zacharieI have a couple gigs of videos of my two boys archived on my computer and YouTube and I have over 5000 pictures on Flickr, yet this week we planned ahead for haircuts, picked out a nice outfit and taught my son how to smile nicely for school picture day.

When I was growing up the school picture was the picture of record for the year. In a film camera world, photos would be taken on summer vacation, birthdays and Christmas – that was about it. Photographs were a special event sort of thing, not an every day occurrence.

The school picture was the one Nan would have on her credenza to show off to her friends. We would only see her a couple of times a year – now my sons can Skype their Nana anytime they want.

Photography is no longer a luxury. Digital means we dont have to ration out our picture taking. We can take hundreds or thousands a month and can archive just the dozens that are decent. My son knows how to take pictures using my iPhone and is eager to learn how to use my DSLR – he’s 3.

Yet picture day is still a day circled on the calendar to make sure our kids look their ‘Sunday best.’

Why is that?

School picture day should be obsolete. School yearbooks should have faded away in this YouTube era, Facebook should have made high school reunions redundant.

Yet all those still hang around and linger as old timey traditions of the past.

Still, I’ll concede it was fun to get Zacharie ready for picture day this week, but I’m not looking forward to the photo pack prices when the pictures are processed. Can’t we just each pay the photographer a couple of bucks for their time and get an email of the jpg?

Instead we’ll be urged to buy wallets, 3×5, 4×6 and 5×7 images at ridiculous prices. In the 70s and 80s we needed the school photographer to be that intermediary and print off the photos. Now, for less than $100, I can get a photo quality printer to fire off as any images on to paper as I want at the same quality.

I just want a picture of my son as my wallpaper on my iPhone – and I don’t need school picture day to make that happen.

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  1. doug October 23, 2010 at 8:09 am

    Yeah, you’d get photographers lining up to shoot hundreds of children for “a couple of bucks for their time”.

  2. admin October 23, 2010 at 8:17 am

    I’m arguing that school photographers need to adapt or die.

    Blacksmith, Milkman … School pictures. Technology evolves, we move on, I argue the price point for this service makes it something that should be left behind.

  3. Tremaine Lea October 23, 2010 at 11:19 am

    I’m not sure someone who owns a DSLR is allowed to rant against school picture day, what with being able to take your own high resolution shots 😉

    While there are a lot of people who own digital cameras of varying quality, not all do. It also provides an opportunity for a parent and child to get a professional quality photo.

    That said, the tradition of school photos is far too stodgy and staid for our multimedia age. They should be optional for starters. Some parents would be perfectly happy to take their own, while others may go to the expense of something more personal and book a photographer on their own. Photographers who do school photography should allow their clients to choose from a wide variety of packages and individual photos. When the format is digital and you use a professional DSLR, the options are endless.

    Price point is always a hard topic, because all parents see is their kid up in front of the camera for a minute, maybe two. What they aren’t seeing is the expense of purchasing camera bodies, high quality lenses, tripods, and lighting. You might be surprised at how expensive that is… it dwarfs the cost of a point and shoot. All of which ignores years of experience on the part of the photographer to get the shot right in one or two tries.

  4. admin October 23, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    I wasnt trying to discount the skill of the photographers, my point was we all take pictures of our kids everyday. Our personal archives are much larger now than they have ever been. Has the time for the school photo passed because we now digitally archive on our own?

  5. Tremaine Lea October 23, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    I don’t think it’s passed, but it definitely needs to evolve. While personal archives of photos has grown a lot, it’s pretty rare for parents to take formal photos of their kids, or more posed ones. I guess it’s the difference between a snapshot and a photo really.

  6. JP Holecka October 25, 2010 at 11:16 pm

    I just checked… and I have over 11 thousand photos in my computer mostly of our family. Yes I would say that they are done and done. With that I will most likely buy the package for mailing to aunts and uncles still not on facebook. I imagine it will be the small pack this year though. Although I am saving up for his grad ring

  7. Carolyn Egerszegi October 25, 2011 at 11:21 am

    Hey Buzz – I guess I feel the need to weigh in. As you know, I am a pro photographer and as you can imagine, I have thousands of photos of my daughter. Some are just basic iPhone snapshots and others have been taken with the same care and attention that I give to my clients. In other words, I have countless snapshots and professional-level photographs of my daughter and yet… I still buy school photos and hope that school photos never become obsolete.

    I am not even sure I can articulate exactly why I feel this way, but I’ll try… There is something special and memorable about school photos to me. They are a predictable and reliable documentation of the passage of time. While I have many photos of my daughter, her school photos are the only “series” of photos I have of her in the same type of pose, which give me a play-by-play of her development from year to year. It doesn’t hurt that she is ironically one of the most difficult photo subjects ever, so her cheesy awkward smile and unnatural poses makes me love her school photo even more. Her inner dorkiness really shines through better than any photo I can take of her myself. So, I for one, love school photos and hope they never go out of style and I especially hope they never lose their stodgy formality.

    (ps – yes, I buy prints. I love sending them to grandparents and I also keep them in my wallet, just like a parent of yesteryear.)

  8. Sarah December 4, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    Maybe I’m just cheap, but I’m not shelling out for badly lit, staged photos of my kid. I’ve never paid for a school photo, and never will!

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