School photos: How much ‘realism’ is OK?

We’ve talked before about school photos and a lot of people agree it’s OK if they are pretty terrible because you see what the child really looked like at that point in time. Maybe their hair stood up or they had giant glasses or they were missing multiple teeth but it captures the child at that moment in time.

While I am on board with that, I have to say I just picked up Lilina’s preschool pictures and there are so many things wrong you just have to wonder what the photographer was thinking.

The teacher was confused about the day of the photos and told us they would be on a Friday but they were actually a Wednesday. So Lilina was in a very casual shirt with a plastic hairband.  I would have dressed her up in a cute outfit and fixed her hair had we known. But hey, that’s OK. No big deal. That’s the type of outfit she would wear to school to play in.

So I knew the outfit was going to look a little crazy and expected that when I got them.

However, there is a big splotch of what appears to be purple paint on her face as well. Why didn’t anyone clean that off before the photo? (I don’t remember her having a bruise there. I think it must have been ink or paint.)

The final wrong item is on every single photo they have printed her name spelled so wrong that it is a totally different name.

So I think I am going to ask them reprint them with the correct name or no name. (They were $35 I believe, which I think is pricey for school photos.) I guess the purple paint on the face just shows she was playing and having fun but it seems like someone would have wiped that off.

So what do you think: How far does the natural look go in school photos? What’s realistic and representative of school-age child and what is common sense that someone would say, “hey let me wipe that purple paint off your face.”

17 comments Add your comment


November 22nd, 2011
12:07 pm

In 7th grade we had a boy whose name was misspelled in our Middle School yearbook. He was called the incorrect name all of the way through high school. He was a little “different’, and this unfortunate incident caused him significant pain until he graduated. He was teased constantly, and the name mistake was just one more thing. He even threatened suicide at one point.

You never know what the tippng point is with a young person. I’m happy to report that he grew into a fairly normal person, and he actually goes by his middle name now….completely removed himself from that scar I suppose.


November 22nd, 2011
12:18 pm

Preschool pictures? Yeesh, I’m glad I missed that opportunity for my kids. (We still have their class photos that the teachers gave us. Gratis. Free. No charge.)

Most of the time, teachers will send the kids to the restroom to clean up before they march off to the gymnasium. Preschoolers are not known for their attention to hygiene, so unless there was an adult to prep them then I doubt they’d be cleaned up.

I have been at the “modern” photo shoots. The wonderful thing about digital photography is speed, and they can process about a child per minute (paperwork is handled separately). In, sit, turn, head up/down, take picture, check results – and thank you, next please! Maybe every 20-30 seconds if they are good and the children are cooperative.


November 22nd, 2011
12:34 pm

I refuse to pre-purchase school photos. Show me the pictures first. If you did a good job I will purchase some.

If I have to pre-pay then we don’t participate.


November 22nd, 2011
12:50 pm

I agree with MomsRule. I want to see the pictures before I buy them. They did pictures at my son’s daycare and his came out terrible, so I didn’t buy any. I’ll just take my own pictures, will be cheaper anyway and couldn’t be worse than what they took at the daycare. :)


November 22nd, 2011
12:50 pm

I would certainly ask for them to be re-printed because of the name, but would probably ask for a refund due to the purple paint. Someone would have seen that and could have at least run a wipe over it.


November 22nd, 2011
1:35 pm

Pretty terrible?


Can you sound any dumber?

Burnt Weenie Sandwich

November 22nd, 2011
1:43 pm

You don’t know how to work a camera to take photos of your own kid? In this day and age where photography is attached to so many devices, I can’t believe you lack the resources to do this yourself. There is no need to whine about $35 if you are unhappy with the photos. Don’t buy them.

Lady, you need some friends that can help you understand the real world.


November 22nd, 2011
1:58 pm

As a K teacher, we make sure that the children are clean and hair is combed. Our photographer even has a load of disposable combs to use. The parents are shelling out a lot of money. Their children should look clean and presentable. I would be ticked about the purple paint and the misspelled name. Is there a picture make up day? We always have one a few weeks after the first set of pictures come back.


November 22nd, 2011
2:03 pm

Pretty: adverb
quite; very: The wind blew pretty hard.


November 22nd, 2011
2:10 pm

@TWG – find a good family photographer (NOT a studio in a department store) and pay the $100-200 for a sitting fee and great photos. THEN you decide whether or not to waste $35 on the crappy school photos. When multiplied by 3 (and then 2 usually since they do fall & spring pictures), you’ll wind up spending just a bit more for photos you’ll treasure and actually want to put on your wall or holiday cards.

We use a photographer who does “mini” sessions in the fall for about $100. In 15-20 minutes, the photographer takes some photos and does them quick enough so that your family isn’t frustrated and is still smiling through the session. You get a handful of edited, beautiful photos that you can choose how to use & print. Just PLEASE don’t pay for great photos and then print them at Walmart though- use a professional printer.

