Instagram is a great platform for sharing and viewing photographs, wouldn't it be quite nice to quickly order a print of a photo that you like on the site? What would be even nicer is if some of the cost of getting a physical print of a photo you like was shared with whomever took the original photo?
Instagram photos are a bit like modern day Polaroids except at the moment they only exist in the digital realm, but there's no real reason that they can't also live in the real world as physical objects.
Above: Polaroids by Louise McLaren on Flickr.
This morning I saw a lovely photo of the Essex Coast that was taken by Luke Hayes (@lukehayesphoto) and it would be great to not only signal that I appreciate it via a like button but also that I could click an order print button and some of the price I'd paid for it was shared with Luke?
Maybe i'd like to order a print of a photo my brother took and send it to my sister as a gift?
Maybe I just take photos for fun and would like to donate my revenue share with a charity of my choice, or I'm a photographer for a living but looking for alternative revenue streams and this could be a way to provide additional cash flow?
Maybe I don't want to let my photo be printed so I'd just turn the option off to print?
Sure, there would be a few issues surrounding copyright to iron out, such as photos of artworks, buildings or other subjects depending on the territory and legal system in which the image was taken. Maybe there would be a few problems with unscrupulous users posting images taken by others and gaining financially from plagarism, or people doing this without knowing that they have done something wrong. But there are a range of solutions to avoid these potential pitfalls and they are happening already, education and communication is one method to change this behaviour. Another is built in reverse image search algorithims such as those used by Tineye that could identify the originator of the photo to make sure revenue gets to them.
Above: Possible reproduction sizes from current Instagram image resolutions.
There's a few technicalities to be addressed - how big can a photo uploaded be reproduced? At the moment they're about 640 x 640 pixels wide, which is about 54mm (2.133 inches) square, at 300 dpi (dots per inch) which is standard high quality printing resolution or about 86mm (3.4 inches) if reproduced at slightly lower quality. This is likely to change in the future as functionality is added to the app and smartphones ever increase in megapixels. It would be very easy to implement uploading higher resolution versions for bigger prints much like Facebook already enables users to do when creating albums to share.
What would it cost to print? This can probably be done for less than $1.50 per photo depending on the printing technology used, a major cost would be post and packaging, enabling prints to be added to a basket and shipped together would be a way to save on this cost. Maybe you could order prints to be picked up from dedicated photo booths located in places such as transportation hubs in order to negate the costs of postage and packaging?
Maybe it would be as simple as 50 cents go to the creator, 50 cents for the printing and 50 cents to Instagram for providing the infrastructure and some profit?
It's an alternative stream of revenue for both Instagram and its users that is worth considering, it would be nice to not only like and be liked but also that the photo Luke took this morning will be on my wall next week as well as on their feed.
*If anyone has contacts at instagram please can you send the link to this post to them.
Sam Sharpe (@Sharpe_Sam)
13 October 2015