Gone are the days when photography was limited only to digital photo studios. Nowadays, every occasion and event needs photography. Be it birthdays, engagement parties, baby shower events, a family celebration or a simple photoshoot of your beloved children. Every casual event demands professional photography to capture those unforgettable memories. But the problem arises when you start looking for the right professional photographer.
Besides the expensive price packages, the hassle of scheduling the right photographer at the right time and on right location is surely a tedious task.
So what exactly is the way out to know, in real time, if a professional photographer is available for your event? Could there be a platform that lists the photographers available at your preferred date and time? And that too at a discounted price?
This is where PhotoSesh, an on-demand photographer hiring app, came to the rescue and succeeded in making things easier for everyone.
After experiencing themselves the need for a reliable platform where you can book a professional photographer at discounted rates, the founders of PhotoSesh, Chris and Shari, realized that bridging the gap between artists and service seeker can bring the best of both worlds to everyone. And that’s how PhotoSesh was conceptualized.
Through this app, you can easily find, book and pay for a highly rated photographer at affordable hourly prices. While the app solves the problem of filling the gaps in the schedules of professionals photographers with paying appointments, it also brings a separate network of iPhoneographers at your service. Through PhotoSeshLight, you can get iPhone shots clicked by a dedicated photographer at fests or busy tourist areas.
We were lucky enough to get indulged in an incredibly interesting conversation with the founders. While they shared their views on the problem, they also conversed about the overall journey of PhotSesh, from its idealization to implementation in partnership with Next Juggernaut. Let’s hear what the founders have to say:
Q1) Starting an on-demand platform to hire professional photographers is definitely a great idea. Tell us something about PhotoSesh and your personal motivation for starting this service?
PhotoSesh believes, first and foremost, in giving back to communities and individuals; true joy comes from helping others. Charitable service is at the core of the PhotoSesh culture as well as personal, family and associate fulfillment. And amazingly, it was this focus on philanthropy which first planted the seed for the beginnings of the PhotoSesh Community!
When we (Chris and Shari) worked in our corporate environments, we tried hard to make time to give back, but ultimately scaled back the intense hours from our careers and together took a direction towards more family-oriented and philanthropic missions: we followed our shared passion for volunteering and instead focused on family, service, and helping at our local homeless shelter.
Along the way, two beautiful children arrived, and with them came an increased enthusiasm for making a real difference and giving back. With support from local community leaders, we initiated the “CarePacks 4 Homeless” program. Increasing the program’s publicity and managing its social media presence required quality pictures for sharing. And as the events grew in size, so did the need for a professional photographer.
With some trial and error, we learned that high-end price tags don’t always guarantee high-end results. So, we took to Craigslist and the classifieds only to find many talented and professional photographers who could use extra work to fill their schedules. We loved the quality and dependability available at a lower and more efficient cost however there was still quite a hassle involved with scheduling the right photographer, with the right event, for the right job, at the right price, in the right location. We made a lot of new photographer friends and learned a lot about the struggles and the triumphs of their businesses. Some of the stories have really touched our hearts. Then the chatter got more interesting as family and friends began asking for referrals to use these wonderful photographers. The favors requested for introductions came flying in. A few birthday parties here, engagement parties there, and throwing in some baby & bridal showers to the mix. The time and effort added up and was a daunting task at times to find available photographers for their friends’ and family’s events. But we knew too many photographers to say no. So to say no to a friend’s referral request not only took away a gig from one of their photographer buddies, but it’s simply not what friends do. Friends and family help each other out. So although the process to book the right one with availability was still exhausting, there really wasn’t any other way. Until…
One night while watching TV with the laptop open…searching, yet again, for a photographer. Shari turned to me:
[Shari says]- “I wish we knew which photographers would be available in real-time for the animal rescue event.”
[Chris says]- “Yea, if only we had a simple platform where it lists all the photographers that were open for that date. “
[Shari says]- “Exactly, then we’d announce the gig to the ones we like with a push of a button. Kinda like first-come-first-serve.”
[Chris says]- “Yes, we need this now. I’m tired of all this back and forth. Peter’s got a wedding, Carissa is on a shoot out of town, and I’m still waiting on others to respond.”
Both realized there needed to be a better way. We just want to book a nearby, affordable, and talented photographer with a push of a button. We looked at each other in silence, and PhotoSesh was born.
Q2) Could you shed some light on PhotoSesh’s Business Model?
PhotoSesh is the easiest way to find, book, and pay for a highly rated affordable photographer. We connect customers to our PhotoSesh community. This network consists of nearby talented freelance photographers and iPhoneographers who offer discounted sessions during the gaps in their schedules that would otherwise yield zero income. These services are available on-demand or can be scheduled out 90 days in advance.
Hiring a photographer is tedious at best; exhausting at worst. Plus, it’s a process which lacks transparency of pricing, reviews and usage rights. Customers have to waste valuable time to search portfolios, compare websites, scan cherry-picked testimonials, search or call for quotes, and finally, check availability. If schedules don’t match up; it’s back to square one.
