Christmas Pictures and Expectations

mikejDecember 12, 2001

My wife and I took our 21 mo. old daughter and 5 mo. old son to get Christmas pictures taken last night. We were a little nervous because we'd had a few bad picture experiences lately (including the studio damaging the film from our son's baptism pictures and waiting almost 2 hours past our appointment to take pictures) but this time we were going to a supposedly better studio and had an appointment time that was perfect for our son's schedule. We got called in shortly after our appt time (which made us happy), then the photographer started acting unsure of herself and ultimately said "I'm going to have Richard take your pictures 'cause he's better with little ones." So, back to the waiting room we went. Where we sat for an hour and watched our normally happy son get tired, hungry and crancky. Meanwhile, our daughter was getting bored wanted to leave. When it came time for our pictures, neither of our kids wanted to cooperate and we ended up with our second bad Christmas photo shoot this year. When we returned to look at the developed pictures, we again waited for 20 minutes until someone even brought the pictures out to us. At this point our children were both tired and we decided to just call it a night (a very stressful one) and come back another day to order the pictures. While we were trying to get someone's attention to let know we would come back another day, they rudely drew the curtains on the back room and ignored our presence. We were very upset and just left.

Are my wife and I unreasonable in our desire for good pictures of our 2 children and good treatment by the studio? I know Christmas is a stressful time for the studios, but we just want some professionalism. Are we being too picky? Anyone have any tips on how to make picture taking go smoothly, we seem to always get stressed about it and it becomes a very unpleasant affair.



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I don't know how I'd deal with the situation either, except I would probably write a letter to the company headquarters and complain about the service.

The only advice I can give you is to schedule holiday portraits before October to avoid the huge crush of people getting pictures taken. This also gives you time to have retakes if the original pictures aren't satisfactory. Also, getting the earliest appointment of the day means the photographer won't be running behind by the time it's your children's turn to get pictures taken. (I do the same at the pediatrician's office as well).


    Bookmark   December 12, 2001 at 12:22PM
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I sympathize with you! On the one hand I understand that it's a busy time for the photographers, but on the other hand I believe that
a) they know this in advance
b) they know that it's important to be timely when working with children
c) they are the professionals and should better tailor their schedules to suit their abilities (if you can't take 1,000 sessions a day, then don't make appointments you can't keep!)
d) this is the job they've chosen to do - there's no excuse for being rude to you

I had a similar experience this year (our first with DD) and am not sure exactly how I'll handle this next year. I have certainly learned the hard way that "appointment" doesn't seem to have the same definition to me that it has to the photo studios!

    Bookmark   December 12, 2001 at 12:26PM
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We had our pictures taken in mid-November and had the same "service" that you did. We ended up with one good picture although the photo session was cut short because ds didn't want to cooperate anymore after hanging around for a couple of hours. Fortunately, we only wanted the photo for ourselves and not to include with the Christmas cards since I had to make 3 different attempts at picking the pictures up.

We had started a tradition for DS's first Christmas last year that we would take a family snapshot and just get copies made at the one-hour photo to include with the Christmas cards. I would suggest using a home photo with your camera for the Christmas cards and leave the "professional" portraits for other times of the year when there isn't as much of a demand.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2001 at 12:30PM
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Get word of mouth recommendations from your friends or family. Specifically, ask how they work with infants and toddlers because that really is a specialty area. Working with very young children requires specialized talent and skills which are different from the talent and skills required to be a good photographer.

Take toys, or plan to have 'something' enjoyable for your daughter. Take enough snacks and food to keep them able to tolerate waits. The adults taking care of themselves so that they can be calm cool and collected even when facing photo stress situations, will really help the children be able to be as calm and collected as they can be anyway.

It's really hard to do all that with children that young, and an infant 5 months old. If you can get or even rent photography equipment you might be able to get a good picture yourself. Other than that, try to get holiday photos early to avoid rushing crowds (early like after August but no later than the end of November maybe). If you get to choose appointment times try to pick a time where the fussiest individuals tend to be most contented (even if that's somewhat inconvenient for the less fussy). Take some snacks, toys, and water so basic needs can be attended to in case of waits. That includes snacks and water for adults.

