Instagram: A New Marketplace for Professional Photographers?


Instagram is perhaps the most popular photo-sharing app in the world. A few months ago, the service surpassed 200 million monthly active users, who upload more than 60 million photos per day. Some of those users are starting to realize that having a free platform to host photography may be an excellent way to make money.

When Facebook purchased Instagram, many users were worried, specifically by Facebook’s privacy practices. Another concern was that Facebook would attempt to monetize the photos uploaded to Instagram. While this hasn’t occurred, yet, there is apparently plenty of money to be made from the service.

Daniel Arnold, New York-based photographer once declared by Gawker the best photographer on Instagram, decided to experiment by selling some of his prints. “Hello, I just turned 34 this second. For one day only I am selling 4×6 prints of whatever you want from my Instagram archive for $ 150 each. I swear I will never sell anything this cheap again,” his post read.

Arnold was inundated with requests, and raised $ 15,000 in just one day. He told Forbes that he wasn’t sure if he would continue offering prints, but given his single day of massive success, it could be a very lucrative business for the struggling photographer. Granted, this model would only really work if an artist had a large following on Instagram, but the benefits would outweigh the cost of offering prints.

There may be another, much larger value to Instagram, given that over 20 billion photos have been uploaded to the service — stock photographs. Instagram sees a huge volume of pictures, and even if almost 50 percent of them are selfies, that still leaves many pictures that might be perfect for stock photo distributors.

Benji Lanyado, who founded PicFair as a service to provide photographers with a means to sell their pictures at a fair price, is very much in favor of mining Instagram for content. “The global, licensable image stocks grew by 12 million images last year,” Lanyado told The Daily Dot. “The exclusively ‘pro’ agencies who exclude amateurs/mobile shots like Shutterstock are like King Canute trying to hold back the tide, constricting supply in an age of abundance.”

Instagram holds a massive bank of photographs, and using the site as a free portfolio or catalog seems like a great idea. Instagram may already be a boutique shop of sorts, so while there is admittedly no buy button next to photos, users may soon be asking why there isn’t one.

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