The minds behind Glossy Finish are ready to share the secrets to their success. The Florida-based company, long considered one of the leaders in how to run a profitable sports photo business, has launched GFcrew, a community built around the sharing of the Glossy Finish business process.
The Dead Pixels Society talked with Haim Ariav, CEO and founder, and Matt Winer, CTO, about the new community. (For those not familiar with Glossy Finish, here’s our previous feature coverage.) Started in 2006, Glossy Finish is a state-of-the-art youth sports photography company, derived from a proprietary process Ariav developed. Unlike traditional action photography companies that are limited to post-event photo sales and delivery, Glossy Finish specializes in on-site printing of action photography through its mobile photo labs by enabling its customers to take home high-quality printed posters and digital photos directly from the events. Lifetouch bought the company in 2013 but, as the company shed businesses in advance of its sale to Shutterfly, Ariav and Winer bought the company back in 2017.
Over its 12 years in business, Glossy Finish has partnered with some of the biggest names in youth sports, like Babe Ruth League, The Ripken Experience, Cal Ripken Baseball, USA Football, American Youth Football, Youth Baseball Nationals, and others. Ariav now wants to share that experience with a new generation of entrepreneurs.
“We’ve learned a lot about taking action photos, especially the process on which to build a successful business,” he says. ” ‘Spray and pray’ doesn’t work. The photographer takes pictures at a sporting event, uploads them to an online gallery, promotes the gallery to parents, and hopes they parents find their way to the galley to buy something. It’s not a business.”
Ariav says the difference between that method and the Glossy Finish approach is positioning: Instead of treating professional photography as a product, it should be a service to be paid for. The spray-and-pray method doesn’t work because the basic business model is flawed: “It’s relying on a product to sell itself. Can you imagine photographing a wedding for free in the hopes that the couple will buy something?”
Yet, this is what sideline sports shooters do every Friday night or weekend.
Enter the GFcrew
Glossy Finish’s Winer knew the service would be even more successful with a vibrant community of successful photographers and business leaders fueling it. That’s why Glossy Finish created GFcrew, a free online forum where members can share valuable insights on action photography and drive the most value from this opportunity.
Winer explained, “With GFcrew.com, every member will receive a powerful combination of this new service and the advice and professional guidance from the best minds in the industry.”
Glossy Finish is working with longtime partner CaptureLife to offer a mobile workflow for members. With the app, photographers can have customers (parents, coaches, etc.) swipe their payment card onsite, where an online account is automatically created. Payment is collected up front and the photographer sets pricing. There is no franchise fee for joining GF Crew; a 15% fee is collected covering credit-card swipe, unlimited storage and maintaining the app. For $95, a GF Crew member can buy a starter kit including 100 VIP lanyards, 100 card envelopes, a photo vest, 100 yellow bands (for marking subjects), a Square card reader, and 100 on-site event flyers. These materials are optional but are similar to the ones used by Glossy Finish itself.
At the event, the photographer only shoots those players who have registered and paid for photos. After the competition, the photographer goes home, edits the photos and then uploads them to the online portal. All details are handled automatically. Once all the photos are uploaded the customer receives a text link to their private gallery. They can click, share and enjoy and the photographer gets paid via direct deposit. Prints can be offered via a built-in print store, in which the photographer gets paid for, as well.
Ariav says the Glossy Finish addresses the main inhibitors to creating a profitable sports photography business. By photographing only athletes who are registered, the photographer can focus on creating great images of a select group. “For example, a photographer can sell 10 packages for $20, knowing exactly who to capture,” he says. “This is a great program for the dad or mom on the sidelines who want to make a little extra for their time. In many cases, these parents will be photographing the game anyway.” The operation can be scaled, just by adding photographers.
An advantage to the GF Crew program is it bypasses the current crippling workflow processes. Today, most sideline action photographers monetize through print products through website galleries that are not optimized for mobile commerce. By relying alone on the sale of print products, it can be impractical for photographers to make enough money to justify the time and the expense.
Another advantage is clear and simple pricing and product. A single price for photographing an athlete is easier to sell than a sell-sheet festooned with an array of print options – which may not be delivered for weeks.
“People buy when they value what’s being sold and when the price and offering are simple and clear, and the shopping experience is frictionless,” says Ariav. “Sports photographers are making the experience far too complicated and not engaging for parents. GF crew is our way of sharing our successful business process with photographers and entrepreneurs who are interested in making a successful business, not just great photos.”
Hear more from Haim Ariav at Pro Imaging CONNECT next month, where he will participate in the new Business Opportunities Session.