Even worse than time spent finding and vetting a photographer is the current “Do It Yourself” trend – people who attempt to take their own -or ask guests to take their own – photos at their own events. In addition to less-than-stellar photographic results, this trend leaves little time for a host to mingle, handle event details, eat, enjoy the party, and actually BE in the pictures.
However, DIY still remains a tempting option due to the high cost and time investment associated with hiring a photographer.
There is a second problem that our platform solves: with limited marketing budgets, many photographers have trouble filling their appointment books. They also don’t pick up much work while traveling or out of town. Most photographers we surveyed have little success with listing sites – which usually come with added costs for subscriptions, bids, and featured listings.
We have 2 components of our business. Our value proposition is PhotoSesh and our cool card from the future is PhotoSesh LIGHT:
- PhotoSesh will be bringing yesterday’s archaic way to hire a photographer into today’s tech world. We let established talented photographers join our platform, sync their schedule and they can fill up the gaps in their schedule at discounts with gigs from our customers. Customers simply rent talent hourly to take pics and deliver images to them (between $30-75/hr).
- Our PhotoSesh LIGHToffering will be bringing tomorrow’s inevitable iPhoneography as service into the hands of today’s tech consumer.
At a music festival? Or do you tend to always ask around for someone to take a pic while in a busy area like a tourist spot? Why not ping your nearby peers via PhotoSesh LIGHT and they can help you with your iPhone shots. Want a periscope assistant? Yea, we do that too. ($20-25/hr).
Q3) What is the value proposition that you offer?
By offering a platform to talented freelance photographers that can sync their calendars to our system, we can assist them in filling up the gaps in their schedule at a discount. And with GPS integration, we can connect them to local gigs that are more convenient and save in traveling costs. This way we can offer a value proposition to new customers looking for affordable photographers.
PhotoSesh will allow customers to easily search for talented photographers, in their geographical area, who are available for a specified day or time, and for the type of event relevant to the photographer’s skills.
PhotoSesh photographers work at discounts within our platform. Current rates range between $30-75 per hour, and each photographer posts their pricing to represent a discount of 25-75% on their normal rates.
This pricing model encourages customers to book PhotoSesh photographers more often, and for more casual events when formally hiring a photographer doesn’t make sense. Now, rather than being stuck behind an iPhone during a baby shower, birthday party, anniversary or wedding, hosts can enjoy the party, knowing the photography is covered. Plus, when hired through our platform, photographs include digital usage and printing rights.
This expanded market for photographers means more clients and more bookings – keeping them busy and meeting new referrals. After being approved and added to the PhotoSesh community at no cost, a photographer’s schedule will start to fill up with customer requests. They can even accept requests while traveling. By handling bookings and payments, we serve as a photographer’s marketing team, agent, and personal assistant.
Q4) How did you solve the initial egg and chicken problem to gain professional photographers & customers on your platform?
To source photographers, we simply went out and looked for them over the course of an entire year during our research and development. Most of them have a presence on the web, but we also put out some ads and directly hired them for market research with iPhoneography and high-end photography. During our experiences we also got to learn about their businesses. We’ve even hired them for various charity events we’ve hosted and participated in. We were out there listening, learning, and gathering all the pros, cons, and the challenges of their businesses and the platforms they already use. Although we ourselves as customers have had frustrations in the hiring process, we’ve continued to learn more of the pain points from our own consumer experiences along the way. Plus through word of mouth, we’ve met many customers who came to us with their own exhausting stories in searching for a photographer and would ask us for recommendations during our pre-launch. So by being a source of referrals of photographers during our R&D it helped us build a lot of relationships with many freelancers. Many whom we’d like to call friends and have even touched our hearts. There are a lot of interesting stories to hear out there. Especially when you network in this industry of indy creatives and talented artists. Real inspiring stuff. What’s special about the PhotoSesh community is that we all want each other to succeed. Word of mouth caught on via social media and has been a huge driving force for email submissions to our website. Not only were we able to build our email list, but we were also able to make a lot of friends along the way.
Q5) How has the experience with Juggernaut been?
Excellent. We always felt like we were their only customer even though they were catering to many other companies in the On-Demand space. We had some specific requests from time to time, and we feel that they would always put their best efforts forward to make it happen and we were always updated with the progress along the way. Very professional and we had more than one project manager to contact in case someone wasn’t immediately available. Communication was always important to us and we’re happy it was never a problem. We had a very specific vision for design and flow. Whether we presented it to them on Photoshop, Microsoft paint, or on a napkin, they were able to put it in the UI and UX to our satisfaction.
Q6) Are you satisfied with your technology platform as it exists today?
Like anything, you always want to improve, our business was first of its kind when we started R&D, so a lot of customization had to come into place to complete our project. We won’t be perfect as we’ll always have reasons to enhance and adjust. But as for an MVP, we are extremely satisfied and proud of the development team and the final product. We would definitely recommend anyone entertaining an idea in the On-Demand space, to look into hiring Juggernaut to help execute their vision. We told Juggernaut where we needed to get to and they brought their resources and expertise to get us there.
