SmartShoot wants you to get a real damn photographer

By Richard Nieva , written on December 12, 2012

From The News Desk

There are three things that Airbnb chief executive Brian Chesky says helped the shared vacation rental company to breakthrough. One was the 2008 Democratic National Convention, when the company helped to house Barack Obama supporters when Denver collectively ran out of hotel vacancies. Another was listening more to what customers wanted, like the ability to chat with renters. And chief among them, as a commenter highlighted in a story I wrote earlier this week, was better showcasing the rentals, with bigger, more expansive photos.

SmartShoot -- a network that connects photographers and filmmakers to individual clients and businesses -- was one of the companies that Airbnb used to connect with a few photographers and videographers. Smartshoot’s projects range from low-key holiday photos to corporate videos for companies like Yelp or Yahoo.

Earlier this year, Airbnb began a pilot with SmartShoot where photographers and filmmakers from the network would shoot photos and videos of real estate for featured listings. SmartShoot would not share specific numbers on how many shoots the two companies have done together.

During the pilot, the San Francisco-based company dispatched one of its almost 16,000 photographers and videographers to Airbnb listings from Europe to San Mateo, Calif. to make sure the photos show the full depth of a vacancy. SmartShoot, which rebranded itself from its old name TurnHere in October, vets its pool by making sure photographers and filmmakers are of a certain grade, examining their reels, and ensuring they have a certain standard of equipment: professional camera, lavaliere microphone, tripod, and an assortment of lenses.

For a photographer or filmmaker on the site, it’s usually a way to earn extra cash on the side, or fill a hole in a production schedule with a freelance project. While many of the photographers use it casually, the top earner in the network made over six figures in 2011, says Steve Young, the company’s director of product marketing.

For other corporate video producers, it’s a way to indulge in more creative pursuits, especially for wannabe directors. Those users will take projects where they have to draft a script, cast, and shoot the entire project. “It’s a way to connect with clients they might not normally get to connect with,” says Young. Last week, the company unveiled photographer and filmmaker profiles, which lets a user list his skills – editing, animation, photography – and display work from his gallery. The profile also lets potential clients see a rating generated by past clients.

The service is a good way for someone to book a photographer on the fly. Young says 90 percent of the jobs requested on the site find matches, and many within 45 minutes. As for the pilot with Airbnb, there is something strangely nice about one marketplace business working with another marketplace business. Call it collaborative-collaborative consumption.

Update: We've made some changes to the post because of misinformation about SmartShoot's pilot program with Airbnb.

[Image Credit: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on Flickr]