School Portraits

I am sure I am not the only one with this experience, but I have to ask: Have you ever had a horrible School Picture experience?

I'm not going to mention the company we use because: 1. Everything isn't solved yet and 2. This is the first horrible experience I have had with them.

That being said, let me tell you about our on-going saga:
Since we had over 100 portraits to take this time, we asked for a two day period. Day one would be the cap and gown pictures and class pictures. Day two would be all the portraits. Without the cap and gowns, we can usually get through everyone in one day; however we learned last year that the cap and gowns put us over the top. When I didn't get a call from the photographer verifying, I called the company two days before. When I didn't get a response I called again one day before with a very well thought out, but disgruntled client, tone to it...I got a return call within an hour.

When the photographer later called, I made sure that this schedule would be okay. She wanted to then change me to one day. I told her that in our experience it didn't work for our center. Needless to say it really wouldn't have worked because she was 2 hours late the first day because she got lost. The second day she was two hours late just because she wanted to be.

When she took the group pictures, the teachers asked to retake it because they had crying children in one class; she refused. The second day, with the portraits, she whipped through the entire school in less than 2 hours. My comment at that time was, "Wow, I'm impressed at how fast she was; but we'll see how the pictures turn out."

I should note here that I have been a professional photographer in the past (as professional as working at a store front photography location can be); however I do still enjoy my non-professional photography life. I also picked up many portrait taking tips and look for these small, but very significant, things. Some examples: making sure that necklace clasps aren't showing, hands should be flat not curled under, straighten the spine makes a world of difference, and NEVER show the bottom of a shoe. Another huge deal is check your framing, don't cut off parts of a person or their clothing if you are framing the entire person (don't cut of just the foot or part of a dress). And maybe most important, the portrait should be filled with people, not space.

Some of these things seem common sense, right? Well, you'd be surprised how many times a photographer (even the most professional ones) catch themselves off guard. I admit there are times that I have checked and rechecked the picture to make sure everything was perfect only to take the picture and end up with snot peeking out the nose. Or the frustrating one is looking at the picture to find the clasp sitting right in front or the necklace all cockeyed. These are things that everyone, at some point, misses. However, you shouldn't miss these things 100% of the time.

You should also not miss the modest little girl dress with the sleeve falling down to the elbow!!! I'm not kidding! There is one little girl who looks like she should be posing in I don't know what kind of magazine, not a preschool portrait. On another girl, it's a good thing her mom put shorts under her skirt because you can see right up it!

Needless to say, fast for her was not good. I have been able to whip through pictures (holiday time most importantly) but I had a 95% success rate and catching the common problems. She literally had a 0% success rate. Every one of the 103 portrait packages something wrong in it (and not just the horrible class pictures).

So, what is your worst school portrait story?

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