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Bylined crowdsources product photos for brands

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You may recall Vince Vaughn’s faux stock photo campaign that accompanied his 2015 movie Unfinished Business. In those campaign photos, the actor had his head cleverly photoshopped into bland, business stock photography. There’s a reason that stunt was so funny. It’s because we all recognize the banality of so much stock photography.

To be clear, there is still great work out there too, but you have to work to find it.

A startup from Columbus called BYLINED is aiming to make it a bit easier for brands and people to come together in a win/win situation resulting in better photography or at least in more unique photography.

Through their free app and photo ecosystem, BYLINED enables photo buyers (typically brands, agencies or publishers) to issue a request for a certain type of photo—an assignment or commission so to speak. The buyers choose a bounty they’re willing to pay for “product-oriented photos that best capture their brand-promise or product in use.”

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Once the assignment is saved to the platform, app users (or BYLINER’s as they are called) are notified of the assignment through the BYLINED mobile app. They submit photos via the app and winners are selected and paid. Photos purchased by buyers are licensed royalty-free.

BYLINED currently monetizes through 25% service fee charged to the brand, based on the bounty price the brand sets. Subscription models are planned for 2017.

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There are other crowdsourced photo apps out there like twenty20 and Foap (which is very similar to BYLINED) or even Chute. BYLINED differentiates itself by focusing on product-oriented photos and by providing meta-data for every photo. Plus, their model is only assignment-based. There is no regular marketplace like in Foap and in this way—according to founder David Hunegnaw—”we are keeping our platform focused on the reason we exist – customer engagement!”

Regardless of similarity, I think there’s room in the market for competition here. And as Smartphone cameras get better and better, their capabilities are making it easier and easier for us to fake being good photographers. So it’s good news for citizen shutterbugs.

Who it’s not good for, I suspect, is professional photographers. Could some pros be disintermediated by this process? Possibly, but that has been happening to many art forms in the digital age. It’s possible that, instead of fighting with new systems, pro photographers could find a new revenue stream, assimilate and dominate services like this with the skills of their trade, because photographic composition and lighting techniques that accompany real photoshoots are an actual art.

I asked my friend and pro photographer Jason Poteat what he thinks about services like this and his response was even-keeled:

“As a photographer…I don’t know if this feels like a huge threat. Smartphone cameras can be nice when properly used, but they are not that flexible for a full or unified campaign or for all situations like print or large scale photos for billboards etc.”

He went on to say:

“Besides, sometimes there can be something artful and ‘connecting’ about quick, candid, personal shots. It just depends what you are going for. Mostly, I have a lot more questions than comments…can you upload DSLR photos? Are these for supplemental brand photography or for campaign photography? These are all things that go through my head when I contemplate a service like this.”

One also has to wonder if Smartphone photos will ever end up having their own stigma like cheesy stock photos? Will it ever be possible for “the smartphone photo look” to become recognizable and therefore stale? I don’t know, but that would probably be a great problem for a company like BYLINED to have.

The startup just raised $250,000 through LOUD Capital and a group of angel investors. BYLINED founder David Hunegnaw is also a Partner/Executive in Residence with LOUD Capital. It’s also worth noting that Columbus-based prototyping powerhouse Big Kitty Labs are equity partners in this venture and built the app.