Do you have a family member or friend who is able to be a calming sort of influence on the parents? If you know anyone, or have any way to make the experience less stressful for the parents aim for that too.

I tend to think that it's better to have someone bow out of the photographer spot than to have to work with someone who is seriously not good with infants and young children trying to work with them anyway and 'force' or 'fake' it. The company itself or the manager may be worth talking to if you need information about who is good with children since you made an appointment and... (describe to them what happened, and that their photographer bowed out). I also tend to think that once people are to the point of shutting down external communication input attempts, they are usually at the end of their proverbial rope with something. That is normal and happens even to the most exemplary professionals. (The rudeness of shutting a curtain, to focus on their job at hand is preferable to having a public breakdown, or giving the impression that you had an audience and listener when you didn't.)

You're not unreasonable to want good photos. You're not unreasonable to want decent treatment. It's not clear what their standard of treatment is, and it may be that their standard is peachy with older children and adults. It might not work as well for people with infants and young children. So, it might be unreasonable to expect all that from the place that was picked. Try to find a photographer who is known for their work with infants and young children to work with you on a holiday photo.

expectations are rough because sometimes they can't be met, sometimes they won't be met, and sometimes there isn't any identifiable correctable 'fault' to blame

    Bookmark   December 12, 2001 at 12:53PM
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Speaking as a photographer here...

There are two types of studios. Department store studios, and professional studios. Photographers that are in the department stores, are NOT professionals, and during the christmas season, their job (as told to them by higher management) is to get as many people in and out of the studio as quickly as possible. Think of it as a portrait factory. One of my first jobs was managing one of these factories. Here's the deal... because every parent in the world wants pictures during christmas time it IS going to be busy. There is really nothing the studio can do about that. If they book too many appointments each day, the customers complain because they may have to wait (and I completely realize that waiting with a toddler or a bunch of kids is like hell on earth), becuase things in the portrait room aren't always predictable. You have parents who want the pictures taken over and over because they want that one "perfect" picture. You have babies who need diaper changes. You have a group of 5 toddlers (try getting them to all smile at the same time). The list goes on. Now, if the studios limit the amount of appointments they take in one day to allow more time for each appointment, then there is no way they can possibly fill the demand for pictures at this time of year. So then you get the customers who complain because they can't get their pictures in time for christmas. The best thing you can do is to go early... like in August.

And like I said, the photographers working at these "factories" are not professional photographers. More often then not they do not have any training, and are just thrown into the job. The studio I worked for (a very large, well known chain) hired extra employees for christmas. We were given a week to train them, and then they were thrown into the mass of people. As you can probably imagine there is a very high turnaround for that job, so rarely did we ever get someone with actual photography experience (or even experience with children).

So having worked in a studio like this, I will NEVER take my son to one to get his pictures done. I no longer have my own studio, so when I want a formal portrait, I take him to a professional studio. Yes they are more expensive, but in photography you absolutely get what you pay for. So to conclude this rant, LOL, if you want nice pictures for christmas, either go very early in the season (much earlier then you think you need to) or go to a pro. If you try to go to a department store studio in the middle of the christmas season, you can't have high expectations. Don't get me wrong, you are not unreasonable to want good pictures, or to expect good pictures from people who do claim to be professionals (in case I haven't made it clear by my post, I place all the blame on the studios, not the parents). But these places will not change soon, so hopefully I've give you some ideas about what to expect and how you can do better in the future.


    Bookmark   December 13, 2001 at 2:38AM
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Going in late October worked for me this year. The studio was not crammed, I was not a raving lunatic (yet) from Christmas shopping and errands, and I got them back in plenty of time to send Christmas cards.
Last year, I did not get a pre-thanksgiving appointment, so I did the snapshot route. And I got a thorough appreciation for how hard it is to get a good shot (she was 3 at the time).

If you choose the snapshot route, plan to take a whole roll of 24 exposures (or 36). Out of that, you are guaranteed at least 2 keepers. :-)

Happy Holidays!

    Bookmark   December 13, 2001 at 7:35AM
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There are some very good photographers who will come to your home and photograph your family. They aren't much more expensive than going into the studio.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2001 at 8:54AM
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Strangely, I just finished framing portraits of my daughter and husband that I'm giving my MIL for her birthday this week (both pictures cost me LESS than $10).

