CYBERSPACE Everybodys doing it. Youre probably even doing it.
Youre sightseeing on a road trip, or a spectacle catches your eye in the street a parade, a flash mob, a famous actor. You snap a couple pictures with your phone. You put on some filters to dress up the image, and you share it with your friends and family. In a matter of seconds, your trendy, textured photo is all over Facebook and Twitter.
That is the allure of Instagram, a smartphone app launched in October of 2010 by co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger and procured for $1 billion by Facebook earlier this year. The duos reasoning for creating the social media phenomenon was twofold: It was photo sharing reinvented and it was free to download and use.
But all those pictures youve taken might be worth something more than a like or a comment.
Founded by programmer-entrepreneur Sean Broihier, Santa Monica-based Instaprints two weeks ago launched an online marketplace that offers Instagram users the opportunity to sell their photos as greeting cards, prints and posters.
Instagram could not be reached for comment regarding this article.
In April, social-media news blog Mashable reported that, according to Instagrams Application Programming Interface (API), the photo-sharing app passed the 50-million user mark and is adding new users at a rate of roughly 5 million per week.
I was excited to get into this [business] because everybody loves mobile, Broihier said. When it comes to startups, [mobile] is the fastest developing section. There’s this huge [Instagram] user base out there, and we’re allowing [users] to take their beautiful images and convert them into an online business.
Instaprints is an offshoot project developed from the same idea as his first company, Fine Art America, which he launched in 2007. Fine Art America, the Internets premier art space, is poised to make $12 million to $15 million in revenue this year and currently has 115,000 users who sell their art online.
[Instaprints] is uncharted territory, but [Fine Art America] is a proven business model that has been doing well for a very long time, Broihier said. Im very excited to launch a business that comes out of the barrel ready to be used. We got the potential to do it all.
On Fine Art America, visual artists and photographers can join for free and sell their pieces for a base price which is controlled by Fine Art America plus a profitable mark-up price which is declared by the original artist. Broihier said all of the profit from the mark-up price goes to the user.
Broihier added that Fine Art America users prefer his pricing structure because they receive more value for their art.
David Lloyd Glover, a professional landscape artist based in Beverly Hills, Calif. and a Fine Art America user, said what impresses him most about Broihiers online marketplaces is that shoppers actually have the confidence to purchase art online.
My sales revenue is remarkably high on Fine Art America, Glover said. [Fine Art America] does a lot of marketing outside their domain so that they are placing product in a way that drives traffic to their site.
Just as Fine Art America lets artists price their work, Instaprints lets iPhone- and Droid-wielding photographers mark up their wares as well. Instaprints sets a base price for each available product, so when the photo is purchased, the user keeps the entire markup. Base prices range anywhere from $3.95 to $58.50; it depends on the size and type of the product.
For example, an Instaprints photo called Orange Light Bulb, which depicts exactly what it sounds like, runs for $7.95 as a greeting card and goes for $66 as an acrylic print.
Broihier said Instaprints and Fine Art America process every order on behalf of the seller. Their services include printing, framing, matting, packaging, shipping, collecting payments and sending profits. The final product is delivered ready-to-hang with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Dave Welling, a professional nature photographer based in Canoga Park, Calif. and Fine Art America user, said he likes how the websites are presented and how intuitive the functionality is.
Theres never an issue about payment, I get the money like clockwork, and [Fine Art America] has got it set up so you can get prints and cards and its very simple, Welling said.
Susan Smela, a new user to both Instagram and Instaprints based in Venice, Calif., said shes excited to utilize Instagram and Instaprints as vehicles for sharing her photography while at the same time getting feedback and selling images.
[Instaprints] is a win-win scenario for someone like me, who has very little experience in professional photography, but who now has an opportunity to present my photos to a broad spectrum of people on the Internet, Smela wrote in an e-mail.
Broihier said Instaprints also provides its users with an interactive marketplace: Buyers and sellers are allowed to follow their favorite photographers similar to Instagram participate in online discussions, advertise local events, chat with online members and comment on photos.
Youre in the smaller end of the photography business here, Broihier said. My goal is to see if there truly is a great market for [Instagram prints]. If there is, then Im going to be the biggest website in the industry.
When Instaprints launched, they picked up 1,500 users in the first week, Broihier said. At that rate Instaprints would outgrow Fine Art Americas user base in two to three months.
[Instaprints] is a great idea, Glover said. Instagram is what people are doing these days. The digital camera is pretty much out of business because people are just using their smartphones.
Though Glover thinks the idea is hot now, he said its a phase and expects it to fizzle out.
It meets the technology thats here now, but as we all know, a year from now, that could all be different, he said. I would say [Broihiers] got a good bet on it for a while, though.
Smela likes Broihiers project because she said it creates a vast marketplace of images and sets an affordable tone for his consumers.
It’s bringing photography to a much more mainstream audience, while also providing a platform for photographers to gain exposure to a massive viewing public, Smela wrote. The world can only benefit from art, from beautiful imagery, and Instagram and Instaprints are a great promoter of that ideology.
As Broihier says, only time will tell.
But next time youre out and about, think twice about what you snap. Your still du jour could be another persons new dining room wall piece.