Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The School Portrait Conundrum

I just returned from my daughter's pre-school which recently had their school portraits done. Yikes. The school picture business is pretty cutthroat.

The way this company makes money is that they print 12 pages of various poses, three per child, and then you get the task of picking out what you want and don't want. On their website pricing is vague. You are supposed to contact the representative for pricing. However, I can give you some insight as to what this might cost. One sheet of 8 wallet size photos is $17. Two sheets are $33 and three sheets are $53. If you just can't choose per sheet a package is available for all sheets for the low, low price of $230!

Your kids are precious but can you really drop over two hundred dollars for portraits of your kid from preschool? Some parents around me were agonizing because they couldn't decide. One even said she was looking through the proofs for an hour! Parents around me were shelling out hundreds while I quietly slipped away with a sheet of wallets. Your kids are adorable no doubt, so how do you decide? They intentionally make it hard to decide with the three poses but as a parent AND photographer I can help you make an easier decision. Do it yourself. Here is how:

A general rule in photography when you are enlarging something is that if it was shot in a smaller format you are limited on what size you can go up to. If you are printing from a negative (no one does this anymore unless you are in school for photography) which is small, enlarging something to a bigger size is going to lose some of your resolution hence, a photograph may look grainy or blurry.

Have you ever tried to take a digital image from your point and shoot digital camera and have it printed larger? Your images probably became blurry or pixelated unless you are shooting your images at a very high resolution. This is usually where megapixels come into play and why when choosing a camera you should be aware of what your maximum resolution is going to be and what you set your camera to record. Shoot your kids in your highest possible resolution especially if you are going to be enlarging the image.

Use good lighting. The word photography actually means "Light writing" so choose lighting that will compliment your subject. Make sure your kids aren't squinting into the sun. The best time of day to shoot outside is just as the sun is rising in the morning or as the sun is making its descent in the afternoon. The quality of light during these times is a little softer than directly overhead. I like to make my kids smile naturally by saying something funny right before I snap the photo. Kids have a tendency to look off camera so tell them exactly where you want them to look while taking the picture. You can put a sticker on the front of your camera for them to focus on.

If photography isn't your thing and you are forced to purchase from a company then follow these guidelines. When choosing from multiple poses if there is anything you don't like about the photo, eliminate it altogether. You can crop badly composed images but if the smile doesn't look right or the positioning of a hand is weird it will always be weird and if it bothers you now, it will probably always bother you so don't settle. Have an idea of format size in your mind before you purchase. Some people like to buy 11 X 14 and hang it going down their stairs. Some like to buy wallets for the relatives. Know what sizes you will need before you commit.

If this idea is not for you and you would like to hire a photographer yourself I happen to know a few that do outstanding work. See the list below. All are photographers that I know personally and they will not disappoint. If you know any great photographers in YOUR area please leave a comment and/or link.

RCG Photography in Geneva, IL,
Heather Demmons Photography in Chandler, AZ
TJM Photography in Rochester, NY

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