Lauren Goode

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Mobile App Kapture Wants to Pay You to Take Photos of Yourself (With Brands, of Course)

A newly-launched mobile app wants to pay you for taking all those smartphone photos of yourself — with a few caveats.

The app, called Kapture, promises instant rewards in exchange for users taking photos of themselves along with a particular item in a store or a food dish in a restaurant.

After snapping the picture, the “kapturer” then has to share that picture with either Facebook or Twitter.

The rewards can range from a free juice to 15 percent off an item in a store to 10 percent off your total restaurant bill.

Kapture has been in beta mode for about a year now, but officially launches today on iPhone. It’s currently offering rewards in a few hundred locations in New York City.

There are some rules about the contents of the photos. Kapture founder and president Michael Szewczyk says the user has to take the photo in the designated restaurant or retail location. And a user can only capture one picture per brand, called a “moment,” every 24 hours, so you can’t pop into a store more than once.

In the age of smartphone-happy consumers and incessant photo-sharing, it’s an interesting idea — one that has been attempted before.

Last year, Zappos founder Nick Swinmurn launched a site called RNKD, with a very similar goal in mind: Get users to share photos of their favorite brands in exchange for rewards from those companies. Instead of requiring users to take photos in stores, they could share pictures of stuff in their closets.

But earlier this year, after minimal success, Swinmurn quietly shut down the site and turned his attention toward his newest project, a video “stitching” app called Threadlife.

In an interview, Swinmurn said there were challenges in getting the business to grow. Brands didn’t want to jump onboard until there was proof of a user base, and it was hard to incentivize users without the rewards. He also says he should have taken more of a mobile-first approach.

And the pictures themselves proved challenging. “The primary purpose of RNKD initially was to connect brands with loyal customers, and the pictures were really just a kind of verification,” Swinmurn said. “But it turns out the pictures weren’t nearly as pretty as an e-commerce site, or people just wouldn’t want to upload their stuff.”

Kapture has a leg up on the business side — Szewczyk says the merchant base is 300 and growing, and includes places like the Strand Bookstore, Vince Camuto, and Anthony Bourdain’s restaurant Les Halles.

But picture quality could prove something of a challenge, as it did with RNKD. And most brands don’t want profanity or other negative elements associated with their products.

Szewczyk says it’s not “anything goes” with Kapture photos: Pics will go through a vetting process, and repeat offenders will be flagged.

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