There was a time when a skilled group of artists spent years learning a craft that when done well was the stuff of almost magic. Almost always working in the background, in silence, and oft in the dark, photographers went about their ways producing images that stirred emotions, documented events, people, and places, and helped countless industries sell billions of dollars of merchandise.
Over a decade ago, the creators of popularising photography, the Eastman Kodak company shuttered its doors forever and became a textbook example of inaccurately sensing which way the winds were blowing. A 2007 survey conducted by the company found that more than two-thirds of professional photographers would choose film over digital. And we saw how that played out.
While digital photography has democratised or gutted the industry, depending on your perspective, one of the last bastions of generally steady income for working photographers has been product photography. As long gone are the days of that 100-page glossy Christmas catalogue, e-commerce has been the go-to.
Well, dear friends of skill, training, and patience, it looks like Parisian startup PhotoRoom is felling the hammer that will drive that nail into the coffin soon enough.
In response to the stratospheric rise in e-commerce and platforms such as Etsy aiding the rise of made-from-home e-tailer, these shops are now growing up to the reality that quality imagery drives sales, by as much as 352 percent. But as has come to be expected, quality visual content is free, right?
Bridging the gap between quality and cost, PhotoRoom uses AI to translate pixels into objects and allows users to do their own editing that was once reserved for the trained. Removal, replacement, or blurring of backgrounds (often known as utlising the equation of depth of field, or 2u2 Nc/f2) can all now be done in seconds, as can the deletion of “unwanted features”.
According to the company’s own research, “small businesses increase conversion rates by as much as 31% when using PhotoRoom’s tools to produce and share high-quality images.”
“When I was at Amazon we required 1 image to list an item, this creates consistency while enhancing customer experience. Getting 100% coverage with images you are proud of is hard, it quickly becomes your brand identity, and hiring a professional can become expensive,” commented Jeff Strauss, a photographer who decided to hang up the cameras in 2000 after 11 years as a photographer, and director of image operations at Wolt, who previously led a team of 700 photo editors at Amazon.
Right now, I believe we are seeing yet another revolution in photography, like the digital takeover in 2000 that killed Kodak and Polaroid. Why? We can now pair the smartphone high-end camera in our pocket with PhotoRoom magic editing tools. This is a game changer for e-commerce photography, allowing businesses to have more control over the cost and creation of the images that create their brand.”
PhotoRoom’s $19 million Series A round was led by Balderton Capital, with participation from angel investors hailing from Facebook, Hugging Face, and Disney+. The 2020 Y Combinator cohort member has raised $21 million in total.