May I make a suggestion that will eliminate ALL the frustration you've encountered--and cut the cost to a fraction? The portraits I'm giving her are every bit as good as those I've had done in the past at studios (they ARE portraits, not snapshots), but I took them myself. With todays cameras you really don't need a lot of expertise to take really good pictures. Even if you get a friend to take a couple of rolls (to be sure you get some good ones, you won't pay nearly as much as for a set from most good studios. The added benefits--you can take the pictures at your convenience when the kids are rested and happy, at the spur of the moment; they can be in settings that actually mean something rather in front of a pull-down photo of a Christmas tree. You can get creative and do something really unique--one year, I caught my daughter 'checking out' some cookie dough--she had chocolate from ear to ear as she licked off a huge wooden spoon, and happened to be wearing a cute outfit--that one is still one of my favorite cards. Another year we went to the lake and took her picture feeding the geese.

A couple of tips for doing your own. Be sure the 'photographer' moves around, taking picutures from different angles--different lighting works better in some cases. Have them do some with the flash, some without. If you want the background to be more focused, have them stand farther away and use the telephoto setting to 'fill the frame', if you'd prefer a more fuzzy look to the background, try the wide angle setting, standing closer.

You can take your pictures to Kinkos (or someplace similar) and have them enlarged onto glossy paper if you choose.

Personally, I like the look of portraits that are more casual, that done at home or in settings that mean something--that perhaps show the family's Christmas decorations, etc.

As far as your situation is concerned, I'd hesitate to give my money to a studio that has been so uncooperative already--can you be sure they'll give developing your portraits the timely attention they deserve? Can you be certain they'll be done on time? what if they aren't? Good luck.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2001 at 10:13AM
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We went to a dept. store, and had a mixed experience. We scheduled a morning apt, but arrived to discover that the cameras had gone down. To compensate, they gave us a free sitting and a couple of free sheets. We still spend about $15 or $20.

We rescheduled for the first appointment a few days later, which I think is a good idea. If you're first, there's no one ahead of you to back things up.

Our pictures actually came out really well. I was pleased b/c this is the first year I've done this. HOWVER: completely OT, but if someone could address this, I'd appreciate it -- I would normally give 5x7s to family but there are so few 5x7s in the packages that I would have had to order 8 or 10 more -- at $12.99 a sheet, and only one 5x7 on a sheet. Instead, I decided to go to a one-hour place and have them scanned and done, but was told that I couldn't because they're copyrighted. WHAT!? I completely understand and value copyright (I enforce no plagiarism in my classes without any exceptions), but these are pictures of MY child that I paid for, and I see absolutely no reason why the store is allowed to copyright them.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2001 at 11:22AM
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They've been doing that for a year or two. I hate it - especially since the studios I have been going to don't let you order preselected sizes. They just present you with the photos and you have to pick the sizes they chose for you.

The dept stores let you order ahead of time based on the sheets you want - but I have had nothing but bad luck. I don't mind waiting if it is me having a picture made. But kids -- that's another story. Waiting a few minutes is ok but I ended up like the original poster, waiting hours. And by the time we got in there, it was way past nap time and her hair, outfit were no longer picture-ready.

So I had to sacrifice my desire to get the sheets I wanted in order to get studios that see you reasonably close to your appointment time.

I'm curious if anyone has scoop on this copyrighting. I think if they do not let you pre-order the sheets you want, that they should not copyright.

(even though I got pics made in October, by the time they came back for me to see, even if I had wanted to order more sheets, they would not have been back by Christmas-card-time.)

    Bookmark   December 13, 2001 at 12:06PM
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The last few years I have taken some pretty nice photos with my own camera and used those.

When I use a Department Store studio for a portrait I do the following.

1-never go after Thanksgiving in fact go in October or very early in November. After the first week in November it is pretty hectic. Same goes for spring time. Go after Easter and passover never within 1-3 weeks before.

2- Don't worry if the outfits in the picture are the real holiday outfits. Just put something nice on them that goes with winter.

