The Big Business of Photo Filters

Facetune and other photo filter apps are changing the way people see themselves online.

The Big Business of Photo Filters

The age of the selfie ushered in the gilded age of the blown out, brushed up, bunny-eared filter. Don't forget the wiggly nose! 

As far back as 2014, Google reported 93 million selfies a day — and that was only on Androids. One study estimates that millennials will take 25,700 selfies during their lifetime — close to one a day. 

And almost half of all people admit to editing their looks. You can do everything: reshape lips, tuck in a waistline. A few clicks away from social media perfection. These apps are a popular tool. But they're also profiting big-time. 

Many are free, some free with a paid option for more features, some with an upfront cost as small as 99 cents, some with an upfront cost and a paid option for more features. 

There's probably no better case study of paid photo-editing apps than Facetune.

The app reportedly has sold more than 10 million copies for between $3.99 and $5.99 each. It also was Apple's most popular paid app in 2017 and again in 2018. Facetune 2 has been out for two years. The download is free, but for $5.99 a month, you unlock more tools. 

Downloads for Facetune 2: Reportedly more than 20 million, with approximately half a million subscribers paying an average of $40 a year. About 70 percent of the subscribers are women, according to Lightricks, which produces Facetune. The company's CEO, Zoey Farbman, says Lightricks will bank $100 million in revenue in 2019. It doesn't hurt that Khloe Kardashian called Facetune "life-changing." 

Paid (and unpaid) apps are likely to remain in strong demand. There's every indication that people — young and old — will continue the quest for flawlessness. Some, no doubt, to the extreme. Do apps bear any responsibility? 

The Facetune CEO says no: "We did not create FaceTune for body manipulations, but I'm not sure it's our place to decide how people use the app." 

The reality is, your selfie is just that — yours to manipulate however you want. But keep in mind, unedited pictures are free. Maybe not be wrinkle-free. Maybe not fat-free. But 100 percent real.