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Hollow Tree Ventures parenting humor
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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I hate Lifetouch photography - part 1

Let me start by saying, I don't hate the pictures themselves - their photography is just fine. What I mean is, I hate the company. I hate it so, so much. I hate them so much that, as you can tell from the title above, I couldn't even manage to contain all my disdain in a single blog post. If you have kids and you know what's good for you, you probably hate them, too.

And let me also say that I don't care if they know it. I don't care if the CEO of Lifetouch himself reads this post and cries and/or wants to sue me; I look eagerly forward to the opportunity to rant about this at length in front of a judge and, if necessary, a jury of my peers.

In case you don't have kids, you might know about Lifetouch from your own youth. They're the ones who come to school and take the yearbook pictures, those photos with the blotchy backdrops in which the kids look nothing like themselves because it's the only day each year they comb their hair.

What you probably never noticed unless you do have kids of your own, is that on some random day about three weeks after Picture Day, the Lifetouch Gnomes sneak an envelope into your kid's backpack. This envelope is bursting at the seams with photos that are already printed out, which the Lifetouch Gnomes want you to buy for some outrageous price, like (I'm not kidding) $8.00 for nine wallet-sized photos. I'm not even sure who carries photos in their wallet anymore, but whatever, they sell them anyway. That's how stupid the Lifetouch Gnomes think we are.


What they expect you to do is keep the photos you want, and return the rest of the pictures to school in the envelope, along with your payment and/or the deed to your house. I've always been a little curious about what they do with the photos I send back - I mean, they've already printed them out, and they're pictures of my  kids. Are they going to try to sell them to some other family? Does the CEO of Lifetouch frame all the returned photos and keep them in his office, pretending to have millions of grandkids? Are they packed away in some Indiana Jones-style warehouse, waiting for me to decide 20 years from now that I should've ordered an 8x10 of Zoe's kindergarten class?


Prior to this year, I had never purchased my kids' school photos, and it's not because I don't love my children, as the Lifetouch Gnomes would have you believe. It's partly because I don't want to spend $342.00 for a 5x7 that I'll never get around to displaying anywhere, and partly because we literally take over 200 pictures per month of the kids. At least one of those is bound to be just as good as the Lifetouch photo, and mine can be uploaded and ordered online for 8¢ each. If I wanted to, I could even Photoshop in a blotchy background. I don't need Lifetouch's help.

However, this year the "Picture Day Is Coming" announcement, along with the order form, came home from school on a Friday, and Picture Day was the following Monday. The order form said that a yearbook comes with the purchase of a Photo Package, and I wanted the kids to have a yearbook. I suspected I'd probably be able to get a yearbook by itself without ordering pictures, but since there wasn't any time for asking questions, I bit the bullet and irritably ordered Package G, for $16 per kid, the cheapest package that included a yearbook.

Three weeks later, along come the Lifetouch Gnomes. The envelopes came home, but they contained an odd assortment of photos and an urgent message: IT'S NOT TOO LATE TO ORDER! Did they know I already ordered? Were these my pictures? Were these my pictures plus some additional prints that the Lifetouch Gnomes felt sure I'd want to buy for an additional cost? At this point I couldn't remember what was included with Package G, and the new "LAST CHANCE" order form didn't even have  a Package G, so that was no help.

Okay, that might be enough ranting for one day; thinking about Lifetouch is terrible for my blood pressure. Tomorrow's post explores the question: Which would you rather do, contact Lifetouch customer service, or try to solve your problem by tweezing out your own eyelashes? It's a trick question - they're equally painful.



I hope you enjoyed yourself while you were here - and I hope you come back! Please share inappropriate giggles with me on Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook, or subscribe via email so you don't miss a thing - and so I don't get all lonely. I get extra-pathetic when I'm lonely.


70 comments:

  1. Love this blog. I was just ranting about Lifetouch today. Hate is a word I usually save for the worst of the worst. they are it!!!

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    1. Thanks! Here it is, seven months after I wrote that post, and I STILL don't know if we'll actually end up getting a yearbook! Grrr...

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  2. Wow you can't spend $16 per kid? Pictures like that will be priceless once they are older. Yes, you take a million photos of your kids on your iPhone but how many of those are really ready to frame? Usually the kid isn't wearing nice clothes, hair is a mess, the background is messy...Think about it, $16 really isn't that much money in the long run. And $8 a sheet? Come on. I know places that charge more.

