Highlandtown-based startup Lokalphoto aims to be the go-to marketplace for freelance photography

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Marianne McGinley, founder of Lokalphoto. Image courtesy of the company.

As a new mother in 2015, Marianne McGinley suddenly found herself frequently in need of a professional to snap photos of her daughter’s “milestone moments.”

“During her first year of life, I had never experienced such a high need to hire a photographer before,” she said of her daughter.

She first went to her personal network for referrals for freelancers, and then to Google and Facebook. It got old finding out who was within her price range: “there was just so much back and forth.”

Upon finding there was no company out there offering an online marketplace for photographers—think Upwork, but just for those who snap photos—she decided to start her own.

Lokalphoto, based out of Highlandtown’s Emerging Technologies Center, aims to fill what McGinley describes as an unmet need. The service her company offers is ideal for those looking to document both “those everyday life moments” and special occasions, such as birthdays, anniversaries, family reunions and even before-and-after home remodeling pictures, she says.

She predicts the platform will be a hit in particular for mothers looking for family photography, young professionals seeking headshots and businesses with seasonal photography needs, such as restaurants with changing menus, and a social media presence relying heavily upon visuals.

For the design, she worked with two photogs, keeping in mind “key things that clients look for when selecting a photographer,” she said. So far, the feedback from photographers has been positive.

They can sign up for free, and pay Lokalphoto a 3 percent fee for each job they get, which McGinley says “simply covers transaction costs,” similar to the deal for hosts using Airbnb. Their clients who hire them pay Lokalphoto 5 to 12 percent of their chosen photographer’s rate, depending on the package they buy.

Her company makes no money off the photographers, she says, arguing it’s a “zero-risk proposition” for them to participate.

Baltimore is the launch point, though McGinley hopes to build Lokalphoto into a resource for a national market.

For now, she said, her focus is “expanding my photographer community” and getting the word out to anyone with for-hire photography needs.

Ethan McLeod
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