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EyeEm Wants to Make You a Professional Photographer

The photo-based social network helps users sell their work, too.

Haz Hulme/ Shutterstock

On the surface, photo sharing app EyeEm looks a lot like Instagram — you can add filters to your photos, follow your friends and “Like” or comment on your favorite pics.

One major difference, however, is that while Instagram is making money by selling ads against you, EyeEm is trying to make money for you by selling your work.

EyeEm, based in Berlin, has a partnership with Getty Images, which allows its subscribers to search more than 100,000 photos from EyeEm’s archives. Some of those royalties — sometimes hundreds of dollars, according to CEO Flo Meissner — then filter down into the photographer’s pocket.

EyeEm has also partnered with more than 100 brands on what it calls “missions,” basically photo assignments that brands pass along in the hope that EyeEm’s users will deliver something valuable. These brands, including Uber, Mercedes and Airbnb, offer prizes like cash or promises to distribute the work to help the photographers build their brand.

Helping photographers expand their audience is EyeEm’s major goal. So while Instagram and Flickr helped popularize photography for the masses, EyeEm wants to help users graduate from casual photo-sharing with friends to more public, distributed photography, says Meissner.

“Those [other companies] took photography from zero to one and gave access to people,” he told Re/code. “We want to take those guys at one who are ambitious and want to do something … and take them from one to 100.”

Founded in 2011, the startup is building the kinds of tools you would expect from an app for “professional” photographers. An update Thursday brought all kinds of new editing tools to the app — familiar features like contrast, exposure and saturation were added alongside the filters.


But EyeEm also added a new tool called Open Edit, which allows anyone using the app to see which edits the photographer made. You can then use that same editing combination on your own photos. For EyeEm, it’s a way to lower the barrier for people unfamiliar with how editing works (a.k.a. the casual photographer).

The editing features are meant to complement another important part of the app: EyeEm’s photo-recognition software. The company is building software to identify what is captured in a photo, which will ultimately help stock photography shoppers find what they’re looking for — and bring them to the highest quality photos, says Meissner.

For now, EyeEm’s operation is still small. Only 5,000 photographers are contributing to the Getty archive, although the startup is expanding that group. And the overall community is still tiny — just 10 million registered users — compared to more established social platforms.

That means EyeEm has a long way to go — then again, so do many of its users.

“These are people who have never sold an image before, who have never owned a professional camera,” said Meissner. “We want to help them get there.”

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