Dare to send back your child’s school photo?

The photography companies that take the school pictures have come up with the greatest marketing ploy ever to make you buy those photos. They send home the entire package, including plastic-coated key-ring photos, without you even ordering them.

No mother worth her salt is going to tell her child that he or she must return their own photo to school!

Or would she?

I told Walsh this morning that his spring photo wasn’t fantastic. I told him his hair needed to be cut and it was all in his eyes.

I didn’t say this to him, but he also has in the photo one big-boy front tooth next to a baby front tooth that looks a little crazy. His smile was forced and fake. Plus he was wearing a Halloween shirt in February.

I recognize that all of this is my own fault, except for the tooth and smile parts, because I didn’t pay attention to the spring photo date, but that doesn’t mean I have to pay $42 for five pages of bad photos. (I have plenty of beautiful photos of my son that we take at home.)

He put on fake tears at the breakfast table and told me I hurt his feelings.

I bought one page of the photos for $12 and sent the rest back.

If you don’t send them back in time you owe the full price for all five sheets of photos even though you didn’t ask for them.

Do you buy the school photo in the Fall and in the Spring? (They shoot twice a year now! Your order the Fall ones but the spring ones they just send on home.)

Do you think the photo companies are trying to guilt parents into buying or force them to pay for not returning in time?

Did you ever not buy your child’s school photos? Did you feel bad not buying them? Were their feelings hurt?

Do you find that the school photos are in general not very good? I get much better results with my kids when I take them in some place. I think they take more shots until they get a good one. With the school photos I think they take one or two and that’s it – kind of like the DMV.

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deidre_NC

March 30th, 2010
7:10 am

i rarely bought the school packages…they were way too expensive and were not great pictures. i have tons of pics of my kids, some professional and some that others took…unless the pics were great im not spending that kind of money for them. and they usually werent great. on important occasions i had them done professionally, like graduation etc…when they did the yearbook photos for my daughters graduation they made everyone turn the same way-that way wasnt her best side as she broke her nose when she was little and it makes that side of her profile look funny (she thinks0i think you can barely tell) the photographer wouldnt let her turn to her ‘good’ side…we had pics made just like the ones they took with the black robe and all and thats what was put in the yearbook…the main ones we ever bought were the ones they would have made extra with their friends,..they werent so fornally posed and usually turned out well so we would go in with the other parents and buy some of those…dont feel bad for sending them back….no reason you should spend that much money on something you dont like….

Dennis

March 30th, 2010
7:10 am

I’m a professional photographer. I don’t operate in the school photo business though.

Regarding the quality of the photographs: there’s two forces at work here. The first is they take 30-60 seconds per student, and the second is the “Photographer” is usually a minimally paid hourly employee if you are working with one of the big school picture companies. These companies advertise on Craigslist for seasonal help – hardly experienced and knowledgeable photographers.

Also keep in mind that this is a major source of funding for either the school system or the PTA and these companies pay money for the right to be there.

I don’t think my kids (boys age 6 and 3) since they’ve seen me work, edit photos and I’ve told them there are good photos and bad photos. The bad photos get tossed and we move on!

If you want a good photo of your kids – take your kids to somewhere where the business owner shoots the photos, and not hourly help!

Greg

March 30th, 2010
7:14 am

We tell them ahead of time we’re not going to buy them. Instead we go to Portrait Innovations and have pictures made with all of us. We get much better pictures that way at a lower cost. Still, sometimes we will buy the keychain and bookmark school picture sheets.

deidre_NC

March 30th, 2010
7:17 am

i have bought the keychains etc…but sometimes you can only buy the extras if you buy a package…grrrr

Jeff

March 30th, 2010
7:38 am

As a divorced dad, I’m not allowed input in any of those decisions. Which is fine, because when we were married my opinion wasn’t really important to the outcome of these type of things anyway. Bada Bang, I’ll be here all week, be sure to tip your waiter or waitress.

motherjanegoose

March 30th, 2010
7:38 am

@ Dennis…good points and thanks for sharing.

I almost NEVER guilt myself into spending money on something I do not want. I HAVE bought a candy bar or two that I did not need, from a neighbor kid but that is less than $5.

School pictures ( to me) are never the quality that a private portrait can be and after Dennis’ comment…I can see why.

