App for turning iPhone pics into cash adds 10% commission

Swedish iPhone-based stock photography marketplace Foap launched in late July, and it wasn’t too long before its founders realized they’d made a mistake. The original idea, to let anyone submit iPhone(s aapl) snaps as stock photography through an app and get paid $5, was taking off. iPhones with 5- and 8-megapixel cameras were turning almost anyone into better and more prolific photographers. But the decision for Foap’s small review team to approve every image before it could be sold in Foap’s marketplace? That wasn’t working.

With 150,000 downloads of Foap’s iPhone app, and more than 1.6 million images uploaded today, the process was lagging. And that sort of defeated the point of a simple iOS app that turned anyone into a paid photographer. The standards for approval were too opaque to some Foap users. And though 910,000 images have been approved for sale, founders David Los and Alexandra Bylund are now turning the approval job over to its community.

Now all Foap users will be able to review any photo submitted. Once an image gets at least five ratings it will be approved or rejected by the community if the average score is at least 2.5 out of 5 points.

Foap Ben Franklin Bridge EricaThe originally cumbersome approval process wasn’t the only revelation, however. Once proving that their model was working, they wanted to expand the people selling images into Foap beyond their 55,000 active users. The amateur iPhoneographer demographic is huge —  there are far more iPhone 4S, iPhone 4 and iPhone 5 users in the world than had already joined Foap. But the founders also wanted to keep it iPhone only. So the founding pair decided to create a greater incentive for Foap’s army of iPhoneographers to get their friends to join the community too: by offering commission.

Every photo license on Foap costs $10. For every one sold, the photographer gets $5, while Foap keeps $5. But now, if you invite a friend, you get 10 percent of each of their photos that are sold. Your newly invited friend the photographer still gets their $5, though — your 10 percent “commission” comes out of Foap’s take.

But the idea is not to just add anyone who can wield an iPhone camera. It’s to invite people who are actually good photographers. And that in turn is yet another way to improve the quality of images available on Foap — images that are purchased by media and travel companies typically for stock use.

In addition to these feature improvements, on Tuesday Foap will announce it has closed a $500,000 round of funding from Jade Global Investments, based in Seoul. That’s on top of the $250,000 in total funding the startup has from angel investors and a grant from the Swedish government.