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DPChallenge Forums >> Rant >> school photos - why do all the places suck?
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10/25/2007 09:21:05 AM · #1

Why to all the places that take school photos suck in one way or another?

Last week this outfit, creative images, from galens, Md (about 200 miles away) comes and takes the kids pics at my daughter's preschool. They are there 2 days (oct 10/11) - they KNOW some kids only go M/W/F and others T/Th.
Tuesday the proofs are there. It took 12 days.
The deadline for orders is noon wednesday - the very next day. Yeah right. Guess what? Miss the deadline and there's a $13.00 late fee AND it takes DOUBLE the time to get the photos back.
The smallest package is $24, PLUS $1 handling fee. (That's 1 5x7, 1 3x5 and 2 wallets). Can you say expensive? Can you say 'pressure sales' with the ridiculously short deadline?

The photos are quite nice, and there are 5 poses to choose from. But I'm not paying a damned late fee - they get 12 days and I get 1 day? Hell, I can't even get a hold of Grandma to see what she might like, and with my son in cub scouts and my wife working late we've not even had a chance to talk about what WE want.

I guess this is why we didn't buy any of my son's pictures when he was in that preschool. As I recall their cheapest package back then was $37! Which with the late fee and 'handling' is still cheaper that it would be if i wanted pictures this time.

And for those that always ask 'What to charge?' A CD with the 5 images is $129. A CD with ONE pose is $33 with the purchase of a $36 package.

Seems they want to sell the $69 deal the most. What an average that is!
10/25/2007 09:34:35 AM · #2
Kinda odd to hear you complaining about people charging too much... :)
10/25/2007 09:38:18 AM · #3
Lol yeah really. Maybe they'd been reading your posts and adjusted their rates accordingly.
10/25/2007 10:24:24 AM · #4
At least you get proofs to choose from. Out here you fill out an order envelope, put a check for the desired package's exorbitant amount in there, and send the kid to school with it on picture day. What you get back is what you get... usually a mediocre mug shot (at best) with plain, flat lighting with absolutely no thought of posing, just straight on head and shoulders. But, they're just school pics, and the kids are proud to come home with them (when they finally get them).
10/25/2007 10:27:56 AM · #5
Maybe this guy is just trying to price what he is worth and not undercut the rest of the professional photography community. If he gave too good of a deal, all his word of mouth referrals would be looking for that too good price as well and his business would collapse.
10/25/2007 10:44:09 AM · #6
oh, the irony. :)
10/25/2007 10:45:31 AM · #7
Originally posted by Telehubbie:

At least you get proofs to choose from. Out here you fill out an order envelope, put a check for the desired package's exorbitant amount in there, and send the kid to school with it on picture day. What you get back is what you get... usually a mediocre mug shot (at best) with plain, flat lighting with absolutely no thought of posing, just straight on head and shoulders. But, they're just school pics, and the kids are proud to come home with them (when they finally get them).


This is the standard, and partially at the schools request. They want you in and out that day. they also use these photos for the school ids now too, so it has to be a standard pose.
10/25/2007 11:08:34 AM · #8
Pot, meet kettle.
10/25/2007 11:10:32 AM · #9
Why don't you just photograph your child yourself? I haven't paid for a school photo for YEARS!
10/25/2007 11:25:31 AM · #10
Originally posted by idnic:

Why don't you just photograph your child yourself? I haven't paid for a school photo for YEARS!


Which is partly the reason why the cost is getting higher.

More parents with digital cameras mean less parents buying pictures, which means companies have to raise costs to cover overhead, which means they have to increase the price.

not to mention the fact that 50%+ of sales, or a flat rate fee, goes to teh school itself.
10/25/2007 11:26:15 AM · #11
Originally posted by idnic:

Why don't you just photograph your child yourself? I haven't paid for a school photo for YEARS!

Beat me to it! :)
10/25/2007 12:12:13 PM · #12
Chris - you HAVE to see the humor in everyone's responses, right?

Actually, I agree. I personally think most of my stuff is so-so. Yet, any time one of our 3 daughters bring home photos of ANY thing from school, they say "Dad, I don't want these pictures - your work is better than this junk!" Even so, I STILL encourage them to purchase pics from dances, special events, etc. if I'm not there.

