5 Reasons I’m Having School Photo Rage

Even on a good day, there are quite a few reasons to be annoyed by school photo day.

  • You have to remember that it’s school photo day.
  • You have to fight with your kid about why for ONE DAY you would like them to consider wearing a shirt that doesn’t have a picture on the front of it.
  • You have to have them practice a smile that doesn’t look like they’re plotting the photographer’s death and/or hitting the peak of an acid trip.

But the absolute worst part of photo day is dealing with the purchase procedure of said photos.

    1. Choose from backgrounds. This year’s selections included, “Barbara Walters 1984 Interview,” “Between Two Ferns,” “A River Runs Through It,” “That Scene From Gravity When Sandra Bullock Floats Away,” or “Underage Camp Counselor.”
    2. Select from packages A-Q, ranging in price from a minimum of $20 to a maximum of infinity dollars, because of all the mind-boggling add-ons like puzzles of your face, and note pads of your face, and pillows of your face so you can put your face on your face.
    3. Use the convenient “pay online feature” so your kid can keep saying, “there’s no money with the order form…they won’t let me get my picture taken if you don’t pay….I don’t think that code counts, I think they only take real money….”
    4. Pay with a check, if you can find your checkbook, because, do they even make checks anymore?
    5. Forget to put the order form in your kid’s backpack.
    6. Deliver order form to school office and add to a 3″ pile of other forgotten order forms.

At our school, there seems to be a photo day with each passing season, which caused me to post this question to Facebook after the latest “It’s Picture Day!” warning came home.


I was about to just have my kid opt out of spring picture day because we had literally just received the “Package B” (B for Bargain) of photos that we ordered from the fall picture day. But then word started spreading that kids were being encouraged to bring props for their spring photos. Friends’ kids were hatching plans for photos featuring Harry Potter style wands and scarves, favorite stuffed animals cuddled in arms and suddenly the crazy photo backgrounds were inspiring fantastically creative ideas.

Finally! Something to help differentiate spring photos from the traditional blue-background headshots that were taken a few months earlier.  Count me in!


Even though the spring photos were done through the same company as the fall photos, instead of pre-paying for the photos and receiving a package of surprise photos a few weeks later, you just selected your background for your photos so you could approve the photos before buying them.

This also seemed like an amazing idea, EXCEPT it turns out that the method of approving and purchasing the photos is the most annoying, wasteful process possible: every child in the school (that’s 1,000+ kids in our school alone) is sent home with an envelope full of four sheets of photos, (an 8×10, two 5×7, four 3×5 and eight wallet sized) PLUS a hard plastic “fun pack” of photos, including a bag tag, key tags, book mark and door hanger.


If you want to purchase any/all of the photos, you pay online (or by check) by a set date.

If you do NOT want to purchase any/all of the photos, you return all of them to the school.

Which is where my rage begins.

      1. What a wasteful, environmentally detrimental process, and horrible lesson to teach the kids who have been told to reduce, reuse and recycle since birth. And what do you do with 23 pictures of my child that I send back?  Do they get recycled? Do they become part of some European ad campaign or frame fillers? Do the hard working employees at the school have to deal with the disposal, or even worse, inventorying them, packing them back up, and shipping them to you?
      2. There’s no GOOD reason for companies to do this.  In a day and age where everything is digital and photos can be better protected online through watermarks, vs sending home hard copy 8x10s that can be easily scanned, why would a company opt to using this method?  My best guess is that they are counting on busy, overwhelmed parents messing up and having to buy photos that they either forgot to return by the cut off date or that their kids enthusiastically brought home and cut up, or popped out of the “fun pack” before their parents even had a chance to see them. That just feels super shady and icky.
      3. Having to hand a pack of unpurchased photos to your kid to return to school sucks. And the companies that do this know that it sucks, and know that parents will pay for the photos to avoid feeling guilty if their kids think they “don’t want” photos of them.  Worse yet, a friend had to console her daughter who was in tears because she wanted one of the little key tags from the “fun pack” but for some reason her mom didn’t want to pay $15 for it. Again, ick.
      4. Stealing is bad for everyone. For parents who cannot afford to pay for the photos, there is the obvious temptation to scan or take a photo of the photos before sending them back to the school. Now the photo company is out the money for producing the photos the parent scanned and the kid gets a lesson on how it’s okay to steal, even though it doesn’t technically feel like stealing, even though it totally is.
      5. And now I’m ragey because I would have willingly paid for these awesome Yoshi-prop, clip on tie (?) photos of my son, but now I feel like I’m just buying them so I can own them to use for this post to point out how ridiculous it is that I have all of these photos without paying for them in the first place.


Please, school photo companies, I beg of you – Parents want to have a warm, fuzzy feeling when they look at the school photos of their kids, not a ragey, icky feeling that they just got tricked into buying photos of their kids. It’s hard for me to believe that you make more money this way, after paying for all the development and shipping of hundreds and thousands (millions?) of photos, but if you do, just know that it’s off of parents that feel tricked and frustrated by this business practice.

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