Before Instagram hit the app store with its mission to square crop all of our photos and apply one of a dizzying array of filters, there was a Berlin-based start-up called EyeEm that was offering mobile photographers the opportunity to share their images and get to know each other. Instagram might've grabbed the headlines and the Facebook swag, but EyeEm didn't go anywhere. EyeEm quietly grew its network of users to over 10 million and concentrated on helping them to get the most out of their mobile photography with challenges, blog post tutorials, competitions, and allowing mobile photographers to connect with each other. That's paid off and it's allowed EyeEm to start on its next venture: EyeEm Market. It's what it sounds like, a stock house for mobile images on EyeEm. EyeEm users were invited to join by email this morning and the plan is to launch in late spring 2014.
Terms for members have already been set out: 'You always remain the copyright holder of your images and make 50% net revenue from each photo you sell.'
While EyeEm hasn't disclosed the details of the potential buyers it has approached, it's confident that it could be helping its users to take their first steps into a new branch of the professional image market. To that end, it's published some image guidelines for those who are hoping to make some sales. This includes no pets, no plants in pots, and no selfies (unless they're particularly unusual); and to concentrate on the holy trinity: business, health, and family. Not forgetting geo-tagged landscapes and images that can be hard to otherwise get.
Is this another nail in the coffin of professional photography, showing how everyone can now be a photographer and make money from their smartphone cameras? Regard the situation from one stand-point, and yes, that is exactly what EyeEm Market means. But think about it from a slightly different perspective and it demonstrates how the image market place is changing.
Photo-buyers want mobile images. They're part of the photographic landscape now—part of the zeitgeist, if you will—and we can't put the genie back in the bottle. Instead, we have to embrace it. If we can present photo-buyers with an adequate means of accessing and paying for the images that they want, there's a chance it will drive up quality and ensure that the creative industries are rewarded adequately. It's a damn sight better than images being used without recognition and without recompense because there's no means of buying them.
We can't ignore the market; we have to seize all the opportunties that it presents.
And EyeEm has seized its opportunities and shown that there's more than one way to make a buck from photo-sharing apps.