Barberito Photographers was started in 1986 by Mike Barberito, armed with a single Pentax K 1000 SLR and a lot of ambition. Today the Metairie, La.-based operation is in its second generation, expanding its regional presence school by school.
“He was trying to find himself and he loved photography,” says Chris Barberito, his son, who is vice president of sales. “He found out nature photography wasn’t cutting it and started making his way to preschools, family portraits, weddings, etc. And we evolved from that.”
While Mike Barberito didn’t intend at first to focus on volume photography, his passion for customer service was a natural fit for helping that business grow. “He’s very passionate about customer service and established that foundation,” says Chris, who has been with the company for 10 years. He is one of three children, of which he is the only one in the business. His mother, Jackie, is also involved as a co-owner.
Barberito Photographers is a hybrid volume-photography operation serving southeast Louisiana, with additional growth coming from the western Louisiana region. Business is usually from a two-hour driving distance from their headquarters.
Adding print capability has been an emphasis for Chris Barberito to provide additional services with a faster turnaround. “We are proud partners of APS Lab and have been with them for 25 years or more,” he says. “It’s like a family working with them. Direct fulfillment with APS has been fantastic. But we’ve been growing our internal operations as well. We print 86,000 ID cards a year internally.”
Chris Barberito says the studio has a wide variety of portrait styles for the approximately 6,000 seniors who sit at their main studio. For on-location shoots, Barberito Photographers works with schools and coaches, based on what styles work for them and for the production workflow. Online proofing is part of the workflow, partnering with Fotomerchant and SimplePhoto. One holdup? “In the South, we’re still very traditional and our schools still like physical order forms,” he says.
Barberito is driven to improve efficiency in his operation, so association efforts to improve data sharing between studios and schools will have real-world benefits for a studio like Barberito Photographers. He is strongly in favor of moving to digital delivery but this has been hampered by schools reluctant to share student data.
“I am all for any technology that improves my model or makes the customer experience better,” he says, adding it’s becoming increasingly important to find customers who will fit into Barberito Photographers’ workflow processes. “I don’t want a school to come on board who wants to change my entire protocol. We’re moving in a certain direction, which is what the consumer expects. If one of our schools is going to hold us back from attaining this, it’s not the right partnership.
“We’re fortunate,” he says. “We grew 21% this year alone. We’re in a good space where customers are calling us. It’s a fun thing. Our growth is because we were good at what we do, we do what we say, and we take care of our customers.”
Barberito says he is excited about the potential SPOA offers the industry. “We're very competitive with all the other companies out there, but we also have to have a voice as an industry,” he explains. “It’s nice to have somebody fighting for us.”