Glossy Finish scores with assists from SmugMug and social media.

Group photo of the Glossy Finish team standing in front of their mobile photo lab.

Career highlights.

  1. Serves 250,000–300,000 customers annually.
  2. Shoots 40,000–50,000 gorgeous images per event.
  3. 5 million+ images generated in five years.
  4. Client list includes All American Baseball Youth, Youth Baseball Nationals, Youth Softball Nationals, American Youth Football, Babe Ruth League, World Series Cal Ripken Baseball, and The Ripken Experience.
The Glossy Finish team with their mobile photo lab.

Turning want to need.

Glossy Finish was born in 2006 when Haim Ariav was suddenly inspired to build a mobile photo lab in a trailer and cart it to sporting events, enabling families to view, purchase, and retrieve photos on site. Ariav, a classically trained photographer, saw an unfilled niche: he recognized that as a “want” industry, photography was taking a hit in a rough economy, so he set out to re-brand memorializing athletic moments as a “need” by making it easier to enshrine kids’ sports glory. Redefining how images are delivered on site is the foundation of Glossy’s business model, unique in the sports photography vertical.

The post-game show.

But on-site sales aren’t Glossy’s sole revenue stream. After an event, Ariav’s team uploads its treasures to SmugMug’s cloud and follows through with additional distribution via SmugMug’s labs. Online sales, a significant supplement to Glossy’s revenue stream, run smoothly on SmugMug, along with back-office functions. “We rely on the website for 100% of our revenue for events that don’t utilize the mobile lab,” Ariav said. “Using the SmugMug infrastructure, reliability and scalability are key for us. Having access to the various products offered by the labs is a huge opportunity for us to carry out our online strategy.” 

Ariav’s team uses online proofing to boost non-mobile sales. “Different events may not warrant the use of our patent-pending mobile lab,” he pointed out. “The success of those depends on customer satisfaction with images and ease of purchase. SmugMug allows us to deliver a successful experience.”

Photo by Glossy Finish.

Scoring points with social media.

Ariav endorsed SmugMug’s decision to allow digital downloads to have watermarks. “We felt it would facilitate our ability to brand ourselves on social media,” Ariav said. “We wanted to have a presence on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, where so much photo sharing takes place. We know how important printmarks and watermarks are to both our business and our creativity.” 

Ariav milks every branding opportunity he can out of SmugMug’s tools, even while focused on image protection. “Printmarks turn images from just a photograph into a memory,” he said. “Our logo is also typically part of the printmark. Watermarks deter people from stealing, but we also use them as a way to show what [clients’] prints will look like with the printmark. We are always marketing and trying to keep up brand awareness.

Owning it from field to checkout.

Outlining a strong customization strategy for site design and gallery organization, and a reliance on SmugMug’s advanced customization tools, Glossy also has the cart-branding feature firmly in the “on” position: “Branding is a huge part of what we do best, which can be seen in our website customization. We [use] cart branding so our customers know they’re getting a great Glossy Finish product. We also use the box sticker. We want customers to know who they are getting a package from and, most importantly, thank them for their order.”

Photo by Glossy Finish.

Less work, more profit.

Ariav used to blanket events with trigger-happy shutterbugs. Now, by sending sales teams to pre-sign customers, he may only capture four or five kids out of 20, but the average order has increased from $25 to $125. “It’s okay not to photograph every player on every field at every game,” he said. “We focus only on those that want and love our photos. It works better for the customer and us

With SmugMug’s help, this focus on time-saving extends to online sales: “We try to keep pricing as uniform as we can to lessen confusion on our end,” Ariav said. “With the introduction of pricelists, it is much easier to organize pricing throughout the site. Now I can set up pricelists for sales and simply move galleries around once the sale is over.”

Photo by Glossy Finish.

Making friends with the moms.

After cutting overhead and moving from the flea-market, on-spec approach to a more profitable, streamlined system scaffolded on a $20 deposit credited toward purchase, Ariav saw opportunities to reach a larger audience without snapping a photo. Envisioning his business as “an exclusive entertainment club,” Ariav created custom lanyards customers could don at soccer tournaments, showcasing that their kid’s athletic prowess was immortalized by Glossy Finish. The result? A flood of visitors to his trailer.

Taming the technology beast.

Photographers have never discriminated when it comes to capturing contacts; Glossy worked hard to collect home addresses and emails. Now, Ariav plays smarter, relying on texting select targets for marketing blasts. His on-site blitzes are wildly successful. “If we have a slow period, we can ping them and—boom!—the trailer fills up. We have a direct connection to our customers. And when we’re done with an event, we have more contacts in our database for future direct and instant marketing.”

Photo by Glossy Finish.