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    1. True, there are places that charge a lot more! I have a hallway filled with black and white close-ups of my kids (because YES, this mama needs to crop out the messy background) that I took myself though, so it is possible. I suppose my beef was more with their customer service than their prices, but if I did want to get professional photos taken, I'd certainly agree that Lifetouch doesn't charge as much as some other places. Thanks for reading!

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  3. life touch is disgusting! my daughters grade 12 picture looks terrible, they forced her to smile with her mouth closed and to have her hair pinned up when she got her hair professionally done. Really aggressive photographers who dont care about the customers only about themselves

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    1. They did get a little carried away this year with the poses - I thought it was just our school?!?

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  4. They had my daughter sitting facing a side wall(right side to camera) and then had her cut her eyes to the right without moving her head, resulting in a bizarre pose. She's 11 and it happened at retakes as well so I'm pretty sure it's the photographer not her. I'm currently trying to find a customer service number(not on website or picture envelope) because they claim if you aren't satisfied you can get your $16 back.. I want it back because those pictures are NOT worth what I paid. Good luck!

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    1. Good luck to YOU! I just talked to them last week about getting my refund from last year (it was such a terrible yearbook situation, they had to refund everyone's money, except they didn't). The rep tried to tell me there were no refunds, then tried to tell me to call the school (which is who told me to call Lifetouch), and now I'm waiting to hear from a supervisor. I'm not holding my breath...

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  5. I used to be a photographer for lifetouch...and I feel your pain!!! All they care about is $$$.

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    1. Ah HA! Confirmation! Thanks for the back up. ;)

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  6. On a whole, the lifetouch brand has a very trashy name, and i agree with all the comments above. However, in the late 1990,s the office at Corpus Chrisie Texas was being run by a man J.r, he was a fully accredited photographer and was always butting heads with corp about quality and standard, one that i did respect. During my time i resided in America. Good luck to you all and God Bless

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    1. Thanks for your comment! You're right, I'm sure there are lots of upstanding, wonderful people who have worked/do work for Lifetouch. They must be a million times more frustrated than I am - they have to deal with Lifetouch every day!

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  7. Hi, Robyn!
    I was just doing a bit of research on this company and came across your blog post.
    Does anyone happen to know where all LT's printing takes place? US or overseas? Specifics would be helpful, thank you!

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    Replies
    1. I'm sorry, I wish I could help but (as usual) I have no idea! Anyone else know???

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  8. Not all of LT stuff is printed in Galion Ohio. They have more than one production plant.

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  9. You crack me up! I have 2 problems with Lifetouch, or just the picture people in general. We either have to pay for pictures I've never seen, what if they are crappy? Or since I REALLY HATE to waste things, we pick the few we want and then trash the rest? I have also wondered where those pictures go? I fully expect to see them in the frame section of Target one day! LOL

    Although looking back on my childhood Olan Mills pictures and my husbands, there are some wonderfully terrible shots from the 70's that I am happy we have. Bad clothes and haircuts!!

    And secondly, when did schools start doing pictures twice a year? Ours does Fall and Spring. Granted the pictures usually come out nice and I am a sucker for them, but they are expensive and I am slowly running out of wall space.

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    1. I wouldn't know whether to laugh or cry if I saw my kids' old school pics in Target frames - I guess at least that'd mean *somebody* bought them. With two sessions per year, there's plenty to go around, eh??? ;)

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  10. Just found this blog when I googled it.My son brought these pics home from his school. We dont want them and didnt ask for them. He is only 7 and he forgot to give them to the teacher, now they say its too late. I'm not paying for them.

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    1. That's what I'm talking about! Of COURSE a 7yo is going to forget - they care about the pictures even less than we do! I hope you get your problem resolved. Good luck!

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  11. I want my $15 backMay 30, 2013 at 12:19 PM

    I know you wrote this 2 yrs ago, but I have to vent. I'm pretty sure Lifetouch is a franchise, so you and me can buy one up and claim to be a photographer. Thankfully school pictures are done by a professional, but dance pictures are another story. $15 paid up front for 2 4x5 and some wallets. My daughter is fair skinned blonde hair, they use the same generic background for everyone. No lie, her costume completely blended in with the background so you can barely see her except somehow they made her skin yellow (jaundice?) All this so she can be in the stupid program for her recital. Next year, no program for her unless they get a real photographer in there. On top of that, when we got the photos taken the b**ch taking the money was so rude and not at all friendly (hello you deal with people, be nice) Pretty sure she was the owner. Ugh, never again!