Theresa, we have a friend who is a part time photographer and lives right near you. He took our daughter’s Senior pictures at the Lilburn Park in the fall and we were thrilled with the results . He included our family too. If you want his name, e-mail me and I could send you the link to view our pictures He is reasonable and friendly. He will come to you or meet you somewhere for an outside shoot ( our fall photos were so nice but spring ones could be too). He took pictures of our dog too and they were so cute! He was quite affordable and the personalization made it great.

motherjanegoose

March 30th, 2010
7:45 am

@ Jeff…not trying to hijack the blog but since you mentioned the tip thing:

I park at Park and Ticket ( at the airport). The parking is $11 per day for uncovered and $15 for covered. I park in the $11 lot. I drive a Chevy Malibu and my car is not by baby.

I have 3 suitcases and tip $1 per suitcase ( $3) on the way out and on the way back…in the shuttle for the airport…$6 each trip.

I assume the rule is to drop off the covered parkers first. They pay more to park but they NEVER tip the driver….just smile and say thanks. This is beginning to irk me. I think a BUCK would not hurt them? i am the last one dropped off ( many times) as I park close to the front of the lot and covered is in the back. I am often the only one who tips. I hate to not tip, as that is not fair to the driver.

I have jokingly mentioned it and the drivers agree that those who drive the nicest cars do not tip.

Your thoughts Jeff?

Sorry to jump to a different topic…everyone else…just go back to photos….:)

Dennis

March 30th, 2010
7:51 am

@deidre_NC…the trinkets have a much higher cost to the studio than prints do! Forcing you to buy a package ensures they make a profit.

LSH

March 30th, 2010
7:56 am

This is a great teaching moment for your son. He is old enough to understand that people are always trying to sell you things that you don’t want or need. You can show him that the company is using kids (and their mothers love) to try and make a profit. It’s good to start them early to become a savy and critical consumer.

MomsRule

March 30th, 2010
7:59 am

I send back the school photos most of the time. They are usually terrible so I see no reason to waste the money.

And, no, it has nevered bothered my kids when I haven’t purchased. They usually tell me if the pictures are good or awful before I’ve even seen them.

I’m not a huge fan of the school wasting time taking pictures twice a year. Once is sufficient, IMO.

Belle

March 30th, 2010
8:13 am

I bought my daughters first school pictures but I probably won’t buy any more. I prefer the professional pictures. No reason to waste the money.

Jeff

March 30th, 2010
8:13 am

Jane, what part of town do you live in? Is it within 20 minutes of the airport?

Nadia74

March 30th, 2010
8:15 am

I don’t buy them. My kids never take great school pictures. They have all gone to private preschool, and those pictures are great, and I buy those.

This last time, though, I forgot it was my youngest’s photo day (preschool). I sent him to school in a Halloween shirt (I thought it was funny, Theresa, that Walsh was wearing a Halloween shirt in his, too.), he desperately needed a haircut, and he had a small area of bedhead. However, his pictures turned out adorable. I will buy the smallest package for two of the poses.

With my girls (regular school), I told them ahead of time that it is a rip-off and that I will take them somewhere else for pictures. They know I am cheap, and they seem to understand when something is not worth the money. However, I would most definitely buy a class photo so they can have a nice keepsake of the school year.

Andrea

March 30th, 2010
8:22 am

I always try to buy the class photo, which is usually around $10 or $12 dollars. I have rarely bought the school photos except for the special ones – i.e. the graduations (K & 5th), and some of the academic photos – clubs, competitions, etc. Generally, I have their photos taken by a professional.

motherjanegoose

March 30th, 2010
8:23 am

@ Jeff…Mall of GA ( 45 miles) and when I head to the airport I am frequently leaving another client…I cannot leave my car in a random school lot and feel good about it. Do not want to get dropped back off in a dark lot when I get home.

I am thinking you may be thinking of a shuttle. Just curious about the tipping aspect as I have never worked in the service industry and depended on tips.

JJ

March 30th, 2010
8:32 am

OMG, I have every single year of school pictures of my daughter. They are priceless!!!! I look back on them and I can see my baby growing up. I purchased the minimum package every year, but I did purchase them. My mom has all my school pictures and they are hilarious to go back and look at.

Professional photogs have their place. But the school pictures, when you look back on them years later, are just wonderful. Our kids are kids, not professional models.

Theresa, this year’s picture of Walsh should be in a frame. When else are you going to see baby teeth right next to the “adult” teeth. These pictures should be put up and you should take pride in your child. You know how they feel when they see their pictures in a frame out on display? They feel great seeing their pictures out there!!!!!

My mom has tables loaded with pictures of all of us growing up. The kids absolutely LOVE looking at all the pictures and laughing. They bring back so many memories.

Buy the pictures, even though they aren’t perfect and professional, and put them in frames and put them out on display!!!!!!

