Senior Portraits and Photo Studios - Please Read!(OP 1-2-2009)
**Originally posted on 1-2-2009**
I often get asked my opinion on other studio and photographers work. I generally decline to say anything to the negative about a photographers work if I have not dealt with them personally.
More after the break....
I do wish to let all of you know about a situation that I have been getting asked about more and more frequently. It seems that there are a lot of schools that are getting into contracts with photographers/studios for exclusivity. What this means is that if your senior wants their picture in the yearbook, they must get their senior portrait package from the studio that the school has contracted with. I've had no less than three people come to me and ask me about this practice. While I would never think to try anything like this, as it is a business principle I do not agree with.
I do understand the desire for a studio to try and maximize their profits by being able to set up a series of seniors. In this way they guarantee a higher percentage of the market. I blame the schools more for this than the studios. Given the economic disparity that may and does exist in schools, some parents do not have the means to afford the "bottom price" they are getting quoted from the contracted studio. So far the lowest price I have seen is $400 and the parents are not really getting what they want. In order to get what they and their senior want, they would have to go with another photographer or setup a secondary session to handle the special request at an additional price. Worse yet, some of the schools have been late in getting the word out that they have signed an exclusive contract, already have paid another studio for their senior pictures, but still cannot have them in their schools yearbook. Now even if they have been able to afford a $400 session, they are being told that the only way to get into the yearbook is to shell out another $400!!
Some things to do before you get your senior pictures done:
1) Verify with the school what is required for the senior pictures to be in the yearbook and get what you are told in writing if there seems to be an issue.
2) If there is doubt and getting into the yearbook is important to your student, then try and hold off as long as possible before hiring anyone to do your portraits.
I know because of this rash of issues, I have started asking as a basic question during the contract phase of the senior shoot if the school has hired a photographer and an exclusivity clause is in place. If so, I would decline the job to protect the best interest of the potential client.
If this type of exclusivity is something that you do not agree with, I recommend that the parents get together and talk with the PTA, school board and school administration and voice their objections. Remember, you should try to work from within the system to enact change.
I think, at most, the schools can work with several studios with different price points, that perhaps they have worked with in the past and have a good track record of quality and customer service. In this way, those parents that do not have the time to research and find a studio have some options in front of them. This would still leave those who have plans with other studios to be able to keep those plans or photographs to still be used.
So please, be aware of what is going on with your seniors yearbook!