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  12. I had no idea it was a franchise - that sure would explain a lot! Not that there's anything wrong with franchises, but if they'd let *me* do it... Well actually, I'd probably do a better job than most of the ones I've seen, judging by the fact that I can take a reasonably focused picture of my own kids without forcing them to stand in unnatural positions or making them look jaundiced! Thanks for venting - I wish you could get your $15 back!

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  13. It is not a franchise. We are a corporate boondoggle. We have strategies to try and stay relevant in an age where everyone is a photographer and images can be instantly shared. We employees bust our asses and own stock in the company, but are lead around by the noses by the whims of our jack asses greedy management.

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  14. Sounds like most jobs these days, then - working away day after day but always at the mercy of management to get ahead. It's frustrating to say the least, I'm sure. Here's hoping you make it to management and fix that place up!

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  15. I can tell you this the pics that you do send back are just put in the trash they will tell you they recycle them but they don't. LT pretty much owns every photo company out there now. All they care about is the $$$.

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  16. Affiliate Companies:J. C. Penney Company, Inc.
    Target CorporationSubsidiaries:Jostens Photography, Inc.
    Lifetouch Church Directories and Portraits Inc.
    Lifetouch National School Studios Inc.
    Media ProductionsBrands:Flash! Digital Products
    Lifetouch
    Prestige Portraits

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  17. Ok so you have to sign up to vote down on this post???? hmmm

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  18. To vote down a comment? Or the whole post? Honestly, I'm not sure - this is an outside comment system, and I've never voted anything down before. But yes, I'm assuming it won't allow people to vote up or down as anonymous - I think you have to be willing to put your name with your opinion. I welcome feedback, though!

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  19. The company is spiralling down very fast. Just look at Glassdoor.com and the employee reviews. Its one of the worst companies in the US to work for. The people there are just stuck.
    It all starts with the CEO - Paul. He has ran the company into the ground and let small men with large ego's that have failed at almost everything they have done rise to senior leadership and then they scratch their head and wonder why things are going bad. Seriosuly - the CEO of this billion dollar company does not even have a computer in his office and does not even know how to use a cell phone. Then to top it off, he names a guy that basically cost the company millions and most likely took the company to its worst days that it had ever seen with the most idiotic business model change and named him in charge of all sales and marketing.
    The company has no character, integrity or values and that is why it will fail regardless of what they do.

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  20. Its actually the biggest portrait company in the U.S. its very successful.

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  21. I absolutely love lifetouch! I think you have issues. ... serious issues. That is all. :)

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  22. when i was in school they came took fine pictures, and they weren't a lot of money....maybe you're just a complete dumbass i currently got a job there, and i saw their work yeah the rooms are small, but they take fine photos i also have two friends who took their youngest there for his pictures around his 2nd birthday they turned out cute...they do change their package deals so why make a big deal, and bitch about them they're not that bad of a company i've seen worse out there who cost way more so how about you shut the hell up, and quit your bitch i feel dumber reading your blog....why the hell does someone need to take so many pics of their kids in a month thats a little obsessive don't you think.

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  23. i agree with you shes just some dumb cunt who needs something to bitch about clearly she has nothing else better to do with her time

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  24. YOU'RE A STUPID FUCKING CUNT

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  25. I appreciate that you felt so strongly about this that you didn't even take the time to use anything closely approximating proper grammar in your response - but I'm sure it's reading this blog that made you dumber. We're discussing school pictures here, not studio portraits; I thought that was fairly clear in the post. And yes, I am obsessed with my children - I'm a mother. I also thought that was fairly clear. Thanks for your input.

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  26. Wow, you sure take school portraiture seriously! However, if you study human nature closely enough, you'll find that people who have opinions aren't necessarily "stupid fucking cunts." Interestingly, people who leave extremely rude comments in all caps often are.

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  27. Here's another side to this story: companies like Lifetouch employ professional photographers and prey on their desire for steady pay, then they work them like overseas child factory labor and pay them a pittance. If you are willing to pay more, go directly to a hungry, independent photographer.

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  28. Thanks for your perspective, Suburban Snapshots - there are lots of independent photographers who would happily take kids' portraits. Also, thank you for remaining civil; I think people are losing sight of the fact that this is a humor blog.

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  29. Nothing better to do with her time? Uh, kinda like you commenting on this blog post. Nice mouth, by the way. I hope you don't kiss your Lifetouch supervisor with that thing.