Also, Glenda has informed me that I WILL begin doing annual 'marker' shots to coincide with their school photos. That way, even though we don't buy the school's 'junk', we still have pics from each school year.


10/25/2007 12:15:20 PM · #13
My son is homeschooled, so I did his school picture myself.

Of course, I've already done three of them. Each time I get one I like better, I say "this is IT."

10/25/2007 12:22:16 PM · #14
The (local) photog that does the sports teams is a lot cheaper - you can buy package or individual 5x7 team photo ($7) and I think the quality is fine, but many other parents really don't like it, and no one likes his 'attitude' on picture day.

The (local studio) that has the grade school and HS contract is like most - send in a check on picture day and you get what you get. About $8/unit (8x10, 2 5x7, 8 wallets, etc). A bit on the cheap side IMO as compared to what the market will bear. Last year they didn't bother to clean the dust off their sensor...4 big dark dust spot, 3 on the face (4th on the BG), and few more lighter ones. Bad job. I suppose after retouching dust on 300+ photos they'll not make that mistake again LOL.

So the local market for school and team pics is $7-8/unit. For events I charge 12-14/unit and no one seems to mind.

This maryland outfit wants $24/ unit for one unit, plus that pesky $1 and well, since you're hard pressed to meet their deadline add $13 more!
I suppose their theory is they want a high dollar figure per sale, even if only 50% buy. I've talked with the local folks on the sports leages and one school - they want low prices so every parent can afford to buy photos of their kids.

The preschool is 'private' I suppose, so is that the deal?

What pisses me off more than the prices is the 'deadline' of 24 hours or a "late" fee of $13. The $1 'handling' fee is annoying too.

I just don't like the stupid 'fees' so many places like to add on - car repair places with their 'shop supplies 3%' and one photographer charges a 'lab fee' of $3/order (and he owns the lab!), UPS 'fuel cost recovery surcharge' or 'rural delivery surcharge', etc. If everyone has to buy a package then charge $1 more for them.
10/25/2007 12:26:04 PM · #15
Damn, I got beat to all the good punches. :-/
10/25/2007 12:37:35 PM · #16
Originally posted by ajdelaware:


not to mention the fact that 50%+ of sales, or a flat rate fee, goes to teh school itself.


Not around here- as far as I know. I've asked them that know - hell, one photo studio was going to charge the school to take the head shots! (due to low sales, well, profits). And the sports leagues want low (and lower) prices instead of, umm, commissions. The 800 pound gorilla of school photos, lifetouch, is known for cutthroat competition (makes walmart look like your nice old grandma) and they're barely in the region at all. (for now anyway). But as hard as it is for them to break in to the area, it's equally hard for any newcomer.

I shot the yearbook photos for a local college this pat september. Colleges are different, but I got paid by the college, and have sold some of the kids photos. I charged $11.50/unit BUT that was for any unit - no packages. If they bought the day of the photos it was 12 for the first unit of any kind, $9 for second and $7 for each add'l. 90% of the sales have been after the fact - convenience factor I suppose.
Had I given them 24 hours, charged twice as much and imposed a late fee do you think i'd have sold more? LOL

"my" school photos. Boring? Who can say - for a year book the BG has to be the same, neutral-ish, all the heads lined up, etc. Not much room for creativity. I didn't want totally flat lighting, but if you venture too far from the norm in this regard you get complaints about that too.
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10/25/2007 12:42:35 PM · #17
Originally posted by fotomann_forever:

Damn, I got beat to all the good punches. :-/


Ha ha.
I say charge market value - around here that's 10-12/unit, NOT 24/unit, and often less for school photos.


10/25/2007 02:38:06 PM · #18
Prof - I wish the places around here (the schools/leagues) were less worried about making their fundraising goal, it would be great! But what it seems is that they want the same amount of money each time, but they want the package prices lower. Crazy people.

What you have for your headshots is the standard thing for school photography. Sit caddy corner, chin up, smile, click, next!