Jeff

March 30th, 2010
8:38 am

I used to take a cab to the airport but I was in Va/Hi. I am not an advocate of the remote shuttle and leaving your car in some unattended lot. Here’s something I would do on a rare occasion, work out something with the manager of one of the rental car places so you can leave your car there (gated, attended) and take their shuttle over to the terminal. It may work out cheaper in the big picture. the airport lots aren’t safe enough, and the off-property lots aren’t convenient enough.

I’m a fairly generous tipper, and although I’ve never worked in the service industry either, I know a lot of their income depends on those tips. I try to think of it as; if karma turns out to be true (it’s the aethiest version of the golden rule, lol), tipping will hopefully build my credit balance. If it turns out not to be true, then all I got was a little do-the-right-thing in my pocket.

A

March 30th, 2010
8:43 am

We buy the individual photos in the fall only, and even then just the minimum package to get some wallets and a few larger ones for grandparents. Today my son is having spring pictures and class photos. We will only purchase the class photo. He also just had spring baseball photos done. I think the whole school/sports/event photography business has gotten so out of hand. I’m not even sure if the school PTA or baseball league gets any kind of kickback. If they do, it would be nice for them to tell us so we know they are benefiting financially in some way and it’s not just the photo company getting all the $$.

I do agree Theresa that the photo companies are putting a huge guilt trip on parents by sending completed photos home. We’ve never had this happen, but for today’s pictures we got a flyer where you actually pre-order photo packages…before you even see a proof! This was new to me.

Evil Toothfairie

March 30th, 2010
8:43 am

My son still has his baby teeth. He is in the first grade. This is terrible, but its quite simple and honest. The children who still have their baby teeth are cute. The children that don’t are awkward looking.

I know its horrible, but I think it every time I visit his class.

He wants to lose a tooth so badly, and I dread the day.

Oh, and I am not much on pictures. I regret not taking more over the years.

motherjanegoose

March 30th, 2010
8:46 am

Thanks Jeff…the lot I use is gated and attended…so that seems o.k. Outta here now…have a great day all!

A

March 30th, 2010
8:50 am

@Evil Toothfairie–my son (also a first grader) lost his 2 lower front teeth last year, but the adult teeth were right behind them and came in quickly. He just lost his first front upper tooth a couple weeks ago, and the new tooth is nowhere in sight, so he’ll have that big gap for a while. And yes, it may look awkward and he may sound a little different with that space in his mouth, but when it’s your own child it’s just wonderful. You know your child is growing up! And that new tooth will come in before too long, and in a few short years he’ll have a full mouth of permanent teeth and you’ll wonder where the time went! So just enjoy the normal changes your son is going through.

Evil Toothfairie

March 30th, 2010
9:01 am

A, its still cute when the tooth is gone. But its when they get those HUGE two front teeth that looks not cute anymore.

Kids are cute when they’re little, then askward and not cute for many years. Then as adults they are either attractive or not.

But all little kids are cute.

VaLady

March 30th, 2010
9:07 am

A parent has a right to not buy an unflattering picture of his/her child. The “hurt feelings” enter the scene when said parent buys the pictures of the other siblings.

I have always bought my boys’ pictures. However, I have to select and pay for the package I want before the photographer appeared at the school. No money; no picture. After the package arrives at home, I have the option to order more pictures. There is also a “retake” opportunity. I don’t know if it costs more, since I have never had to use it.

By the way, on picture day this year, my high schooler wore a shirt that read,”You know you’re ugly when…”

Since this picture will appear in the year book, I considered having it re-taken. I decided not to because this shirt will always remind me of this time and his unusual taste in clothing.

JATL

March 30th, 2010
9:21 am

I would send anything back I didn’t want! I always buy a few, but rarely the whole package. My son has always taken REALLY good pictures -the youngest one has only had one “school” photo experience -both are still in preschool. They do send the whole package though, but I don’t need that many!

Denise

March 30th, 2010
9:28 am

I took some UGLY pictures some years and rather than thinking “oh, look at me in the 3rd grade” I think “dang I hope Mama didn’t give these out”. I think parents should be consistent, though. Either buy pictures each year or not. Or at least have pictures made each year or not. I could see a person feeling bad about not having a 3rd grade picture to look back on because that was their “ugly” year. People remember what they want to remember and how they want to remember it. “Mama thought I was ugly” is different than “I didn’t take a good picture that year” but you never know what the feeling is going to be. I doubt seriously anyone wants their child to think their parent thinks they are ugly.