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  30. i used to be a lifetouch employee, church directory branch. it drained my soul. i dreaded every day and felt stressed with every sit. best case scenario, you get 16% commission, worse case scenario, they bump you up to minimum wage for your hours. it's a salesperson job, not a photographer job like they paint it to be. i didn't make a living because i refused to concouples and families into packages they don't want and didn't need. i loved photographing. hated selling.
    i understand your frustation. it is definitely a problem with management and corporate greed. however, the lifetouch gnomes as you put them may be soulless themselves, or may be just following protocol to keep their job.
    lifetouch ruins lives. the end.

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  31. Ugh, I'm so sorry - that sounds horrible! Of course I never even meet the photographers who take the school pics since it happens during the day, and I know getting the order forms into the backpacks is all part of the job. I think every job I ever had that has a sales aspect to it, I could have loved - except for the selling. It's hard, and it usually ends up feeling more sleazy the better your motivations are (unless it's a product you really believe in). Unfortunately, we all do what we have to do to make money. Not much choice there. I wish they (all big corporations) would realize that if they pay a fair wage, their employees are happier. Happier employees = more sales, product with more heart, more career longevity, and (in the long run) more money for the corporation! In any case, I hope you've moved on to something that brings you happiness. :)

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  32. Everything is printed in the United States. They have many labs. One in MN and TN and several more. The company does not outsource to other countries :)

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  33. They DO recycle them. I worked for the company for over 16 years. Corporate requires every office to hire a shredding company destroy all portraits returned to them.

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  34. Yeah there a business...what else r they supposed to.care.about

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  35. Also there a print shop.in reno,nv

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  36. They are not a franchise in fact they were.the 1st employee owned company in the us...if u dont know what an employee owned company is I suggest Google it and probly go.to.lifetouch site to find out about them.truly

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  37. Thanks for your input; although I am familiar with employee-owned companies, I didn't research whether or not Lifetouch was a franchise as it wasn't relevant to the (humor) articles I was writing. In reference to franchises, I was just responding to another commenter. I'm sure Lifetouch, whatever their ownership structure, is a fine company. I just don't care for the way they handled this particular situation, which was the point of this series of posts.

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  38. You're right, a company does need to make a profit! But I think a lot of consumers like to think companies care about their customers, too. I like Lifetouch, in the sense that their school pictures make me nostalgic for having my own school pics taken by them. But whatever their business practices are now, they're losing at least *some* money, as our school system stopped using them due to issues with their customer service (note: this post was written 2 years ago).

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  39. it must be the worst now that CPI (Sears Portrait Studio/Wal Mart/etc) went of biz :p

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  40. I agree. I was also a church directory employee. It drained my soul also. The worst company anyone could EVER work for ! Terrible management..horrible wages, and people expect professional photographers? Avoid this company at all costs !

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  41. What a freakin waste of money.

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  42. Then 90% of the people on this page have issues.
    But when it comes to rude people like you, I like to go with the saying "the one who smelt it dealt it."
    Get it?
    ;-)

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  43. Hey asshole, why don't you delete your dumbass comment and gain some respect, then start over, ey?

    P.S. Everyone's ignoring your post because you're dumb to begin with.
    Just sayin.

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  44. Agreed. I HATE this effing company!!!!

    Yup, I waited 3 weeks for the CD so I could take it to CVS and print out what I wanted for the billion relatives I have.. but alas, no CD, just a USPS envelope with the Smile Safe Kids cards and not the portrait ID info like I asked.

    I just want to freakin order the CD on their website for petes sake! Is that too much to ask?

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  45. Here I am reading this post 2 years later! As a former Lifetouch employee, it saddens me to see such hateful comments. Yes, everyone is entitled to their opinions and I know the distaste comes from personal experience. It also saddens me to hear horror CS stories. As with all companies, Lifetouch employees are Nott perfect and do make mistakes. After all, we are all only human. However, just to clarify the issue, with many parents, the unpurchased pictures are shredded by am outside company and the photos are kept under lock and key at all times. Many parents have this concern, but unless you are an employee, it is hard for parents to understand the inside process. Lifetouch has been a family business for my family and was, and still is very good to us. Of course they have their flaws, as that is part of any business. I sure wish you would have, and thus should have, received better CS. In my opinion, there is never an excuse for bad CS, anywhere, period. Yes, there are cheaper/more expensive places, better quality, worse quality and yes, it does suck sometimes when we as parents aren't given a choice in the matter. Especially when it comes to our children's school portraits. Again, I appreciate feedback, positive AND negative. All I can say to you is that I am sorry for your rough experience with Lifetouch. I may no longer work there, only because I had the opportunity to stay home with my 3 girls and I took it, but it truly is a wonderful
    company to work for. At least for me...and my sister, mother, and father.