3-I don't make appointments. Since I go when there isn't a Holiday rush I call and ask if they have their holiday background in yet (If that is what I am interested in) and show up when the kids are happy and there isn't a crowd. Sometimes the employees are just hanging around and are happy to do something. Best time of day to do this is a weekday in the morning.

Also a good digital and might work out better for you.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2001 at 5:13PM
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Yes, the pictures are copyrighted. First of all, you don't own the pictures. You own copies of the pictures. The studio owns the negatives. The pictures are taken in their faculities, with their photographers, and with their equipment. Any portrait studio anywhere, professional or department store, will have the same policy. If they didn't copyright the pictures, then anyone could go in, order one picture, and then have the rest zeroxed. How long do you think they would stay in business once that got around. A portrait studio is a business, they need to sell pictures to stay in business, and if they didn't sell those extra sheets at a higher price, there is no way they would be able to offer you 362 pictures for $2.50 (or whatever the special may be). Many places will let you purchase the negatives, in which case they are yours to do with whatever you please (but they are not cheap). Sometimes they only keep the negatives for a certain period of time and then throw them out. After that time, you can usually go to the studio and ask for a copyright release. Department stores are much more likely to do this then a professional studio, where they will probably keep the negatives indefinitly.


    Bookmark   December 13, 2001 at 10:37PM
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Believe me, the place I went to did not offer me a package deal for $3.50. I paid a lot of $$ to get good quality pics. I respect the quality of their work, the business aspect and their professional ownership of the product. But they should respect that no one can unload 8x10's on family year after year (or 11x17 even :-) ). The preselected packages in a family photography studio should have more realistic choices of sheets within the packages and allow you to order accordingly.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2001 at 7:33AM
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Absolutely! I have a stack of 3.5x5s, and I can't think of any use for them. What I really want is 5x7s, but of course, the package only came with 1 or 2 of those, and to get extra sheets would have cost me over $100.

Rebecca, I understand what you're saying, but I think that they're going about it in the wrong way. If the need is to generate more revenue, then increasing sitting fees or offering a mix and match package deal at a slightly higher fee, or something of the sort would make much more sense. Primarily because the copyright route is so shortsighted: In this day and age, what's to stop someone from scanning the pictures and then taking the disk to kinko's? And I really do not think that the material contained on a portrait constitutes something that should be called copyrighted -- trademarked, maybe, but not copyrighted.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2001 at 9:49AM
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I've had very good luck making copies of pictures at one of the little Kodak machines that are found in many department stores. The quality is just as good, IMO, and you can get 2 5x7's for around 6 dollars. Also, if you have a scanner you could purchase photo paper and scan as many copies as you wish. As for getting copies made at places like Proex, it is my understanding that if you snip off the lower part that has the name of the company that took the picture then the photo copy places will make a copy for you. I've never done this myself but have heard of others doing it with no problems.
Personally I go the route of the Kodak copier or my scanner. When I didn't have a scanner I had a friend scan the pictures and then I was able to download to a disc or have it e-mailed to me. ~Pam

    Bookmark   December 14, 2001 at 9:50AM
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Not sure if you have tried lately, but as another poster said, there is some hidden something in the pics now, that the Kodak machines refuse to copy. They come up with a copyright warning and won't scan.
Started happening about a year and a half ago I think.


    Bookmark   December 14, 2001 at 11:00AM
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Even if you can find a way to cheat the copyright, you would still be violating the law. I do agree though, that the "package" scam is annoying. But the demand is there for affordable portraits, and people keep playing by their rules. We only go to the Dept. stores when it suits the 53 portrait package with no sitting fee for 8 dollars. It costs less than developing a roll of film, so what if we toss half of them.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2001 at 2:17PM
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I used the Kodak copying machine on "copyrighted" photos last year and it worked fine.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2001 at 2:48PM
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All photos are technically copyrighted and belong to the photographer--that includes the ones you take yourself (you own them and no one can legally use or copy unless you give permission). That's always been the case, but I've never encountered a problem getting photos copied--and I've had professional ones copied many times. I'd bet that if you take your photos to a small mom and pop copy store, it might be less of a problem than at a chain. I did just have copies made at Kinko's the other day and no one even questioned if the photos were mine or not--they were, but they could have been anyone's.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2001 at 3:07PM
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My experience has been that, yes, there is a copyright warning on the Kodak machines, but, for me it has always scanned my pictures just fine.
Personally, I don't see anything wrong with copying pictures that I have bought of my own children. Now, if I had pictures taken of my kids and then decided to copy them and *sell* them, yes, I would feel that it would be an infringement of the copyright laws. I suppose I am bending the rules to fit my needs, but, the picture is going to a relative, not a major magazine.
What about the portraits that some of us have from when *we* were children? They were taken under the same circumstances as today, by a photographer *somewhere*, there's no way to get another copy without doing it ourselves. I guess I don't see the difference.
Pictures of Disney characters and the like are also copyrighted. You can make copies of them, you can draw them, you can even buy patches and things of the characters *as long as you use them in your own home and don't sell them*. Why are portraits of our children any different? ~Pam

