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Nothing personal Lifetouch, but I still hate you

With the return of school come several inescapable realities.
  • You'll soon be fully stocked with fundraiser wrapping paper and magazine subscriptions
  • At least once, you'll consider not picking up the phone when the school nurse calls
  • You'll sacrifice another 87 hours of your life to a science project
  • The hotter the cafeteriagymnasiatorium, the longer the play/game/concert will be
  • You'll get stuck paying for some ridiculous photos of your kid because he didn't tell you the envelope of school pictures was in his backpack
As you might remember, I wrote a three-part series a few years ago about how much I hated Lifetouch, the company responsible for butchering the art of photography in the name of overpriced yearbook photos.

Actually, that's not what I wrote - but that's what people read. I wrote about the trouble I had with their customer service, but people sort of turned it into an attack on the company itself and their business practices, which (from what I gather) is difficult to do without ranting at length and cursing heavily about what a horrible, lazy mother I am. AS IF I DIDN'T ALREADY KNOW. 

People take this stuff pretty seriously.

Now that I've had a couple years to cool off (a task that became a lot easier when my kids' school fired Lifetouch for being terminally sucky), I can honestly say I don't care one way or the other about the company itself.

Do you think my opinion has changed regarding school photos in general, though?

I mean, do you suppose I feel any great need to purchase $35 8x10 glossies of the kids with forced smiles in front of a blotchy background that looks like a regurgitated hairball in uncomfortable shirts I only made them wear because it was Picture Day?

Probably not. But then again, I'm a horrible lazy mother, so we have to take that into consideration. I have a little post about my feelings on the matter running on In The Powder Room - I just hope the title doesn't give too much away. Click on over and read School Pictures Suck. And feel free to curse in the comments; I'm starting to get used to it.

(Article originally published on In The Powder Room. Reprinted with permission.)

school pictures suck by Robyn Welling @RobynHTV

I wrote about my experience with school photography two years ago, and I'm shocked by how strong the reactions continue to be. People either love school pictures, or hate them with a burning passion rivaled only by the white-hot surface of a thousand suns.

Or they don't care, I guess, but those people don't leave me curse-laden comments.

Let me clear the air. I understand why school pictures were important - back in the day. When I was in fifth grade, 45% of the academic year was dedicated to cutting apart sheets of wallet-sized photos. We wrote thought-provoking messages ("2 Friends + 2 Gether = 4 EVER!!!") on the backs in ballpoint pen and passed them out to our classmates. They were like tiny, individual previews of the yearbooks, which wouldn't hit homeroom (and absorb the remaining 55% of the year) for months.

We loved school pictures - loved interrupting our daily routine, loved waiting in line with the cheap, plastic combs they gave us. We loved doling out the little photos to our friends like miniature business cards.

We also loved the attention. Back then, there were approximately three photos taken of each child annually:

1. Birthday: face contorted in the act of blowing out candles
2. Holiday: sporting PJs and bedhead in front of the Christmas tree
3. Vacation: squinting and bored in front of a random landmark

School picture day was our opportunity to be photographed as we really were - or at least as we really were that day, with starched collars and combed-mostly-flat hair. For some of us, that was the only photo from the entirety of 1987 in which our face was both in focus and not partially obscured by a sibling trying to cartwheel through the shot.

But these days? Only taking three photos of your kid per year is practically a red flag for a neighbor to call CPS. I'm no professional photographer, but of the eighty bazillion photos I take of my kids hourly, I feel pretty confident that at least one will be worthy of hanging on the wall.

School pictures aren't a special annual event anymore, either. They're taken in the spring and the fall - plus photos with sport teams, Scout troops, jazz band... Exactly how many framed-photo walls do they think I have?!?

Most importantly, my children just flat out don't care; it isn't important to them like it was to us. Kids today take pictures of their friends whenever they want, and if they want to include a message ("LYLAS!"), you can forget the ballpoint pen - there's an app for that.

Am I sorry to see old traditions go by the wayside? Sure. But this is their childhood, not mine. They're making their own way, creating their own memories, starting their own traditions.

Will I be heartbroken if their new traditions don't involve buying $8,000 worth of wallet-sized photos? No - but what about you?

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!


Allison said...

I'm somewhat astounded that people have such a strong reaction to school pictures. One would think you'd written a blog post advocating the execution of all puppies and kittens in the country. Then again, perhaps we should be grateful that those people have such minor problems that THIS issue is the one they choose to get their panties in a knot over? :)

I love your blog, by the way!

Michelle Nahom said...

Not too crazy about school pics myself. One year, the photographer told my son to button his polo shirt all the way to the top. THAT was a lovely look. My daughter's usually look fine, my son's...forget it. I buy the smallest package possible now. It would be nice if I could just get one 5 x 7 and call it a day.

Robyn of HollowTreeVentures said...

Thank you SO much! And I agree, if people get this bent out of shape over my anti-school photos stance, I'm really glad they didn't find all my pro-puppy execution posts. ;)

Robyn of HollowTreeVentures said...

I think they know that, which I'm assuming is why they'll never, ever, evereverever offer a package with one 5x7.

rorybore said...

We get a package that has one 5x7 and some wallets. I think it's the absolute cheapest they offer. And you get a discount once you have 3 kids in school. If i have a 4th kid - I think I can get a cool fridge magnet too! yeah me - let's give 'er honey.

Robyn of HollowTreeVentures said...

Multi-kid discount - finally, having all these rugrats pays off financially!

Anonymous said...

Just a few things to consider.

Lifetouch doesn't actually choose the backgrounds for your child. They just provide a selection of backgrounds that the school they contract with chooses. the schools actually receive funding (not sure from where) for how perfect and consistent the yearbook photos are, so again, its the school making the rules and dress code for the yearbooks, lifetouch just enforces and acts upon those rules. And about the prices, they are pretty ridiculous when you consider that you can get that same 8x10 for $1 at walmart, but in photography, you're not paying for the paper and ink used for the photo. you're paying for the experience, equipment, and quality that went into creating the photos. you and a lot of people may not like the look of Lifetouch photo (I don't care for them too much), but thats because they maintain a traditional style that, even though is a dying style in photography, still sells the most in school portrait photography.

Also as a heads up if you didn't know this (a lot of people don't) they tell you that you if you don't return the proofs, you will be billed for them. thats bull. unless you personally signed a legal document that said you'd have to do that, you can keep those proofs and do what you like with them. they won't send you to collections, they probably won't even call you about it. it's just a scare tactic that not too many Lifetouch territories are using anymore. they want to show you the proofs because seeing and feeling the photos increases the chances of you buying them. but they don't want you to get comfortable with the proofs so they tell you that they'll bill you if you don't return them (lie). also, if you bring them into a lifetouch office, they have another chance to make a sale.

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