Is Peer-to-Peer Renting the Future of Photography?

Peer-to-peer services have become very common these days with companies like Uber, Airbnb, and even eBay demonstrating how popular and huge those respective markets are. Platforms such as these have become a major part of daily life for many of us and the trend for growth seems very positive. The photography and videography industry is another that has seen immense growth in recent years, due to the number of new individuals joining the profession. 

There are some that would say that this saturation is causing a drop in value for such services and the price is being driven down because of stiff competition. The cost of buying equipment, however, remains relatively high and could even be going up based on the prices of some of the newest releases. In such a climate, how does one gain access to the best gear available, cheaply, and easily? 

Fat Lama is a company based in the U.K. that may just have the answer. This platform allows individuals to rent and lend almost anything, including photography related equipment. In my video, I review their platform and discuss how they could help improve access to equipment and even allow individuals to make a comfortable side income. This platform is currently only available in the U.K., however, there has been significant interest in something such as this in the U.S. This interest mainly comes from a major and very well known organization that could be making a few moves in this direction very soon.  

What do you think of peer-to-peer renting for the photography industry? Do you think it's something that could take off on a mass scale?

Usman Dawood's picture

Usman Dawood is a professional architectural photographer based in the UK.

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Great idea, with huge potential i think.

I don't know if i'd rent out my camera though, probably have some trust issues. I would have to be assured that it is insured when damaged or stolen.

We're probably going to see a lot more peer to peer services.

I also see a big future ahead for peer to peer storage solutions, currently there are some blockchain projects working on it like

They let you rent out disk space and upload files which are than cut into little pieces, encrypted and than stored on hundreds of different computers.
This way your files can't be hacked because a hacker would only obtain a small piece of the file which is useless and also encrypted.
This also reduces costs a lot!

Yeah, I'd probably be more of a renter. Trusting whether my gear is being handled well or not would keep me up at night.

Yes, that's why this is not so much a great idea.
I guess it will be super easy to get a go pro or kit lens, but the high end product will not be rented so easly.

You may be surprised to know you can rent out some very high end stuff from things like 5D Mark IVs to an Arri Alexa with an on set technician.

The service is fully insured by the platform and that’s why it works.

Fat Lama does not insure you if you've had more than 2 insurance claims (incl. no-fault motoring) in the last 5 years.

Many insurance companies have different policies for people who have had claims within a certain period of time, it's not anything new.

Taxi's and Uber haven't hurt new car sales. Although Taxi's would probably argue that Uber has hurt Taxi service's revenue.... So does that mean camera sales will continue to remain high, its just the users that will suffer? Probably.

I wouldn't do it from either side of the equation. It makes me nervous just renting from a company.

Have you tried renting from They're the only rental shop I know of that offers protection against theft. That's why I only rent from them.

I've only rented from a local store. On-line commerce makes me nervous too. :-(

As a digi tech, I rent my gear out all the time to friends and contemporaries. But I don’t/won’t rent to complete strangers. I had my Canon 85mm 1.2 get dropped by a shooter when I loaned it to him. He paid the cps bill no questions asked. I wouldn’t trust a stranger to do the same.

I guess it depends on how good the platform is.

I can see this working if a deposit or hold on a credit card was about the same value as the equipment itself. I'll rent most of my gear as long as I know I'll be made whole when the inevitable happens.

Absolutely and that’s how FatLama works and I think if a platform can be effective people will be more likely to use it.

I agree for that reason I only rent out some equipment and only things I don’t use regularly.

The problem with peer to peer anything is that an assumptions of honesty, competence and observation of social conventions are made.
The sad fact is that while many do conform to those assumptions, such endeavors attract a disproportionate number of people who don't.
Add to that an organization focused on getting a percentage of every transaction and you have the "we are only a platform" excuse as to why you got screwed by their business model.
Uber and AirBnB are excellent examples of "platforms" ( an excuse to dodge any responsibility) that have enriched a small number of "disruptors" at the expense of the legacy businesses that deliver (for the most part) reliable, predictable quality at a higher price than the services delivered by amateurs delivering random quality in a system with near zero accountability.
Everyone loves the idea of something cool and cheap but forget that those two things only occasionally come together as planned.

Honestly, I will never use an average persons gear. There is no quality control, insurance or regular maintenance guaranteed on the gear. There's established companies that rent equipment already successfully and affordably so why would I rent gear from Joe Average down the road.

With platforms like FatLama everything is insured and the money is handled by the platform and not given direct.

If there is an issue refunds can be requested quite easily and FatLama are there to help.

Personally I think this is extremely viable if the platform is effective, similar to Airbnb and Uber.

I've used FatLama to rent out gear like speedlights, softboxes and lenses and I've loved the experience. I'm an enthusiast photographer trying to learn on my own and being able to rent so easily helped me to do photoshoots that I envisioned. I checked rental shops and I couldn't afford them, especially the whole deposit and ID shenanigan. I'm in London so there's loads of options on the website available. Definitely useful for people on a low budget but with high expectations