Is Fishfayce the Next Instagram?

07/18/2012 7:30 am EST

Focus: GLOBAL

A small digital photography company is making a big splash abroad, and is doing a good job riding the momentum, writes Gillian Duncan of The National.

When Zeina Abdalla got married, she and her husband set up a small photo booth to give guests a keepsake of the big day. One of the guests liked the photo service so much, she hired the newlyweds to do the same thing at a wedding in Spain.

And soon, commissions started pouring in, first for weddings in Greece and then Lebanon. "After the summer, I thought ’OK, this is something worth pursuing,’" says Abdalla.

And so Fishfayce was born. Abdalla quit her job in public relations to establish the company, which she launched in the summer of 2010.

She has built a successful business out of photography, but it was never her main interest. It was her husband, Ali Hashemi, who works in health care, who wanted the photo booth at their wedding.

"He taught me everything. He taught me how to use a camera, everything. He attended so many of the events just to support me, even though he’s nothing to do with [photography]," she says.

"He helped me set it up and we built a prototype. I picked it up so quickly. We did multiple booths. It was all done locally," adds Abdalla.

The couple assumed that the service would be more popular for weddings, but it turned out that the business was hired out more by companies and fashion brands. They have worked with big names, including Hermès and Burberry, and have pictured famous people, including the British-American actress Mischa Barton, as well as Whitney Port, who appeared on the television show The Hills.

"We did them at events we were hired out for. We got really lucky to have these celebrities in our photos," says Abdalla.

For the first year, the venture remained a photo booth company, a concept that is a bit like the service that used to be offered at seaside resorts, but with a modern twist.

"It was fantastic. For one year straight we were just doing events for a lot of big corporate companies," she says. Then Fishfayce expanded its services to include video, animation, photography and a service called Rovers.

"Basically, what we have designed is a bag, and it carries a portable printer, and we hire brand ambassadors, rovers who roam around the event and they take pictures of guests. They print it out at the site and then they print it in a branded photo sleeve," explains Abdalla.

Another product in the pipeline involves taking about ten seconds worth of footage and breaking the frames down into a book. Users can then see themselves moving when they flick through the pages.

The company, which now has about ten employees, recently opened bases in Qatar and Kuwait, and aims eventually to franchise the brand.

It has already received requests, not only from the region, but around the world. "I had to turn everyone down because it wasn’t ready, and you can’t give someone a brand if it’s not mature. It’s getting there, and that’s my plan, in the future to franchise it," she adds.

And there is another reason to believe that it could be popular. Web sites such as Facebook (FB) have made photo sharing fashionable.

This year, the world’s biggest social network attempted to buy into the trend it helped to create by making a bid for Instagram, a free photo-sharing platform that has just 14 employees, for approximately $1 billion in cash and stock.

Fishfayce is conscious of the photo-sharing trend, and looks to make the most of it by linking branded pictures to its client’s Facebook pages. "It becomes very viral. People start to put the photo as their Facebook picture and they tag photos," says Abdalla.

"This is one of the reasons why clients like to hire us out, because of the social media aspect," she adds. "We’re very big on social media."

Read more from The National here…

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