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Tamar’s Apps to Tap | FOAP (collaborative photo library)

Henry Elliss
Henry Elliss
Managing Director
19 November 2012

As a snap-happy amateur photographer, I’m always keen to explore new photo-related social media applications and campaigns. I’m a big Instragram fan, I’ve been known to do a bit of Pinning on Pinterest and any of my Facebook fans will attest to my never-ending stream of photo uploads.

So when a Twitter friend suggested I give an app called ‘FOAP‘ a try, I was naturally intrigued. Here’s the pitch on this two-fold app/site, from the creators themselves:

For photographers/ iPhone users – Our vision is to turn your iPhone photos into dollars by letting you download our free app, snap a photo and then upload it to Foap Market. When someone buys your photo you will just cash out your money, and the best thing is that you can sell the same photo over and over again.

For photo buyers – We have a frequently flow of incoming fresh photos which make it easier for you to find that photo with that special feeling. And the best thing – they are all local and natural. We believe that you, as we, are tired of all those well-stylished, perfect photos from the wrong location.

So effectively it’s both an app for photo-takers and a site for companies, individuals and creatives who use stock photography libraries. Interesting, huh?

Having used the app for several days now, I’m quite impressed. It’s got great functionality, the concept is fun and it’s very easy to use. One of the best aspects is the ratings which the photos go through before they’re ‘published’ to the sales community – all photos need an average rating of 2.5 ‘stars’ (as voted on by fellow users) before they’re accepted, and any which don’t meet the standard are rejected.

Naturally they want to avoid people spamming the library with millions of photos whilst not contributing to the wider community themselves – so the ingenious solution is to require everyone to rate 5 other photos before each of their uploads is complete. It’s so simple, it’s actually pretty ingenious!

Whilst I’m currently enjoying the honeymood period of my time with FOAP (as I do with most apps, before getting bored and filing it on my rarely-used 4th menu screen!), I can already foresee a few challenges they’re going to face:

  • All photos, no sales! All the buzz I’ve currently seen about FOAP has been in relation to making money from your photos – but very little about the part which will actually generate that money, the photo library. As a company who regularly uses photo libraries for both internal and client work, we’ve not come across FOAP at all yet – this needs to change if they’ve got any hope of maintaining the balance on this two-pronged idea.
  • Those bloody cats! As everybody knows, the internet is FULL of cats – they virtually run the internet, I suspect. And FOAP seems to be no different. Even with a relatively small user base, my rating sprees are already quite regularly interspersed with very poor or boring photos of people’s cats. I’m not quite sure what these cat-lovers are thinking – do stock photography users really need THAT many cat photos? I doubt it. Thankfully, the community rating system seems to be working well and not letting most of them through, but I’m still getting a LITTLE bored of rating so many moggies in the process…
  • Breadth of offering. By the looks of the photos which are currently being rated highly, glossy and high-spec photography seems to be wowing the crowds nicely at the moment. But as anybody who has used stock (or editorial) photography will know, it isn’t just glossy photos that are required – a boring shot of a bench is just as likely to be used as a beautiful sunset. But will the boring bench photo get through the ratings process? At the moment, I’m not sure it will – and the rankings seem to prove my point. Will FOAP just end up being a hub for beautiful sunsets and well-taken shots of landmarks? I hope not.

The other potential issue they could face is around rights and permissions – and what happens when somebody uploads an image they didn’t take. However, the app in particular goes to quite impressive lengths to make the permissions point very clearly – from the rights to use people in your photo to what the image should be used for. So presumably they are working on the basis that they’ve covered themselves and individual users will have to fight their own corner if an issue comes up. Which is all well and good until the first big copyright case rears it’s head, and scares off a large chunk of their community.

I should probably point out at this point that, whilst I’ve had ~70 images accepted in to the library so far, I’ve not made a single sale – so how effective it is for a user like me remains to be seen. That being said, friends of mine have made multiple sales, and as the site takes off one would assume these things will snowball. But ensuring one side of the coin (the images) doesn’t take off at an unattainable level whilst the other (the library) falters will be crucial to the success of this clever campaign…

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