Photo enthusiast Makes Money on iPhone Apps

Amateur and semi-professional photographers may not have the experience of grizzled old pros. They may not have their skills or their portfolios. And they certainly don’t have their client lists.

But they do have something that could be even more valuable.

A degree in computer programming or mechanical engineering. A diploma in design or a license for contracting work. The knowledge to fix a car or an understanding of the rules of cricket.

While professional photographers were busy building up their expertise in lighting and composition, everyone else was out picking up knowledge in fields from flying planes to finding oil deposits.

Sometimes matching those day-job professional skills to an interest in photography can create a whole new opportunity.

What’s This Picture?

That, at least, is what happened for Matt Klosterman, a software developer and photography enthusiast. While working on a project in Seattle for his company, Matt found  himself taking plenty of weekend trips to nearby national parks. He’d pack his camera, fill his memory card with images and like so many other people, when he returned, he’d then try to figure what exactly he had photographed and how he had done it.

“I would take a ton of pictures of wonderful things yet would forget some nuances about where they were taken or exactly what they were of,” Matt told us.

Unlike other people though, Matt then set about creating a solution for the iPhone using Apple’s API. The result is PhotoJot, an iPhone-based note-taking system for photographers. The system allows photographers to enter summaries, text and even voice notes related to their images. They can include shutter, aperture and ISO values, and GPS or cellular-based location information. The latest version also includes depth of field, exposure, flash and sunrise/sunset calculators and a “camera bag” feature that allows the user to associate a note with a particular piece of equipment. Of course, much of this information – particularly the technical stuff – is recorded anyway in the EXIF data, but PhotoJot does provide one central place where photographers can record all of their information.

Perhaps most usefully, the program’s users can also connect that information to a reference photo captured using the iPhone’s camera or pulled from its library so that they know which image the data is supposed to describe.

Matt himself describes his workflow using PhotoJot as a three-step process:

“1) Record short, informative notes and record my location using PhotoJot when I take a set of photos;
2) Use the notes I’ve recorded to properly tag and describe my images inside Lightroom after importing my photographs;
3) Upload my photos to Flickr and/or SmugMug and use the location information that I captured to properly place my photos on a map.”

The last two steps should become easier in future releases as Matt focuses on adding additional exporting and syncing functionalities through, a website which will be launched together with the latest version of the software.

The result though should be a collection of images that are properly recorded and archived. That’s particularly important on photo-sharing sites where searching is dependent on keywords and sales often rely on providing plenty of useful information in titles and descriptions.

Turning Knowledge into Cash

For Matt, though, it’s not the photography sales that inspire him. With a career, two small children and further education studies, he finds that no longer has the time to conduct the sort of leisurely photo shoots that he would do  in the past – and which are most likely to result in image sales. Instead, his camera tends to be aimed at his family, recording memory-joggers in the  most attractive ways he can, a situation with which many photographers can identify.

And yet, Matt has still been able to turn his photography knowledge into a revenue-generator. His app currently sells for $2.99 but the price will rise to $4.99 as soon as version 1.1 is released, which is likely to happen very soon. Although Matt wouldn’t reveal how many downloads he’s actually sold, he did tell us that he has “been pleased by our sales thus far.”

Nor did the program take a great deal of time to write. A few weekends in front of the computer instead of behind the lens in August and September was all that was needed to produce Photojot, as well as a general, note-keeping sister application called 44 Jots.

It’s possible that Matt might have preferred to spend that time playing with his camera and shooting pictures that could, perhaps, one day, if he’s lucky, end up hanging on a gallery wall. But he’s not a professional photographer. He’s chosen a very different career, one that he enjoys and which leaves him at least some time for his hobbies too.

“I’ve always tried to pursue a career in something I enjoy so much that
I would be doing it anyway,” he says. “In my case I’ve been lucky enough to find an area that I am so passionate about that I enjoy putting in extra hours or tinkering with new ideas on my own time just to satisfy the ‘itch.”

Using non-photography professional skills might not be the traditional way to make money out of photography but it can be both fun and lucrative. And professional photographers can’t do it.

One comment for this post.

  1. Mag Said:

    I love this topic! It hits home.

    Photography has always been a huge hobby of mine and never though of making it a career until recently. I went to collage for Marketing and got a job, hated it so I went back to collage and got another degree, Information Technology, and guess what? I’m not too happy with the field either. I realized what the problem was, and that I really hate being in an office. Two college degrees later I’m starting to do what I have always loved to do but never though it could be my career. But I finally understand that having marketing and technology background works to my advantage in having a successful photography career. I have never stopped shooting so I have always practiced. I still work in technology, but am in the process of starting my own business being a child photographer.

    I always felt terrible for not going after my dreams from the start, and felt that I have missed out, but sometimes life makes us walk longer path(s) to get to our destination.

    I’m definitely not as smart as Matt, but having a Marketing and Technology background allows me to do more with my photography business than just shooting.

    Happy shooting

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