Thursday, 6 August 2015

Can you make money off your photos with Foap?

There is a demand for pictures for use as illustrations, both online and in the real world. This market is capitalized upon by a number of marketplace services, aiming to be a middleman between the photographer and the publisher.

One such middleman is Foap. From the point of view of the photographer, Foap is an app, where you can upload your photos, and sell them for US$5.

Now, this doesn't sound like a lot, you may say, but let me add that this is the sum you get for a single use of the picture, you retain the copyright, and you can resell it a number of times.

The buyer pays US$10 for each image use, and Foap cashes in on the difference, that is their business idea.

So how does this work? Essentially, Foap tries to be two different things:

  • A marketplace for selling your photos
  • A community for photo interested people

Uploading a photo is much like on social media like Instagram: You will be asked to provide a name, an "story" behind the photo, and tags. Filling out this, especially the tags, is very important, as this is how the buyers find their pictures.

Tagging the pictures is now much easier, and Foap automatically suggests some tags that you can choose to accept or decline. The suggestions are in white below:

Finally, you need to confirm that you own this picture. You also need to say if there are people in the picture, and if their faces are recognizable. If they are, you need to confirm that you are allowed to use their likeness commercially.

Previously, the tags and description was manually verified by a human, and the picture was declined if this person thought that the tags were not accurate. This was not communicated in the rejection of the image, but I deduced this by uploading the same picture several times, having to delete tags successively before it was accepted. Now, this appears to be less rigid, and pictures are generally accepted.

For your pictures to be attractive to the buyers, it helps to have many good ratings. And this is where the community comes in. Only other users can rate your photos. So to get a many ratings, you need to have many users see them.

The common way to achieve this, is to follow other users. In doing this, you hope that they will follow you back, and then see and rate your picture when you post any.

Further, you can also go ahead and rate other users pictures. That way, you can hope they go back and rate your pictures. As most pictures are of pretty low quality, I guess my low ratings don't encourage users to rate mine very often ...

As for the chance of actually selling any images, this is very hard to estimate. I don't find any reference to the number of pictures sold by Foap. This is probably a business secret, as publishing this can make it easier to copy the service.

When using the Foap app, you can see which pictures have been sold recently. This is updated fairly often, and looks like this (I have added some watermarks to avoid copyright infringements):

By looking at this overview regularly, one can estimate the number of sells Foap has. And to me, it seems like there are some tens of sold pictures daily, which is quite few. Of course, this is a very unscientific approach, but it suggests that the chance of selling your picture is pretty slim.

Two of my pictures were actually sold, earning me US$10. This is payable via Paypal, which is a fine solution to me. They were sold in April, and I requested the payment in May:

Foap waits two months before paying it out, which is a common solution. If there is a copyright claim, for example, it is easier for them if they have not already paid the amount.

But what happens then? The statement above says that the expected payment date is July 1st, but it is still unpaid more than a month later. And there is no explanation for this. This seems rather odd to me, and not very user friendly.

In this note written half a year later, I can confirm that Foap consistently only pays the commission after you complain about them not being paid yet. This is quite annoying and unprofessional.

Another way to earn money, is to participate in missions. Usually, there is a reward for the best picture of around US$100. The missions are often made by commercial companies wanting you to publish pictures with their products. Quite often, these are related to alcoholic beverages, e.g., "having a good time with [brand] drinks". As there are strict regulations against ads for alcoholic beverages in many markets, this feels kind of cynical and unethical to me.


So, can you make money off your pictures with Foap?

Don't expect to get rich soon, is my conclusion. There is quite a bit of work involved, in uploading, naming and tagging your photos. And then, you need to interact with other users, to get the ratings you need on your pictures.

If you do choose to go this route, I would suggest uploading some tens of your best, and sellable pictures only, and make sure they are named sensibly. And do add a lot of tags which the buyers may be searching for when getting their pictures.

And if you do get some sales, you need to bicker and complain to get your hard earned money from Foap, which is not very nice.

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