Seamlessly connecting professional photographers with prospective clients


Project Overview

PhotoUp is a mobile app that makes it easy for photographers to connect with clients and vice versa. It fills a gap in the market by providing a dedicated platform for professional photographers to showcase their work and connect with clients. It also takes the hassle out of searching for a photographer by giving interested parties the means to filter through local, professional photographers according to their needs. My role was to design PhotoUp's app, leading the user research and photographer-side design. I collaborated with a fellow UX designer.


2.5 weeks, November 2015 - December 2015


Josh Porter, Founder & CEO


Research and identify how photographers will connect with clients through a mobile interface. Produce a high-fidelity prototype demonstrating the app's functionality.



UX Methods Used

Lean Startup
User Surveys & Interviews
Competitive Analysis
Persona Development

Wireframing (low & high-fidelity)
Usability Testing

Design Tools Used

Sketch (high-fidelity wireframes)
Invision (high-fidelity prototype)
Marvel (low-fidelity prototype)
Pen & Paper (low fidelity wireframes)

Team Members & Collaborators

UX Designer: John Brodish (me)
UX Designer: Evan Sadler



PhotoUp is a subsidiary of the Washington, D.C.-based startup, GathrUp. PhotoUp's original mission was to be an "Uber for photography," or an app where people could hire photographers on-demand. PhotoUp would exist within a suite of other yet-to-be-made GathrUp apps aimed at providing people a one-stop shop for all their event-planning needs (other ideas included CaterUp, DJUp, etc.).

The Opportunity

Design a mobile app to support on-demand photography. Deliver an MVP to showcase to potential investors.

The Challenge

At the project's outset, our client's business existed only in concept. Our client hadn't conducted any market research to test PhotoUp's viability, nor did they have a clear picture of who would provide PhotoUp's service -- or how. This required my partner and I to spend more time than we anticipated in the discovery phase, creating the framework for PhotoUp's design.

We learned early on that most photographers were opposed to the on-demand aspect of PhotoUp. Identifying how to adjust the product design in lieu of conflicting client and user goals was this project's biggest challenge.


Research & Planning

During our client kick-off meeting, it quickly became apparent that creating an "Uber for photography" was easier said than done. Our client didn't have a clear idea of how the app would function. We also didn't know who, specifically, would use the service.

It became clear we needed to talk with these people to get a better picture who they were. Our goal was to understand how people and photographers engaged with each other in the real world, and use that to inform the process PhotoUp would use to connect them on its app. We began by brainstorming some questions we wanted to ask these two user groups:


Questions for Photographers:

•  How do you find customers?

•  How do you communicate with clients?

•  How far in advance do you book shoots?

•  What determinar the price you charge?

•  How do you deliver photos to the clients?

Questions for Prospective Clients:

•  How often do you hire photographers?

•  Why would you hire a photographer?

•  How would you find a photographer?

•  What factors influences your decision to hire?

We determined it would be best to query these open-ended questions through user interviews. However, with PhotoUp's vision of mass appeal, we decided to ask more general, polar questions through surveys as well to gain a better understanding of the industry as a whole.


User Surveys

We created the surveys using Google Forms and distributed them to our audience segments through networking, social media, and relevant online forums. The latter two methods were especially effective at quickly reaching a large number of people. This was critical given our short, two-and-a-half week timeline.

Survey Results InfographicsEDIT2

The surveys taught us a lot about our audience segments. We learned most photographers connect with clients through network referrals. Shoots were most often booked over the phone or email between a week and a month in advance. The price for the shoot depended on the client's requests.

As for prospective clients, we learned most had never hired a photographer before. Their smartphone suited most of their photography needs. Hiring a photographer was reserved for special occasions. When they did seek out a photographer, they usually asked their network for referrals. It was important for them to find a photographer they were comfortable with and shot a style they liked.

The process of hiring a photographer didn't exactly mesh well with the conventional on-demand business model our client imagined. On-demand service implies offering what is demanded when it is demanded. Hiring a photographer was a process that took time, communication, and planning. We began to question if an on-demand business model was the right approach for PhotoUp.

User Interviews

Our interviews provided an opportunity to gauge audience interest in on-demand photography and verify our survey findings. We got in contact with photographers and interested individuals through social networking. We spoke over the phone, in-person, and through online messaging platforms.

Photographers, in particular, were intrigued by what PhotoUp's service had to offer. They all desired more clients and exposure, and they saw PhotoUp as an opportunity to get more gigs. They also saw it as a way to distinguish their work from the crowd of casual photographers that swarmed social media.

However, photographers weren't sold on the on-demand service aspect. Many associated on-demand with fixed rates and a focus on quantity over quality. They foresaw themselves losing their personal brand in this business model and being valued as a service provider instead of an artist. Some even argued PhotoUp's on-demand service would destroy the photography business by undercutting freelance photographers.

Similarly, prospective customers didn't see much of a need for on-demand photography either. While the novelty of the service sparked some initial interest, it quickly faded when practicality was taken into account.

Creating Personas

We pieced together our research trends to create user personas. These helped us communicate our user needs to our the client and provided a framework for our design. Below are our two primary personas: Julian and Emma

Julian Persona Vertical
Julian Persona Vertical 2

Defining a Market Role

We also wanted to understand the market PhotoUp would be entering in order to maximize its opportunity for success.