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  46. Just an FYI...Lifetouch is NOT a franchise.

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  47. Thank you so much for your response, Alicia, and for remaining respectful and kind although there were surely things you read here that you didn't like seeing. My job as a humorist is to exaggerate until something's funny - believe me, at the time I wrote this I had NO idea this many people felt so strongly about Lifetouch, not that their opinions would fall on such distant opposite ends of the spectrum. I'm heartened that you and your family have had such a positive experience working with them - thanks again for sharing your experiences.

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  48. Here's how out of touch I am - I didn't even realize they offered CDs! Good luck to you, JC!!!

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  49. We shred the returns, duh. Why would we want to keep pictures of a brat who can't listen, or is too dumb to pose right?

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  50. But before we shred them, we all sit in a circle and point out stuff about the picture, or about how dumb the kid was and how stupid they look because they couldn't listen.

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  51. No matter what the photographer or the ed techs do some kids just won’t smile like they would for someone else,say, their mother. Most kids refuse to take their sweatshirts off, and if we try to talk them into taking it off, we could get fired (seriously). Sometimes the solution is for the parent to be there. Most
    of the time it makes it worse. Most kids seem to either be embarrassed
    by their parents, feel too pressured, or just want to rebel when their
    parents are there. Even with background checks and everything else that
    comes with the job, we are not to touch kids at all, even to fix their
    shirt, clean their face, or fix their hair or necklace. When kids are
    poked and prodded by volunteers or teachers to correct them for the
    picture it makes them uncomfortable and not want to smile for the
    picture. Many teachers are not happy or comfortable with their own
    bodies and hate getting their pictures taken. 99 percent of their
    attitudes rub off on most students which makes them see picture day in a
    bad light and act difficult. There is no authority anymore, you aren’t
    allowed to tell anyone (kid or not) what to do, and that includes posing
    for a picture. Now, sometimes the photographer gets lucky, and doesn’t
    get a spoiled rotten kid who wants to pose themselves. These unspoiled,
    nice kids are the best they will shine through their photo. Every parent
    thinks their kid is the nicest, well behaved kid in the world. You
    obviously haven’t seen them when they think you aren’t looking. So
    please, understand the pressure photographers have.

    1. Most teachers don’t like getting pictures, attitude rubs off on kid, makes picture taking difficult from start

    2. Most kids want to model themselves

    3. No touch policy (too many sue-happy people out there)

    4. Parents can make it worse trying to make their kid smile

    5. Some kids just won’t smile no matter what

    6. Kids ARE different when you’re not there.

    7. We CANNOT force a kid to do anything they don’t want to do

    8. You can take a picture of a brat, they look like a brat, take a
    picture of a good kid, their personality shows. It’s all about attitude
    before the picture and during the picture.

    One other point to remember.

    Most schools treat us like parasites. They want us in and out as quickly
    as possible. Most schools make us take pictures of 500 students in 5
    hours with no breaks at all. If you at all try to take your time to make
    everything perfect they are literally over your shoulder telling you to
    go faster or they will go with another company. Please realize how
    insanely fast we must go at many schools. It is depressing when you just
    want to take great photos and the school won’t let you.

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  52. You'd be surprised how many teachers hate it when we try to get the kid to smile with teeth. Most don't let us.

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  53. I appreciate your response, Lisa; it sounds really, really frustrating from the photographers' point of view, too. I can only imagine - out of every 500 pics I take of my kids, I'm lucky to have ONE that's in focus and everyone's making a halfway normal face. I certainly wasn't implying my kids are perfect or perfectly well behaved whether I'm looking or not, any more than I'm sure you were implying that you can tell whether or not a kid is a spoiled rotten brat during you encounter with them! It's all hyperbole to make a point, of course. I am really sorry to hear about you getting such a cold reception from the schools, that's for sure - I really hope that changes, or you find a new outlet for your photography talents without all that pressure and stress. Thanks again for sharing your perspective!

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  54. Really?! That seems like sort of a weird restriction to put on the person who takes pictures for a living! Have they ever said why? I mean, I don't doubt you, but I'm seriously curious.

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  55. I hate this company as well. I will never buy another item from them

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  56. These pathetic morons lost one package and screwed up on the other . They had no problem taking my money. The customer service are a bunch of pathetic heartless morons. I sit here just before Xmas without any pictures of the kids to give out. Thanks life touch for being the most useless and incompetent bunch of assholes I have dealt with

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