At several points during our conversation, Ben Crosby tells me (rather emphatically) that he is not a photographer. “I’m a concept guy,” says the founder and owner of Specialty Imaging. “I love to listen to what people want, and I’m not afraid of taking risks.”
While he doesn’t consider himself a photographer, his background, he concedes, is in fact photography. After photographing the 2002 Olympics in Utah, he found himself intrigued by how people engage with photographic images, so much so that he cancelled his plans to enroll in law school and started Specialty Imaging instead.
Today the company has 12 employees and annual revenues of approximately $2.5 million with almost no overhead. Clients include Lexus, Minolta, Turner Broadcasting System, AT&T and many others. Crosby logged 146,000 air miles last year; members of the team, he says, logged considerably more.
While the offerings are varied and always evolving, Crosby explains Specialty Imaging by focusing on its corporate incentives business, using the vacation that many large corporations offer as a reward to their top-performing salespeople (which he refers to as “guests”) as an example. “We bring our technology to the table and offer something completely new and different,” he says. “We capture an event in a memorable setting and allow the guest to interact with the photos. We capture, we manipulate and we print on site.”
Key to helping guests make the most of their memories as captured in photographs is maximizing the interaction they have with those images, and key to the interaction, says Crosby, is HP technology. “HP is our kiosk system,” he says. “When guests go back to the hotel after a hot air balloon adventure or fly fishing or skiing, the photos are there on the kiosk, which runs on an HP TouchSmart all-in-one PC."
With the kiosk as a starting point, guests have a number of options for sharing their photos, including printing them and uploading them to social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook or simply saving them for sorting and sharing at a later date. And HP’s wireless capabilities make it easy to connect with the kiosks via smart phone and, when needed, to quickly set up a wireless network of HP computers.
Before developing the kiosk, Crosby put HP’s technology to strenuous scrutiny. “We looked at all kinds of vendors,” he says. “Because of complexity we needed an interface that was very intuitive and engaging, and HP kept jumping out. The screen size is perfect.”
Behind the scenes, Crosby and his team use HP Pavilion laptops. “They’re fast, they’re bulletproof and they’re easy to use,” he says. “And when it comes to photo manipulation, I’ll put my HP laptop against any other technology any day of the week and hands down HP will blow doors.”
When asked about the overall value of the service provided by Specialty Imaging, he says that good, compelling photography has the power to motivate people. Drawing on the vacation for the top sales professional, he says that a picture that captures an incredible experience can inspire others to excel.
But there’s more to it, he says. “You stood in front of a camera because you’re having a great experience,” he says. “It’s a great memory, and what we’ve done is removed the barrier between people who love pictures but don’t have the time for the hassle that goes along with organizing and printing them.”