We looked at comparable photography-sharing and gig-hiring apps and services. We learned about many of these during our user interviews. Some we found on our own. We looked for what they did well and where they could improve in order to identify where PhotoUp could fit in.

Competitive Analysis Updated

What we found was that PhotoUp had a fairly unique concept. While a number of photo-sharing apps existed, few offered the option to hire a photographer. None, however, had the same scope or audience as PhotoUp.

Most of these apps and services had inconsistent quality. They usually incorporated a rating system of some sort, which, as we learned from our interviews, created bias and monopolized the competition to favor whoever received the most favorites or likes. We determined PhotoUp could set itself apart by delivering professional quality and a bias-free experience, where photos speak for themselves.

Most of these apps had some kind of social feature. Given that networking was an inherent part of the photographer-customer relationship, it made sense to include social features that catered to this.

Changing PhotoUp's Business Strategy

Our research showed on-demand photography wouldn't be a strong foundation for a successful business. People didn't need it, photographers didn't want it, and there were better avenues to success available. We met with our client to discuss these insights and PhotoUp's business strategy going forward.

We presented an alternative approach: creating a dedicated platform for professional photographers to showcase their work. Users would still have the option to hire a photographer, but the emphasis would be on browsing their work rather than instant service. With the support of photographers and a lack of strong competitors, PhotoUp was well-positioned for success with this approach.

Our evidence-based approach to this pivot in business strategy won our client's trust. We were given permission to move ahead with this new design.

Identifying Functional Requirements

Conducting the user and market research needed to validate PhotoUp's business strategy left us with a week-and-a-half to design and create a prototype. Once again, we tapped into our network of photographers. Using a collaborative Google Doc as a whiteboard to share ideas, we lead an informal, online discussion to brainstorm functionality requirements and approaches to design.



Mapping A Path Forward

Taking what we learned from our different conversations and research, we began mapping out how users would navigate through the app and connect with the other party.


Concept mapping helped us identify where and how this connection would take place.

Photographer Navigation Overview2

Creating user flows helped us identify what screens we needed to design and how they would all fit together in the app.

Prospective Client Navigation Overview

Sketching Screens

With a solid understanding of what needed to be designed, we grabbed some paper and markers and began sketching out screens. My partner and I drew collaboratively, iterating on one other's ideas. This helped us quickly resolve conflicting UI design approaches and gave us both ownership over the final result.


Testing Our Ideas

We pieced together our different sketches into paper prototypes (a photographer side of the app and a customer side of the app) using Marvel. We put these in front of some people to walk them through the app and see where we could improve. This helped us make a few adjustments and finalize our wireframes.

High-Fidelity Mockups

With only a few days left to deliver, we jumped into Sketch and began creating high-fidelity screen mockups. I focused on creating the photographer-side of the app while my partner worked on the customer-side. We agreed on a minimalistic, neutral-toned visual treatment to maximize photo integrity and ensure simplicity. We included several visual indicators to help users distinguish between the photographer and customer profiles.


PhotoUp allows you to browse the work of professional photographers in your area. You can bookmark photos and photographers as you browse. When you're ready to hire someone, navigate to their contact info to get the conversation started.


Photographers can upload, edit, and share their work with prospective clients. They can also view traffic analytics to better understand their clients and how to grow their business.

All photos link back to a photographer profile. There you can find their contact information and social handles. By using a social media log-in to access the app, users can see the favorite photos and photographers of people in their network.


All photos link back to a photographer profile. There you can find their contact information and social handles. By using a social media log-in to access the app, users can see the favorite photos and photographers of people in their network.

Creating Prototypes

After spending some late nights churning out mockups, we assembled them into a clickable prototype using Invision. Below, you can try the two different sides of our app.


See the app through eyes of a photographer. Check out the analytics page and view your traffic stats, or manage photos from the menu and make some edits.

customer sideEDIT

Try discovering photographers by searching hashtags and location filters, or add a photo to a collection. When you're ready, move on and contact the example photographer.



We presented the final prototypes to our client, giving a thorough breakdown of the thought that went into each specification.

"There was a major pivot with my concept.
I trusted the team, and they executed flawlessly."

John Porter, PhotoUp Founder & CEO

What We Learned

•  During our user research process, I was genuinely surprised to find that many typical service-app conventions (simple step-by-step request process, in-app transactions, service ratings/reviews, etc.) were not compatible with the photography business. This gave me a deeper appreciation for photography as an artform.

•  The most challenging aspect of this project was finding a happy medium between our client's business goals and our users' goals. Using an evidence-based approach to advocate for the users helped our client understand the value of shifting their business strategy away from on-demand service.

•  Over the course of the project, the observable change in photographer's sentiment for the service, from caution to excitement, assured our team the change in business strategy was the right call.

•  I loved that I was able to cover the UX design process from end-to-end in this project. I especially enjoyed digging deep into the user research. Unearthing insights that flew in the face of our initial assumptions reiterated the importance of testing ideas. Taking a more informed approach to problem-solving raised our team's confidence and reduced our stress.

•  Collaboration was the key to this project's success -- both within our team and with our users. Daily scrum sessions helped keep my partner and I accountable to one-another. Regular feedback from our users helped us understand the design problem from different perspectives and devise a solution that made everyone happy.