School Pictures are a Scam

Written by dad - 10 Comments

I remember back when I was a kid. We had school pictures once a year, and they were a pretty big deal. Everyone got dressed up, our moms combed our hair extra well before we left for school, and then our pictures (no matter how goofy) ended up being displayed throughout the house.

Well, it’s still a big deal, but… It now happens twice a year and the packages have gotten much bigger and more expensive. It seems that the new expectation is for us to buy pictures during both the fall and the spring.

On top of this, our preschool takes pictures twice a year, as well. The real bummer for us this past week is that they sent the proof home and Son #4 (three years old) promptly snatched it off the table and lost it. Not a huge deal, right? Well… For whatever reason, the proof costs far more than a regular picture, and we’d be on the hook for it if we didn’t return it by today.

The real bummer of this is that the proof has a big watermark across it declaring that it’s the property of the photographer. Thus, even if it eventually turned up, it would be of no use to use.

Thankfully, under intense questioning, he had a moment of toddler clarity and told us he had slipped it under the carpet in the living room (we have a large area rug over hardwood in that room). Ah, yes, of course… We looked high and low, but not quite low enough.

Published on May 2nd, 2008 - 10 Comments
Filed under: Daily Life,Education
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Comments (scroll down to add your own):

  1. I didn’t buy school pictures this past year for my pre-schooler granddaughter. At around the same time of year, Olan Mills was running great specials that were less expensive than the school package. There were more photos at a lower cost and of course, they were done better than they would have been at school.

    We plan to do something similar next year.

    Comment by Annie Jones — May 2nd 2008 @ 11:12 am
  2. I’ve thought the same thing for some time now. We get pictures about half the time and pass on the pix the rest of the time.

    Comment by Eric — May 2nd 2008 @ 3:37 pm
  3. We just got the 2nd photo of the year, too. Luckily our school’s photographer doesn’t make you return the proof – that sounds like a real money maker for them! Talk about setting a trap.

    I do kind of want the full class photo when it comes, I think my son will enjoy that over the years. I only want one though, not a whole package. What a pain.

    Comment by Ben Brophy — May 6th 2008 @ 11:13 am
  4. I do school photography, but more as a hobby than anything else. My wife’s a teacher, so i get first dibs (or thereabouts) on her primary school’s pictures. I don’t charge an arm or a leg, but do make some money out of it.

    To see the “other” side of the story, read this article over on photopreneur

    Comment by Riaan — May 8th 2008 @ 4:32 am
  5. Thanks for participating in this week’s Carnival of Family Life, hosted at Write from Karen! Be sure to stop by on Monday, May 12, 2008, and peruse the other wonderful articles included in this week’s edition!

    Comment by JHS — May 11th 2008 @ 3:25 am
  6. You know that most school pictures are also a fundraiser for the school? If the schools weren’t trying to make money off of us, the pictures wouldn’t be so expensive.

    Comment by drknight — May 15th 2008 @ 4:46 pm
  7. Yes, it’s standard practice. Here in South Africa it’s a very cutt-throat business, you have a HUGE markup on photos and sets, but a lot of it goes back to the school. For example, a school yearbook used to make a photographer quite a nice bit of money, but nowadays most schools insist that you sell them the books, they then take a markup on it and sell it to the kids. And their markup is usually around 60% – 80%.

    Comment by Riaan — May 16th 2008 @ 1:27 am
  8. I am the owner of a small school picture business. My packages are very resonable. Yes the school gets 50% of the sales. School Pictures are a Fund Raising event for your school. The school makes more than I do.
    When my chldren were in school (they are 4o now) I bought something of every picture that was sent home.
    I kept a book for each child with their pictures and when they were grown I gave it to them and they loved it. So I think school pictures are a treasure.

    Comment by justine — Nov 22nd 2008 @ 11:14 pm
  9. I agree, and not only that, now, for the second time this year, they take two poses of your child but you can not mix a package, so of course your kids want both. Thats two packages.

    And now they offered up new dimension by saying we can take friendship pictures. Of course children want to do that with there buds! So they give them those and, same deal, two poses and can not mix packages.

    They are definitely playing the children and schools, not to mention putting the screws to parents. Soon they will be taking holiday shots, summer shots, etc. This is also disruptive to the schools time teaching.

    Hello Justine, No one said we do not like pictures, once a year is enough. Were glad the school makes more than you, so what did you make? That is the question? Lets just say this, 600 kids, say 50 percent buy a $25 dollar package. Thats 7500, say 50% to the school, if that happens. Thats 3750 to you. I do not care what kind of equipment you have it can not be more costly than a plumbers toolbox or an A/C mechanic. You also probably work out of your house and claim all as deductions. The bottom line is that your are in a h…of a racket.

    Comment by Rick — Apr 17th 2009 @ 5:31 pm
  10. If you receive an item in the mail you did not order federal law states there is no obligation to send back the item. If I did not authorize my child’s picture being taken the second time (and requested it not be) aren’t my rights being violated? should I really have to waste my time sending the pictures back? This does not seem right.

    Comment by Anne — May 18th 2011 @ 2:17 am

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