A new startup company called Catalog has raised $1.5 million to drop the cost of advertising photos for businesses from hundreds or thousands of dollars to just tens of dollars per photo. As you might expect, many working professional photographers aren’t happy with the business model.
Launched in early October with seed funding from a group of venture firms led by Moonshots Capital, the Los Angeles-based Catalog was founded by ex-Googler Patrick Ip and Jacobo Lumbreras. The company’s goal is to deliver high-quality on-brand photos from independent photographers to brands at rock-bottom prices.
“One of Catalog’s first customers — an all-natural cosmetics company named Naked Poppy — was quoted $7,000 for 15 photos by an agency,” Business Insider writes. “Catalog’s product shots, by contrast, only cost $20 per photo.”
That’s right — professional product shots for just $20 per photo.
After receiving requests for photos and creative direction from brands, Catalog handles the production of photos that meet those requirements.
“We hire photographers, stylists, models and editors bringing together all the talent necessary to shoot high quality photos for your products,” Catalog’s website states. “We also take care of all the location, props and legal compliance so you only have to decide which photos you like the most.”
Once the photos are produced, the brand looks through the exclusive gallery and selects the ones it wants, downloading them as royalty free images that can be used anywhere for any purpose.
Catalog says it only takes 5 minutes to submit photo requests, and that resulting photos will only cost $19 to $99 each.
Professional photographers and other industry figures are taking to social media to speak out against the business model Catalog is trying to disrupt the photography industry with.
New York City-based advertising photographer Brad Trent got into this back-and-forth with Ip on Twitter:
Here are some other comments that are being posted:
Dear @MoonshotsCap, @techstars & @luma_launch: Did your VCs talk to any *actual* photographers before investing $1.5MM(!) in @CatalogOfficial? You would have learned that $20 product shots are utterly, laughably unsustainable—AND learned it for free. pic.twitter.com/XWWbxyCZpJ
— David Hobby (@strobist) October 17, 2018
I also have to wonder what your indemnification clauses must be like. Bet your biz puts it all on the photographers. $20 and they had better get all the necessary releases, etc., from models. And pay them. And face labor law issues (esp. in Cal.).
— Leslie Burns (@BurnsTheLawyer) October 16, 2018
business model of such small margin is so short lived for @CatalogOfficial that their cash burn rate will make them non existent soon enough
— Monte Isom (@monteisom) October 16, 2018
. Patrick, what you forget is photography is not a commodity, any photographer that works for you would be an idiot. Photographer's work fall under © protection and the © law, why would they give up that control and the ability to license their work?
— Michael Grecco (@michaelgrecco) October 16, 2018
Catalog, however, sells itself as a business and model that will be good for independent photographers.
“[Photographers] can’t quit their [day] jobs on one-off deals,” Ip tells Business Insider. “They need to know that work will continue to come. [Catalog] could become a way for [them] to do this full time.”
And the company’s blurb on its Crunchbase page states: “Catalog enables artists to get fairly paid for their work.”