SmugMug Success Stories: Glossy Finish

Goooaaaalll! Glossy Finish Scores With Assists From SmugMug and Social Media

Name: Haim Ariav
Title: President & Founder
Company: Glossy Finish
Location: Jacksonville, Florida
Market: Youth Sports
Bragworthy Factoid: Official swag-maker for the Florida High School Athletic Association
SmugMugger Since: 2011

Career Highlights…

  • Services 250,000-300,000 customers annually
  • Shoots 40,000-50,000 gorgeous images per event
  • 5 million+ images generated over last 5 years
  • Client list includes AAU, AYSO, Babe Ruth, Cal Ripken, Pop Warner, Triple Crown Sports, United Soccer Leagues USSSA and ESPN Wide World of Sports

Favorite Features…

Born of a brain fart

Glossy Finish was born five years ago 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: recognizing that, as a “want” industry, photography was taking a hit in a rough economy, 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 revenues for events that don’t utilize the mobile lab,” Ariav says. “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 points out. “The success of those depends on customer satisfaction with images and ease of purchase. SmugMug allows us to deliver a successful experience.”

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 says. “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 says. “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 check-out

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.”

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 says. “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 says. “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.”

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 didn’t used to discriminate when it came 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.”

Interested in seeing more SmugMug Success Stories? Look here and stay tuned for more as we have them.

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I'm a freelance documentary photographer who loves travel, rangefinders, medium format film photography, and everything in-between.

16 thoughts on “SmugMug Success Stories: Glossy Finish”

  1. Hi Leighton. Thanks for your question. We do charge a fee for the watermarked file just as if it was a print. In our opinion it is another product offering. The custom lanyards are given to the customers that sign up their players for photos. This helps us identify them and allows them inside the Mobile Photo Lab. It also creates air of exclusivity and helps us market by other parents asking those that signed up how the process works.

  2. This was a great read. I currently capture equestrian events and most of the time I do offer print on site, for events that request it. I would love to hear more about the lanyard system you have. It sounds like something I have been thinking about. Would it be possible to speak about this?

  3. I was just thinking of moving in the direction of shooting youth sport. I have been shooting semi pro stuff that is eating up a ton of time with very little profit. I would really like to hear move about your operation. I am located on Vancouver Island British Columbia Canada were sports are an indoor/ outdoor year round activity from ice hockey and field lacrosse to downhill skiing.

  4. Awesome. It seems like I am starting the same way you did. I had visions of growth, but this is amazing and definitely promising. Thanks for sharing your success story!

  5. @Bruce – Good to see you on here! We are having fun and changing the game of onsite delivery.

    @James – Thanks! The lanyards are very simple and quite effective. We simply give them to our customers to wear after they sign up their athlete. This helps us identify them as customers and also allows them access to our Mobile Photo Lab. It is also great marketing for us since they walk around the event wearing the lanyards and it gains attention from those that have not signed up yet.

    @Todd – You should check out our website ( and go to the About Us section. We have had some nice press and produced some videos about our business model. I hope this helps. Good luck!

    @GotBob – Thanks for the kind words!

  6. @Matt – Thanks for the compliment. We somewhat stumbled upon the idea and it has worked brilliantly. We recently did an event at ESPN Wide World of Sports and to see all those Guests (customers) walking arpund the Disney Resort with our lanyards around their necks and advertising for us made us smile.

    If you want to keep up and get more info on the events and things we are doing check out our Facebook Page at

  7. @Mark – The templates we use are built in Express Digital (Darkroom Software) not Photoshop. They are pretty straight-forward with a nice combination of fonts and colors, which we change depending on team colors, etc. I wish I could say it’s a secret recipe of ours, but it’s much simpler than that. We do though appreciate the compliment!

  8. Just saw this story on a Smugmug Facebook post. Congratulations on such an amazing business! How do you manage to shoot 40,000 – 50,000 pictures per event? That seems like an awful lot. 40-50 photographers x 1000 photos each? 20-25 x 2000?

  9. I’m also an event photographer, (mainly car racing and rodeos) but I just recently found out that I qualify for some financial help, but i need a fool proof business plan that would convince my investors that I could profit. Would you guys possibly be willing to help me out with this? it’s something I’d love to try.

  10. I have seen you guys in action you do great work, difficult to reproduce though considering from what I have seen it is only truly successful at state or regional events.

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