CanvasPop lets any photo app sell framed prints to make money

There are over 30,000 photo apps out there, and many are slowly dying with little way to make money. Canvas Pop is about to give developers a cash injection by allowing them to earn 30% off framed photo prints sold through its new API. Along with options like sharing to Twitter, web and mobile apps can add a “Print” button that delivers physical enlargements from 8″x10″ to 38″x76″ to a user’s doorstep.

After Instagram exploded in popularity and was bought up for a boatload, everyone and their mom launched a photo app. The problem is that photo app monetization roughly breaks down into three broad categories:

1. Paid app sales – which create a barrier to downloading and only allow developers to earn money once

2. In-app purchases of virtual goods – which are usually cheap lenses and filters that only a small percentage of users buy

3. Advertising – which requires massive traffic and a sales team

CanvasPop offers developers a fourth possibility which integrates naturally into applications such as the 500px photo community and PhotoToaster editing tool – two of the API’s launch partners. Plus, the API works with drawing and illustration apps, or pretty much anything with images, so they can all say…

“Like the photo you just took and filtered? Hang it on your wall.

And the prints look good. CanvasPop’s in-house algorithms reduce noise and smooth out pixelated edges while the special canvas it prints over other actions to hide imperfections in photos taken with a camera phone. The company was launched in 2009 and has become the largest player in the mobile photography large format printing market by printing Facebook and Instagram photos. It has hundreds of thousands of paying customers, has seen 80% year-over-year growth, now has 60 employees, and earns around $12 million a year.

This new API could accelerate business growth while helping developers and putting more art in people’s homes. After paying the developers their 30% cut for providing the photo and sales, CanvasPop takes the remaining 70% to cover printing, shipping, and its own margin. Since it’s vertically integrated like Warby Parker and has its own manufacturing facility in Las Vegas, that margin is healthy.

CanvasPop co-founder Adrian Salamunovic tells me, “Most photo apps don’t have a print. There’s a huge market for that.

The API is easy to integrate and CanvasPop takes care of the rest, including customer service. The showcase displayed by the API reads the photo a user wants to print and displays only “safe” print sizes that have the correct aspect ratio and do not look blurry. High-res photos get larger print options, like a massive 2ft x 5ft print for $277, while low-res photos can be printed as small as 8″ x 10″ for $49. Developers can manipulate the API to display all possible sizes and cropping options by default, or restrict them to bombard users with fewer decisions.

Yes, $49 for an impression is still much more expensive than the typical $1 apps or in-app purchases consumers are used to. Young kids who are voracious photo sharers might not have the spare change to pay for CanvasPops. There are also a few print competitors to leapfrog, like Trulyit is Postagram who sells photo postcards. But if the stereotype of hipsters in their twenties and their love of mobile photography is true, there are plenty of people with empty-walled apartments who could splurge on some prints.

Salamunovic admits the photo app space is pretty bloated, saying “there are probably more cameras than the world needs”, although he likes that there is a niche app for everyone. CanvasPop hopes it can help the best to live without selling their soul (equity) for venture capital.

Once upon a time, photography existed in the meat space, and when friends came to your house, they saw your fondest memories hanging across the room. Now photos are trapped in the digital world, but CanvasPop is a way for this art to become tangible again.

Elaine F. Brim