September 14, 2018

Does this business model sound crazy?

A couple weeks back I launched It currently has a prett straight forward model: register, pay, upload photo, and receive artwork based on the photo.

With feedback from here and a few local friends... I was thinking of trying this to reduce friction:

Tell me if this sounds crazy:

People can join PaintedReality for free.

They can upload photos to do for free.

As I complete them they are added to a private store for the member who uploaded it.

Each available for purchase in digital and a variety of prints.

VIP members (subscribers) get their work done faster, and get a discount on pieces and prints.

Smart? Crazy? Dumb? ;)

  1. 4

    That sounds very similar to a lot of photography businesses, such as for school children/graduation (free to take pictures, pay per pic), pre-wedding (set base price + price per picture), and on cruises.

    As a consumer, here are the reasons why I sometimes buy them:

    • pictures are all unique. it's hard to throw away pictures of your cute kids

    • cost you nothing up front, only buy what you like

    • feels like a waste to throw away nicely printed pictures (cruises)

    Obviously you have to price the pictures to cover all the "free" work you did, so you have to charge more than if you were to only to serve paying customers.

    1. 1

      Yep, very similar. The slight difference is they are providing the photo rather than the business (photographer) taking it for them.

      I wonder if that slight difference will affect the outcome?

      1. 1

        Not really sure what you mean by providing the business not the photo...

        I think you can still give it a try, and if it doesn't work out for you (i suspect too much work and not enough people buying), you can change the model. What you suggested might also be a good way to get some traction since they don't have to pay to see samples.

  2. 3

    That sounds fine.

    The craziest business model I've ever seen is a weekly subscription which doubles whenever a new user signs up. So if it cost $20 for the previous user, it'll cost $40 for you. It worked though. I don't know whether to laugh or cry about it

    1. 2

      Wow... what was the business?

      1. 2

        I forgot what it was... I think I bookmarked it so I'll have to do some searching. It was an email newsletter. I found it from IH actually. Would love to see how much the subscription costs now...

        1. 2

          Yea, that would be interesting. Did the price cut in half when someone left? ;)

          1. 2

            I don't think so :D

    2. 1

      That's brilliant. Each new subscriber would be reassured to know the barrier to diluting their informational advantage will be strengthened after they get in, and that there will never be more than a dozen or so subscribers. Hopefully the author can actually deliver! You could just charge a lot, like the 13D newsletter, and subscribers will know they're in a small club, but unless you're an established expert with a big network it's a challenge to get the first few subscribers.

      1. 1

        Yes, you can feel the pressure to subscribe before the cost drastically increases. I'd love to try this model one day!

  3. 2

    That's the same model as school photographers use here in the UK. At the end of the summer term, they go in and photograph all of the kids together. They then photograph each kid separately.

    When I was a kid, one picture would come home with me a week or so later. It would be a small face shot but my parents could then choose to buy bigger piccies, group piccies and so on.

    I seem to remember, from when my niece was small, that the system has been modernised to the extent that you can now enter an online gallery and order your prints from there but the principle is the same.

    I can see the selling point. In your existing model, you are asking for payment before the client sees the results - which requires an element of trust on their part. In this model, they don't pay until they can see what they are getting.

    You will, of course, watermark the images and disable right-clicking as two simple anti-fraud measures ....

    1. 1

      Exactly, the risk is flipped. I’m assuming the risk — the potential for work without pay.

      And I wonder if there is some level of subconscious reciprocity that could happen too?

      Whereas by knowing we’ve completed work for them and have a sense of responsibility to purchase? :)

      And definitely will have a low-resolution, watermarked preview and code to remove the simple ways to copy them.

      1. 1

        There might well be. It's hard to walk away from something you have asked to make happen.

        1. 2

          I want to agree. We'll see in practice. :)

  4. 1

    The flip is complete. It’s now free to join. Free to upload. Then when we’re done with the art you can view it in your private gallery.

    We partnered with a globally renown print lab so you can order the best prints available — delivered to your door. :)


    Thanks for the help and advice! I really appreciate it.

  5. 1

    So based on what I've seen your using a digital filtering process like a photoshop action or topaz. So if that's the case then I really don't see why not - based on the quality of the digital paintings you could probably just automate the entire thing and offer different filters if you wanted to be more transparent.

    1. 1

      There is some filtering process done by Photoshop actions. I don't use Topaz at all, but I have developed my own in-house app that does some of the steps in our process -- in an attempt to automate as much as possible.

      But there is quite a lot done by hand too. It varies depending on the source photo uploaded. An ultra high-quality photo, perfectly lit, perfectly saturated, very sharp, etc... is super easy. Very little hands on needed.

      However, that's only about 1% of the uploads. Nearly all photos require much more to compensate for overly dark areas, blurriness, faded/poorly lit, uncentered subjects, etc...

      Then we also compensate for things like facial features, strange patterns on skin, etc... where the effect is fine, but the placement within the photo creates a strange appearance that customers would certainly dislike.

      I wish I could automate it. :)

  6. 1

    The business model looks fine by me 👌🏻.

    Playing advocate of the 👹 here:

    Your style really seems similar to the freeMononoke filter in the Prisma app (, so what is the advantage for me to use your service over that app?

    1. 2

      I like devils advocates, I’m often one too. :)

      No offense, but Prism’s results are very poor for all but the very highest quality photos. I spent hours trying to make something I’d consider even close to acceptable... I couldn’t.

      Though some of the photos on their homepage/app page look incredible. I wonder how they got there. :)

      My service is very hands on. Every photo is different and requires a different touch. Some clients will upload a photo that has some overly dark areas, or harsh lighting, or poor saturation.

      We do our best to and use judgement to bring each piece to life.

      And then it is in extremely high resolution. Not HD, not 4K, not even 8k... essentially 10k resolution at a super high DPI too.

      This is so the piece can be printed sharply at very big sizes, over 24x36”.

      Thanks for asking. Helps me to frame the service better.

      1. 3

        Nice 👌🏻 you got your a-game on. If you put it like that, people who want something printable that decorates their walls will throw cash at you 💸. All the best

        1. 2

          Hehe, thanks. 😎

        2. 1

          We partnered with one of the best print labs in the world. Now we have incredibly high resolution, exclusive artwork printed in the highest quality lab — delivered to your doorstep — all from a simple photo upload. :)

          1. 1

            Nice 👌🏻

  7. 1

    I think it sounds very reasonable. You might actually even just add them to a public store where anyone can buy it or just do it privately for VIP members.

    1. 1

      I had thought about an option to put the piece into a public store, where it could be purchased by anyone... and perhaps even make public pieces a lower price since they have a wider audience

      I’d probably still need a private store for each, as some photos would be of family, friends, or even a bit risqué. :)

      You don’t think it sounds like I’ll get taken advantage of? :)

      1. 2

        I'm quite sure you can't legally use a submitted photo (unless you get explicit permission) to make additional sales. The uploader (should) have the rights to the photo they submit, you don't.

        1. 1

          Of course there is consent at the point of upload to grant rights to work on photos.

          In the case of a public store, that would be totally opt-in (with a high quality bar they’d have to pass as well).

          1. 1

            If the idea of a public store works, you could even run an affiliate scheme and split the proceeds with the original uploader.

            You would need to think carefully about how to do it though as you would not want to be swamped with work that was of purely speculative value. Some speculation is fine but there is a balance to be found.

            1. 2

              That’s an excellent idea. And always need a good balance. :)