Photo Co-op idea

Discussion in 'Business of Photography' started by keith_downing, Jun 1, 2009.

  1. I've got a couple dedicated servers sitting idle right now due to a delay on a business project I've been working on with my family (unrelated to photography). I was trying to think of some ways to put the resources to use since I can't get any type of credit for the equipment right now and I have some free time.

    I came up with the idea of trying to start kind of a photographers co-op for amature/semi-professional photographers. It would be a free service that would allow photographers to have their own website built from a template. They could upload photos, bio, contact information, etc. I could probably also integrate it so that prints could be available for sale with the prining costs and some profit sharing coming out of the sales price. So basically the photographers would get a check at the end of each month that reflected a percentage of the sales generated from their images.

    It could also serve as a marketplace for photographers looking for work and companies looking to book freelance work.

    Just curious to see if there would be a decent amount of interest for something like this. I think I could setup a pretty high quality, turn-key solution, and the photographers wouldn't have to put up a dime. Only thing is I wouldn't have any capital to promote the co-op, so it would need to be something that would have some real interest to photographers and be promoted by word of mouth.

    Anybody have any input? Advice? Concerns?

    Any other similar sites already exist that anyone knows of? I couldn't find much that didn't either fall into the stock photography category or the free image hosting category. Nothing I could find would basically allow the photographer to have their own site, and be able to make money selling prints of their photos without needing anything (other than the photos and an internet connection).

    Thanks in advance for the time,
  2. I seem to recall seeing print fulfillment services that allow photographers to have their own website that extract payment from the sales but I don't remenber if there are other fees.
  3. Well, I saw smugmug has something somewhat similar, but they charge $100 just to signup. I'm thinking of targeting true amature photographers (college students of hobbyists) that have some good, unique images, but don't want to start a business. Or maybe they do but they literally don't have any disposable income to put towards a venture that may or may not yield results...
  4. you can get the first year of smugmug for $75, other sites offer their fee monthly. Your initial post said your server is idle due to a 'delay' in your you plan to dedicate this server full time even after the other business opportunity is back on track? It sounds like a nice idea, but your post doesn't make it sound like a long-term thing.
  5. If the idea started to take off and had active members I would continue the service. I wouldn't be looking to make this a profit driven business like all the other sites, but it would still need to cover it's costs (that's why I was thinking in terms of a Co-op). That shouldn't be hard though if it is getting any kind of real traffic.
    In answer to your question, I would like this to be a permanent staple for photographers. The only reason I mentioned the free resources is that it give me the opportunity to test market the idea with no overhead...a decided advantage over anyone else who would have to put up several thousand dollars (plus have the technical expertise) to launch this type of service.
  6. Do you have a plan for reporting the income for tax purposes, for each photographer? There would be a fair amount of paperwork to keep up with for whoever runs such an operation, that is why most sites charge to set up a 'sales' account. I know many photographers use their flickr, myspace, smugmug (free basic), and other sites to showcase their work. Not trying to be a buzz-kill, just making sure you've done your homework.
  7. Who would be doing the printing?
  8. Probably a local print shop to start with, if the volume started to get large I would probably eventually switch to a larger national service.
  9. I'm not clear on why you talk about a *couple* of empty servers and thousands of dollars in overhead to launch. For what
    you've described a VPS costing $20-30/month would be more than enough to get things rolling to the point of hundreds of
    active photographers. Even if you plan to float it for a year you're only looking at $300 for the hardware side of things.

    Things like development costs and technical expertise are independant of the fact that you have servers sitting idle. And
    any setup work can be done in a little piece of a shared hosting plan for free so having the servers now isn't an asset at all.

    I'm not saying I don't like the idea, just that I don't see where you're pulling numbers from and it makes it seem like there's
    not even the framework of a business plan.
  10. John, I think Keith is simply floating an idea to see what type of response it generates. If there's enough interest he can work on a business plan and ironing out the framework at that point.
  11. Keith,
    My general opinion on business is that partners are for dancing. That being said, the idea of a co-op would mean that everyone is a partner.
    I wouldn't be looking to make this a profit driven business like all the other sites, but it would still need to cover it's costs​
    Why do you want to spend all this time, money and effort on it if it's not profitable?...-Aimee
  12. Why do you want to spend all this time, money and effort on it if it's not profitable?...-Aimee​
    For the enjoyment of it?
  13. Wow John, I think it's a great idea. In fact, I'm working with Smugmug right now to try and get them to do something similar. I'm a volunteer photographer for our local high school. I'm beginning to see more and more parents at sports events with high end DSLR's. So this year I began asking what they're doing with their photo's, and if they're sharing them with the teams and parents. Most are doing exactly that, but everyone has their own way of sharing. I'd say the majority are uploading to Snapfish and Costco. The problem is that a team might have 3-4 dads/moms out there shooting. So, each person on the team gets 3-4 seperate email evites to view and purchase photo's, which can mean several accounts. The other problem is that we're giving all of this business to various companies and I've found that none of them are interested in sharing profits with our non-profit foundations at each school.
    The obvious solution is a single account with several sub-accounts so the parents can all upload to one place. We could add a small profit and donate the profits back to the schools. My 3 daughters play sports year-around, two of them in high school, and we're having to raise more and more money each year because of budget cuts.
    I think your idea will work great! I'd start at the high schools where you'll find endless supporters and photographers taking pictures of sports, proms, homecomings, etc etc.
    You can see some of my pics on flickr
    or my smugmug site at
    good luck!

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