RJ

March 30th, 2010
9:40 am

I haven’t purchased school pictures in years. I have a hard time paying for pictures upfront. Olan Mills does the “Watch Me Grow” program which I used for both of my kids. I was able to choose everything which I really enjoyed.

cld

March 30th, 2010
9:55 am

My parents usually bought the smallest package of the fall photos – the ones that went in the yearbook. But back then, those were the only ones done at school, and we didn’t have access to SO MANY photos via digital technology. By the time I got to middle school and we moved to a district that did twice-yearly photos, my parents sent back the spring photos every single time. By high school, the only year they bought the formal photos, was senior year. The other three years, we went to a Wal-Mart or similar, and got packages for less than $10.

My parents told us before pictures were taken, that we weren’t buying any. There wasn’t any extra money for that stuff – we were old enough by then to know that would be the case. Because we knew going into the photo shoot that we wouldn’t buy any, there were no hurt feelings over thinking that Mom and Dad just didn’t think the pictures were “good enough”.

cld

March 30th, 2010
9:55 am

Also, my son has had a couple portrait days at daycare so far. We have yet to order any from them . . .

TechMom

March 30th, 2010
9:59 am

@Theresa, I really don’t understand the filter… every now & then a seemingly mundane post gets eaten up.

nurse&mother

March 30th, 2010
9:59 am

Sorry, no time to read through all of the posts. I think the school/photographers DO try to guilt you into pics. I’ve also noticed that 9 times out of 10, the spring photos are much better than the fall ones. Most of the time they are not good quality. I usually buy the cheapest package 12 or 14 dollars, NOT out of guilt, but so that I can say these are the school pics.

nurse&mother

March 30th, 2010
10:02 am

I spend a good deal of money on my favorite photographer every year. Plus, I personally take thousands of photos of the kids every year. I’m quite certain my children will not think that I am ashamed of their looks.

A

March 30th, 2010
10:32 am

Does anyone know why schools are doing 2 pictures days now? When I was in elementary school in the late ’70s/early ’80s (and even later in middle and high school), it was one day a year and you got your individual and class pictures done at the same time. Now it’s individual fall and spring and class in the spring. As I said earlier, if I knew for sure the PTA was somehow getting some financial benefit out of this, I wouldn’t object so much. But if they are not, then why are schools…especially the public ones that are laying off staff and cutting programs…wasting 2 days out of the year on pictures?

DB

March 30th, 2010
10:34 am

$42 a package?!?!?!/ GEEZ!!! I think we were lucky — at our kids school, a minimal package (8×10, wallets and 1 5×7) came as part of the tuition (I don’t say “free”!) and if we wanted more, we could buy more. (The yearbooks were included in tuition, too, so we have a complete collection of those, too.) The arts guild also had a professional photographer come out in the fall that families would sign up with, and those pictures were lovely, people used them for Christmas pics, etc. Of course, the fees from those pics went towards the arts guild.

Even if the photos are hideous, I still saved them — they will make great photos when you’re putting together the wedding rehearsal Power Point show! Everyone is not always perfect. My mom still has my 8th grade picture — truly, truly hideous. We had been water skiing the weekend before, my face was blotchy from sunburn, my lips were chapped, my hair was wild and I had just brushed it back with a hairband. Lets not forget the dark-rimmed cat-eye glasses, shall we? And I put on my favorite multi-colored striped shirt — and then realized, in horror, when I got to school that Monday was PICTURE DAY! Omigod . . . a truly, truly hideous photo. And yet — whenever I see that picture, I remember what a wonderful time me and my family had the weekend before swimming, skiing and crabbing . . . :-)

Smoked Oyster

March 30th, 2010
10:48 am

I don’t need photos of my kids. They are annoying and worthless.

Cammi317

March 30th, 2010
10:51 am

There were 3 school years in a row where I looked at my daughters photos and told her I would not be paying for them. Usually the reason was “wild hair”. I made it a point to buy them this year since it was her first year of middle school. I’ll buy the 8th grade, 9th grade and Senior Year, but that’s about it.

TechMom

March 30th, 2010
10:53 am

@Smoked Oyster – the kids or the pictures?

TechMom

March 30th, 2010
10:59 am

OK, since my last post got lost in cyberspace…

My son’s school does the deal where they send home the whole package and then you are supposed to send back either the money or the pictures. His pictures were cruddy as usual (How hard is it to get a 14 year old to at least look at the camera before you take the picture??) so I sent them back to school. About a week later, I see them in his bookbag. Uh hello, I don’t want to pay for those things. My son says, “Mr. Homeroom teacher told us not to bother turning them in because he’s just going to throw them in the trash. The photography company doesn’t really care about getting them back.” I was a bit surprised so I took them out of his bookbag and put them away thinking that if I did get a message [or a bill], I would return them. That was in September. I have never been asked or billed for them. I do wonder what these companies do with all the leftover pictures. Hopefully they recycle. I guess they make enough money off the people who do buy them not to have to worry about those who don’t.

