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Photo marketplace Picfair raises £1.5M, aims to ‘weaponise’ photographers

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Picfair, the London-based photo marketplace founded by ex-journalist Benji Lanyado, has raised £1.5 million in new funding — capital it plans to use to market its “fair trade photography” proposition to the plethora of companies that need authentic photo content.

These include publishers, creative agencies, and, with the huge rise in so-called content marketing, SMEs and corporates. However, rather than spend a ton of money on paid-for online marketing, Lanyado says the plan is to “weaponise” the marketplace’s 25,000 or so photographers, who, he believes, are best placed to spread awareness of Picfair and are already doing so.

Specifically, he says many of Picfair’s photographers — who range from smartphone photographers to professionals, as anyone can upload their work to the platform — already share their Picfair-hosted photo listings on social media or embed a link to the marketplace on their own portfolio sites, in a bid to point buyers away from industry behemoths, such as Getty and Shutterstock, and to Picfair. That’s because Picfair lets photographers set their own prices and takes a much smaller 20 per cent cut on each photo sold.

Now the startup wants to add a further incentive in the form of affiliate revenue, thus giving photographers an additional 10 per cent on every photo they sell direct. It is also developing tools to make embedding a Picfair buy button and other promotional materials much easier.

“Picfair’s growth among photographers has been almost exclusively organic, all through word of mouth” Lanyado tells me. “We’re the only place a photographer can set their own license prices, anywhere. That’s crazy but it’s true. Instead, the huge [photo] agencies have institutionalised their control of the industry by imposing themselves as brokers, setting the fees, and then — brace yourself — taking 80 per cent of the royalties. Picfair reverses this, giving 80 percent to the photographer. We only make money if they make a lot more”.

He says that photographers talk, and that the control and fairness that Picfair offers means they tell their friends, some of whom are on the demand side of the image licensing equation. “Creatives across publishing, the agency world, and the ever-expanding tier of corporates who license images (this is pretty much any company – website collateral, social media, content marketing; everyone’s a publisher these days),” he says.

“So during Picfair’s next phase, we want to supercharge this. We’ve started gradually rolling out out incentives for photographers who refer customers to us – splitting our 20 per cent commission with them for a year on every customer they refer. And then we want to tool them up – with online resource suites, marketing material, offline assets”.

Meanwhile, the sell to photo buyers is that Picfair images are more authentic and unique, often avoiding the stale look of traditional stock photography. Despite living through the biggest proliferation of images in history, with the average image quality of non-professional imagery improving exponentially, “the supply of images to the industry is 99 per cent professional,” Lanyado says.

Picfair’s solution is to open the doors to everyone, while its “ever-improving curation technology” does the heavy-lifting of sorting through the resulting uploaded images for quality, agnostic of whether they are taken by an award-winning professional or a complete amateur.

The startup’s new round of funding was led by the Claverley Group, owners of Express & Star regional U.K. newspaper. Picfair is also angel-backed by the likes of Alexis Ohanian, Tom Hulme, Duncan and Max Jennings (the VoucherCodes brothers), Richard Fearn, John Fingleton (former CE of the OFT and Treasury advisor), Jeremy Palmer (Quantum Black CEO), Chris Sheldrick (CEO of What3Words), Anthony Eskinazi (CEO of Just Park), Julian Worth, Force Over Mass, and D5 Capital.