Then if you want to remember what your kids look like on an average school day, bust out your own camera!


November 22nd, 2011
2:33 pm

As a former kindergarten teacher, we were careful not to do anything messy till picture time was over. I also cleaned faces and tried to calm down cowlicks. It must have been a real rough day at your daughter’s preschool.

I hate the prepay, too, but you cannot imagine how much money the school LOSES for parents who don’t pay and don’t return the photos! So they pretty much have to ask for prepay, and schedule makeup sessions for a couple of weeks later.

I wouldn’t be happy that my daughter’s name was misspelled, but you gotta admit your younger daughter’s first and last names are not common around AZ!

I don’t mind the realistic pictures myself. I have quite a few of one or more of my children with skinned spots or other blemishes. The one I hold dearest to my heart, however, is my then 4 year old son. It was taken 6 weeks after his head was ripped open in an accident. He has a big smile, and a jagged, red scar from past the top of his head to his nose, but he looks beautiful to me, as he was ALIVE! That might put a lot of this other into perspective.


November 22nd, 2011
3:29 pm

I would definitely look into reprints for the name misspelling. As far as the purple paint on her face, just look at it as potential material for blackmail/showing to the fiancee in the future ;)

My son’s picture last year is unique due to the “do-it-yourself” trim he gave his bangs the night before. His forehead is kind of horseshoe-shaped right in the middle because that’s when I got the Fiskars away from him!

Like I said, blackmail for later…hee, hee, hee!


November 22nd, 2011
3:44 pm

TWG…did you see my post about the Spanish and Italian version of Lilina’s name? I am still wondering! Did I miss something?

I put school photographers and bus drivers in the same category….underappreciated SAINTS.

As a teacher, I knew it was inevitable that someone’s picture would be wrong. Many things were out of my control: timing, hair, spills, art projects and illness. I did my best to corral things but it did not always work.

I went with my daughter for her Senior photo shoot at her HS, a few years ago. We personally had a private sitting with a photographer scheduled but you had to have the drape setting done at school, for the year book. The other Moms astounded me! You would have thought these pictures were WEDDING pictures. I never so so many different outfits and frizting with things. I am pretty much a take it or leave it person. We brought pearls, stud earrings and the drape picture was fine. We have had several family friends who will do private sittings with our family, as they are photographers. We do pay for their time, as it is well worth it to have our own shoot and we want to appreciate their expertise. These are the pictures I tend to keep.

Not sure if Kathy will show up today but I saw her recent family shoot on Facebook and it is really nice!

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

November 22nd, 2011
7:10 pm

MJG – I missed it — I will go back and read. I’ve been at school events most of the day — they are still in school here — even go tomorrow!

Walsh’s photos this year they sent home a preview and his was so cute i bought the cheapest package — I was teased at the preschool for not buying her art project printed on a cup or a bag. I did want her little class preschool photos and of her — the purple paint and the name was just crazy.

My kids do much better at a studio than for the school photographer — i think they get more chances — I think the school people have to move fast to get through so many kids.


November 23rd, 2011
8:44 am

I’ve been surprised how often my daughter’s daycare has photographers come in and do pictures. It seems like it’s once every six months or so. Her teachers are great about making sure her face is clean and her outfit is nice and neat before the pictures are taken.
I have some doozys of school pictures… When I was a kid, before my mom knew of hair mousse or gel, I dealt with a pretty sizeable white-girl afro. My poor mom didn’t know what to do with my hair, which is naturally curly, and the shorter it is, the tighter the curl. Anyway, this was about 1983, I was in kindergarten or first grade, and when we lined up in the cafetorium to get our picture taken, the school picture people passed out those little black combs so we could primp for our picture. Somehow, I managed to make my hair look even bigger, while at the same time, making it stick up everywhere. My daughter has the same type of hair as I do, but it’s way finer right now–and I’ve told her to JUST SAY NO TO LITTLE COMBS!!!

Mrs. G

November 23rd, 2011
8:47 am

When I was in fifth grade, my mom sent me to school dressed nicely for school pictures (that I’m sure she had pre-paid for). That morning, I realized that all of the other girls were wearing earrings and I had forgotten to wear any. So, I improvised. I took a sheet of this light green paper and cut out triangle “earrings” (they weren’t small) and taped them to my ears. When I got home and told my mom, she was HORRIFIED! I didn’t get re-takes, though. And 18 years later, it’s hilarious – when you look at the picture, it’s totally obvious that I’m wearing paper on my ears and we always laugh about it. :)

That said, tacky paper earrings are different than paint and you would think that someone at the school would have at least made sure that the preschoolers didn’t have paint on their faces, especially since parents were likely purchasing the photos.


November 23rd, 2011
1:47 pm

Mrs. G – great story! :)