    Bookmark   December 14, 2001 at 3:11PM
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Mainly because Kinkos (or wherever) is getting a profit , albeit small, from pictures owned by the portrait studio. I realize they are pictures of *your* kids. Your kids are simply the subject of the portrait. If an author writes a biography about someone, the subject of that biography doesn't have the right to do whatever they want with it. The intellectual property still belongs to the writer, as it should. *You* may not be selling the pictures to a magazine, but the studio can't possibly know who will and who won't try to exploit their work.

When you talk about old photographs, you answered the question... "there's no way to get another copy without doing it ourselves." If the original photographer is still around, and has copyrighted the photos, and still has the negatives, then you can get another copy from him. If there is "no other way" to get a copy, then the copyright doesn't apply (of course it also depends on the copyright laws of when the photograph was taken).

Disney... when you buy patches or something similiar with disney characters, then the company producing those patches must have an agreement with Disney. Disney is notorious for protecting their copyright, so if someone is doing it illegaly, and Disney finds out about it, they will come down on them. If you were to draw a picture of Mickey Mouse it would be different, becuase *you* would be the one doing the work, and as long as you or no one else is profiting from that work it is not considered copyright infringement. It's not illegal unless you go to a craft fair and try to sell those pictures (and disney has gone after crafters for doing that very thing) But again, in the case of a portrait, when another business (Kinkos, Staples. etc.) is profitting from copying someone else's work, Kinkos or Staples are the ones breaking the copyright. If you copy the pictures on to your computer, and do not use them for anything other then personal use, you are fine.

I'm not trying to be argumentative about this (really, I'm not :o). It's just that as a photographer, who owned my own studio, copyright is the only way I had of protecting my work and it is an issue I feel very strongly about.


    Bookmark   December 14, 2001 at 8:34PM
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I recently used the Kodak copy machine. When I selected the button "professional photos" it came up with message saying that it "detected" that it was on copyrighted paper. So I started over and just selected "color photo" and had no problems. It never "detected" anything. I told the machine what it was! Speaking of violations, it should be against the law to charge what they do for baby hospital photos. Believe me, I paid more than $200 for the hospital pictures of my new babies. I recently decided that I would like 8x10s of them individually. I was going to go the "proper" route and buy them but the company wanted a $5.00 handling fee + the $6.00 shipping fee, plus the photo which was $14. The clincher is that they could not be processed and mailed together so I would have to pay the shipping/handling twice. That's $22 just for handling and shipping. Sorry, but that is Bull@&%$! They made a humongous profit off of me already. My Kodak picture machine pictures turned out great!
Happy Holidays!

    Bookmark   December 14, 2001 at 9:31PM
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What happens when you copy a professional picture is they come out a little different now they are not as clear (a little haz to them) or the colors are a little off.

I didn't care about that. The studio we used was very professional this year and I scaned in the family portrait and used an on line service to get a stack of 70 4x5s for under $30.00. The colors are off a little and it isn't near as nice as the oringinal but for once a year updates for family and friends it works. The studio did get mucho dollars from me but did not offer that size or that quanity.

I do however still like my digital picture of the kids from last year better.

Another route is while at an amusment park or tourist place over the summer or fall use one of those dress up places. Their pictures are not copy righted and they take a once and done digital picture. Any place will print you a negative and reprints from that.

That still is my favorite picture they year we had the kids dressed as gangsters and used the copies for our Christmas card.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2001 at 12:42PM
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