Q7) What is one particular Marketing Tool or process which you swear by, that has helped you gain more users on the platform?
Well we’re still early, but we have a solid game plan with some partnerships in mind. But we have a favorite and we don’t even want to call it a marketing tool because it’s more of a representation of our company’s roots involving giving back. So we will not stop our involvement with charity work and volunteering. We meet so many good people and it’s our favorite way to gain exposure. Instead of pumping dollars solely into corporate ad agencies, we’d rather prioritize paying for the photography coverage at charitable events. It’s really wonderful because we can help out some of these Non-Profits that are doing something meaningful within the communities. Since these events are usually quite family friendly, we get to be with our children and invite loved ones to come join in on the fun. Our weekends are packed with charity fundraisers and it’s great for our kids to be around some really good people in our community. But we try to help out anywhere on the map as best as we can. Our brand gets introduced to a lot of people through these events and heck, we’re able to contribute and do something good along the way. We’re not sure what the ROI outcome will be for this channel, but even if not profitable, it’s something we will never stop doing as a company, as a community, and as a family. We swear by this for sure! 🙂
Q8) What is the hardest thing that you had to overcome during your journey of getting PhotoSesh to where it is now?
Selling our house to make this happen. We did have our dream home that we filled with our 2 children and a 170 lb Saint Bernard Dozer (who just turned 10 on May 5th), but as we got more involved with volunteering at homeless shelters and truly differentiating our needs from our wants, we decided it made sense that PhotoSesh needed to happen, and anything in excess was not necessary. So we had to shed ourselves from distractions and run a lean and mean ship both inside and outside of PhotoSesh to make everything work.
Q9) As of now, PhotoSesh is gearing up for its app launch. Are you planning to expand to more geographical locations? If yes, what would be your strategy?
We already have photographers across 12 major cities. As the supply grows, we will launch campaigns in the opportune places. But we first want to understand the needs from the NYC, NJ, and PA customers. Feedback will be the key and once we solidify a formula to create the ultimate customer experience, we will launch our full scale expansion plans.
Q10) What do you feel is the future of the On-Demand economy and how can it help people and businesses alike?
Recent studies show that there’s a 70% satisfaction rate within the On-Demand workforce. We are not surprised one bit. There’s a lot of political noise out there talking about how they are not happy. It’s a huge arena and can’t be generalized. We’re in a great situation where most of our photographers are already freelancers, and there is really no transition for them. They simply join our community sync their calendars and allocate slots of the week when they’d like to get PhotoSesh requests. We keep a harmonious relationship with them and hope to play a key role in growing their businesses with more gigs and referrals.
Q11) How do you see PhotoSesh evolving in coming years?
We operate under an ambitious, threefold mission. First, our goal is to position PhotoSesh as the standard photography booking platform by creating the world’s first & most efficient way to hire a local photographer with discounted openings. Second we will normalize and promote the idea of hiring a nearby, on-demand photographer at any time – forget selfie-sticks and bugging strangers; just grab a quick, 30-minute PhotoSesh with your friends while on vacation, or at a music festival, ball game, or party. Third, we think the future will have room for “iPhoneography” as a service and PhotoSesh will become the very first providers and promoters of this up and coming society of “iPhoneographers.” In order to make this a success, we must first make some noise in the existing freelance photography space. Our discount model already offers great value in today’s market–and we are simply adding the iPhoneography option to engage with the rising trend of photog pros utilizing their iPhone. Although early, iPhoneography as a service is a concept which we expect to open many eyes. As advancements in phone-cam-tech continue, we believe iPhoneography as a pro or peer-to-peer service will be white-hot.
Our biggest evolution lies with bringing iPhoneography to the market. Yes, there are still conditions which call for high-end, fancy, black, full-frame DSLR cameras, but the iPhone camera is incredible – and will only improve. Apple’s cash balance alone is larger than all other camera companies’ market cap combined. Apple’s iPhone camera competing for quality at parity to Canon and Nikon is not an “if,” it’s a “when.”
It’s Apple who has disrupted the photography space, but it will be PhotoSesh who will bring talented iPhoneographers to the gig economy. One of four Americans own an iPhone, and thanks to our customer review system, quality control will always exist.
Back to 2016… if we disregard the Pro iPhoneography future for a moment, the opportunity remains in helping talented photographers fill up their schedules with new business. Right now, there’s a MUCH larger supply of talented photographers than what is advertised. PhotoSesh will open the floodgates for talented photographers to gain visibility, get some some extra business, and while keeping it affordable to the masses for just about any event.
Q12) Any advice for startups trying to make it big in the On-Demand space?
Network, listen and learn. Read and digest. There’s a lot of information out there. Use it! Whether it’s coming from the pain points of customers or fellow entrepreneurs, you need to learn from not only your own mistakes, but others’ as well. It can be fun and motivating to read success stories and it’s good to read them in moderation, but it’s more useful learning of how things go wrong so you can try to avoid those same mistakes.