Larry Abitbol, a Santa Cruz, California photographer, founded Bay Photo Lab in 1976. He decided that he preferred the challenge of lab work to shooting pictures and began doing photo processing for other people. Since then, the business has grown by leaps and bounds, and Abitbol is still involved with it on a daily basis.
Today, Bay Photo’s product offerings include press printed cards, proofing, mounting and finishing, canvas and metal prints, albums, metal photo ornaments and specialty photo gift items, in addition to printing services. The lab goes the extra mile by offering web galleries and sponsoring workshops for photographers throughout the country.
“I think the secret to Bay Photo’s success is not just that we keep up with the times, but that we stay ahead of changes,” states Sales Manager Glen Clark.
Personal Customer Service
Bay Photo knows how important photo orders are to the end user, as well as to the photographer. When asked what sets Bay Photo apart from other labs, Clark is quick to cite the company philosophy. “We teach everybody who works here to associate individual orders with people. We always keep in mind that we’re dealing with people’s memories and cherished possessions.”
Clark notes that Bay Photo always uses the highest quality materials. While some photo labs limit their products to ensure quality, Bay Photo has numerous products and services, yet remains efficient at the same time. “We still have human beings answering the phone, and we’re always available to work one-on-one,” he adds.
The lab emphasizes hiring people with photography backgrounds and interests. “We have a high percentage of professional photographers here, as well as other personnel who are passionate about photography,” says Clark. As a result, Bay Photo has the advantage of offering customers expertise on the art of photography and the photo industry as a whole.
Communication with the customer is crucial. “We review every single order that comes in,” Clark comments. “If something isn’t entirely clear, we contact the customer to clarify it.” This way, Bay Photo avoids delivering orders that aren’t what the client intended. The lab offers 24/7 customer service through phone support, live online chats and email. “Regardless of whether a client is across the country or in another part of the world, we can still service them,” he asserts.
Bay Photo’s services are targeted toward the working professional, a definition that has broadened, according to Clark. Some of the lab’s clients travel to teach landscape and scenic workshops and classes, while others operate traditional wedding and portrait studios.
A Step Ahead Bay Photo strives to develop new products and variations on existing products based on customer feedback. “We’re also very big on supporting educational efforts within the industry,” says Clark. The lab has field representatives who are available at photography events throughout the year, by appointment in the lab and by phone or email. “In a world where everybody relies on their computers and mobile devices, it’s still important to have in-person contact and learn about new products first-hand,” Clark says.
Bay Photo is gearing up for trade shows in 2014. Last year, they attended around 200 local and national shows, including annual events such as WPPI (Wedding and Portrait Photographers International), which will be held in Las Vegas from February 27-March 6, 2014. Bay Photo also sponsors photography seminars and workshops across the country, led by renowned professionals like Hanson Fong, Joe McNally and Marc Muench. These professionals give the lab feedback on industry news, along with teaching new software and imaging techniques.
There are a number of other ways in which Bay Photo works with photographers. For example, the lab partners with vendors such as SmugMug and ShootProof, who specialize in high-end image galleries and websites. “They offer their expertise to our customers, while we provide the fulfillment end, such as prints and products,” Clark points out.
Bay Photo was the original ROES (Remote Order Entry System) lab, an online ordering system that’s widely used by photo labs today. “We worked closely with Softworks, a software company, to get ROES off the ground,” says Clark. Bay Photo’s ROES offers easy online ordering plus access to several image-editing tools.
An Array of Photo Products
Photographic prints remain one of Bay Photo’s top products, ranging in size from wallet photos to wall prints. These prints are available in various papers, surfaces and mountings. Other popular products include metal prints, canvas prints and albums that tell a story with multiple images. Press-printed products include postcards, calendars and other promotional items that help photographers market their work more effectively.
“We’re constantly coming up with ways to do things better,” says Clark. Some of Bay Photo’s latest products include metal ornaments which display prints in a variety of creative shapes. Another relatively new line is “Creative Edge” frames — colorful frames with decorative shapes that can be used for hanging or tabletop display. Then there are pop-out cards with a die-cut portion that can easily be removed for decorative use. Photo cell phone covers have also grown in popularity.
Clark concludes, “At Bay Photo, our dedication to excellence has three primary components: quality, service and innovation.”
For more information on Bay Photo Lab, visit www.bayphoto.com.