne co-founders, Lorenz Marquardt and Maximilian Schwahn, to photographers, obtained by Petapixel:

‘Earlier this year, we wanted to take the next big step towards that vision and partnered with BOOM, our former competitor from Italy. As a result, we agreed to a deal for Boom to acquire LemonOne and in the process, Lorenz and I relinquished our previous responsibilities as founders of LemonOne to the Italians and took on responsibilities in Italy instead.

Unfortunately, the world has changed in the meantime, with an emerging economic crisis, a war in Ukraine and continued Corona restrictions. Because of this, Boom, contrary to expectations, was not able to get fresh money from investors and was therefore forced to cease operations of the previous LemonOne platform. In the course of this, all previous LemonOne team members were fired — including Lorenz and me. To our dismay, we have also heard from many photographers that Boom has stopped paying outstanding invoices.

In summary, the last few weeks must have been at least as frustrating and painful for you as they were for us. In concrete terms, this means that we can now initially carry out and pay for photo shoots again within the framework of the provisional insolvency proceedings. This means that the provisional insolvency administrator has announced that he will agree to payment for the shoots from 1/11/22 in order to secure our continued existence for the time being.

‘Unfortunately, this also means that payments for previous services, including shoots from September and October, must be legally withheld by the provisional insolvency administrator until the insolvency proceedings are concluded. Only then can a distribution be made. The court-appointed preliminary insolvency administrator will contact you again in regards to this.’

Boom’s Facebook and Instagram pages are currently down, however the website is still operational.


  1. Ramy Tarek Radwan Ramy Tarek Radwan November 22, 2022

    BOOM company is UNACCEPTABLE. I have submitted work for two months, for which I didn’t receive any payment. Moreover, they do not answer emails, only a few automated replies of the same content. It’s a shame as I see similar experiences in the recent google reviews. I’m going to contact my lawyer very soon to proceed with suing actions.

    • JS poirier JS poirier January 3, 2023

      Hello Ramy, I’m waking up a bit late but I’m also in your case, did you go through with contacting a lawyer ? do you think it’ll be worth the trouble or is it better to sign their settlement and get 30% ? Thanks for the input man, good luck

  2. George George November 22, 2022

    I have worked with Lemon one before they merged with Boom and never had problem with payment but after they merged I haven’t god paid for the shoots I did.

  3. Greg Greg November 26, 2022

    More than 100 photographers affected accross Europe. Claim for nearly 80.000€. Thats sad.

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