I mean im sure everyone would love to sit and be able to do different poses, take 20 pictures of each kid, etc etc, but imagine the logistical nightmare of that if oyu are doing a larger school and can't afford to schedule weeks at one place. Definitely a challenge, as well as a numbers game.

Do you book one job an spend a week there doing the multiple poses and all that jazz, and hope something comes out that the parents will like, or do you book as much as you can, do the wam bam thank ya mam, standard school shots, and expect to have to do some retakes and maybe even give a few refunds, but shoot 3 jobs that week?

Id be very surprised if the school wasn't getting something out of it - if not straight cash to them, maybe the year books, or the school id's for free. Thats prettttty standard.
10/25/2007 04:15:14 PM · #19
the creative image people did 5 poses, and 3 'specialties' -basic border deals and a B&W. the sell christmas cards and CDs, which is kinda rare for a school photo deal. nice work - 2 different BGs and a couple of poses. The price is not cheap nor market, but I might pay it - UNTIL they give me 24 hours and then say pay extra and you won't see your pics till christmas (it's be nice to have them for thanksgiving to give to the family). It's the strongarm tactics I don't like.

I tried for something more dimensional, less flat than most. The subjects aren't faced as square to the camera either - almost everyone wanted to sit square to the camera. It's not much, but the boundaries you have to work within are limited.

This preschool is probably getting something. I really don't have a problem paying a commission of some sort if the school (or team) is distributing the sales lit, advertsiing, bringing me the clients and then delivering the product.

It's a proven fact that as the kids age the parents buy fewer photos, and spend less each time. A Wheaties Box is cool the first time in t-ball, but do they get one every year for 7 years and for each of 2 or 3 sports? No, of course not. My son's gradeschool does a YEARBOOK! I don't remember that when I was in grade school - it was a high school thing. Not sure who does the layout, but the printer is some online place ( very inexpensive). It's like a really fat magazine style 'yearbook' and all color, and cheap to buy, so I bet every parent bought one. My son pulls it out to show us who's who and who he knows and stuff like that - it gets a LOT more use than his school pictures - want some? I have extra of those. so do his friends. LOL
10/25/2007 04:34:33 PM · #20
On league picture day, we rarely see the older kids, so thats pretty dead on. I mean the teams just don't even show up haha. Especialyl since most of them are at that awkward age where they are pimply and not quite done the whole puberty deal yet.
10/25/2007 04:35:16 PM · #21
Oh and about the year books - Ive had one every year since 4th grade I think?
10/25/2007 04:58:57 PM · #22
Originally posted by Prof_Fate:

I just don't like the stupid 'fees' so many places like to add on - car repair places with their 'shop supplies 3%' and one photographer charges a 'lab fee' of $3/order (and he owns the lab!), UPS 'fuel cost recovery surcharge' or 'rural delivery surcharge', etc. If everyone has to buy a package then charge $1 more for them.


They should just charge $2,000-$4,000 per sitting plus $500 per image and just be done with it...
10/25/2007 05:42:26 PM · #23
I don't have a problem with the schedule dance or the pricing......it's once a year and all the kids get 'em done......it's a ritual.

What I was expecting to find in this thread was why does the PHOTOGRAPHY suck?

When I see the yearbook, I just cringe!!!!

Some of these kids don't even look like the pictures that this outfit takes!

They're AWFUL!!!!!!

And that's just wrong on so many levels.
10/25/2007 06:22:47 PM · #24
Originally posted by LoudDog:


They should just charge $2,000-$4,000 per sitting plus $500 per image and just be done with it...


Can't help but to chuckle :-D
10/28/2007 08:07:12 PM · #25
Three or four years ago the photographer who does the school photos for the middle school chopped off everyones forehead. And they(lifetouch) actually sent the photos home to the parents without offering a reschedule. Talk about a near riot at the school...

Needless to say all of the parents complained to the school and they got their reschedule just in time for christmas break and didn't have the photos back until time for spring photos.

This was the first year they did not send proofs home for the parents to look at before purchasing what they wanted. They said it would save time.

Before this the parents could purchase proof prints for $5 or they would get them free with a package purchase so the company was not losing money.
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