A

March 30th, 2010
11:11 am

@TechMom, when we’ve gone to Picture People in the past (before they went digital), you’d have a full package of pictures (of 5 different poses, I think) waiting for you when you went back to the store an hour or so after your sitting. Their prices back 5-7 years ago when my son was a baby/toddler were something like $18/sheet, which you can imagine adds up quickly. We’d buy a few and then right in front of us they would throw the rest away!! It’s not only heartbreaking for the customer, but extremely wasteful for Picture People in terms of labor and supplies.

Thankfully the last time we went there about 2 1/2 years ago, everything was digital and while they will show you about 100 different pictures, they only print out what you actually order.

FCM

March 30th, 2010
11:16 am

School photos are a rip off….I buy the smallest pkg possible in the Fall….I buy the Class Photo in the spring. I do not usually buy the package in the spring.

Yes they have a photo of my favorite subject matter. Yes I want to capture these precious years. Yes the school gets a kickback on the orders.

They are still WAY over priced and I am not going to feel guilty about sending them back. I do not send them with the child though. I walk them to the front desk at school

stepmom2

March 30th, 2010
11:25 am

@ TechMom I did the same thing. She had received the pictures back on a Friday that she went to her mom’s and they were in her bookbag. Her mom took them out and helped herself to some of them (w/o sending any money of course). She came home on Sunday and gave them to us. I just said oh well. Waited a few days, nothing came and the teacher didn’t send home any note so I cut out one to replace the last year’s in the frame and the rest are sitting in a box in the closet. It is such a waste.

Smoked Oyster

March 30th, 2010
11:27 am

The kids. Thank god they live with the ex and her even more worthless boyfriend. They are all living off my money.

Seems child support and alimony are paying for the 17 year old’s car that he is always wrecking, or having to install another stupid looking wing. I need a new lawyer.

ARiley

March 30th, 2010
11:29 am

I used to struggle with this as well. As I’m a semi-pro photographer, my kids see me get rid of bad photos all the time and this year they came home complaining that the color was bad on the pictures. We got the single sheet, but I really prefer the pictures where you catch them off guard. Soooooooooooo much better. Guess that’s why I’m in sports photography…

TechMom

March 30th, 2010
11:35 am

@Smoked Oyster are you actually involved in the 17 year old’s life (i.e. have you given him a reason to think of you as anything other than his bank?)

Jesse's Girl

March 30th, 2010
11:43 am

If I don’t like it…they go back. End of story.

A

March 30th, 2010
11:43 am

@FCM, I am exactly the same. Smallest photo package in the fall, class photo in the spring. Nothing more. We take our own pictures throughout the year, and every few years go to a Picture People/Portrait Innovations place for professional family pictures. As I’ve said in my other posts, if the school or the PTA is not getting a cut from the exorbitant school picture fees, then why are they wasting precious school time on this twice a year?

Wounded Warrior

March 30th, 2010
11:50 am

I take my kids to walmart and get their picks done at different times, and then together for the holidays. Henry County school employees’ get their kids’ pix for free. Is this the case in other counties? One girl in middle school pix, the cheapest $38, and my elementary daughter was $30 for the cheapest package.

penguinmom

March 30th, 2010
11:50 am

Send them back. If you have photos this year of your child, you don’t need to buy these. Especially don’t buy the photos just out of sheer guilt. You are NOT rejecting your child, just rejecting a poor photo attempt by some unknown photographer.

My favorite photo guy is Ken Rada. He does several pics of each kid then posts them online and You choose which pics you want, what sizes and how many.

In today’s digital world, getting actual prints before you’ve previewed the pictures seems like a big waste.

TechMom

March 30th, 2010
11:58 am

@penguinmom I’m with you. I don’t understand why they don’t put them on a website and send home the web address and an access code. If you want them, you buy them. BUT obviously it’s a marketing ploy – once they’re printed and home, more people buy them than would otherwise.

A

March 30th, 2010
12:01 pm

I think schools should stop the practice of photographers sending pictures (not proofs) home with the child. It’s an aggressive selling tactic that should not take place at a school and use kids as the messenger, since the photos are coming home with them. Agree with Penguinmom about posting proofs on a secure site and allowing parents to make their own decisions about what to purchase in the comfort of their home or office. For parents that may not have access to a computer, sending home a proof would fulfill the same thing without guilt-tripping parents.