School Photography In A Perfect World

School photography

So what would School Photography in a perfect world look like?
I think it would look like this:

  1. You would get all of the data you need from the school in a timely fashion.
  2. The school data would be 100% accurate.
  3. Classes would show up on time to have their portraits made.
  4. Everyone being photographed would be perfectly groomed, cheerful, and give a great smile as soon as they step in front of the camera.
  5. Everyone photographed would buy our “Best Package”.
  6. After the shoot all the post work would automatically do itself and send itself to the lab.

But back to reality…most of that doesn’t and will never happen. So it’s up to you and I “get ‘er done” and job delivered on time. When I talk with other photographers who have had challenges with delivery I usually hear two common threads:

  1. They did not get the job data entered and submitted the lab in a timely fashion.
  2. They schedule retake day too close to original picture day and couldn’t deliver the original day packages on time.

If you make both of these mistakes together, you have a true recipe for disaster. Here is how to avoid this situation:

  1. Set a REALISTIC retake date…what does that mean?
    For my organization it’s 5 to 6 weeks after original picture day.
    Too long, you think? Well, let’s look at it.

    • In some cases it takes us up to 2 days to get all the missing data from the school and complete the data entry and scrub process as well as cropping and order upload.
    • Production time is scheduled for seven working days based on what we offer. Remember, however, that labs, just like studios, can have some seasonal delays because of unanticipated volume. So I add a couple of days buffer to my schedule, so more like nine working days.
    • Then add shipping time back to my office, so we are at twelve working days (that’s almost three full weeks) and I haven’t even delivered to the school.
    • Then and they need a few days to distribute them. Also parents need to view the portraits and determine if they are satisfied or require a retake.
    • The total time for all this to happen is about four weeks from my original picture day. You can see how three weeks would be a disaster! I would have to call and reschedule retake day and that is SOMETHING YOU NEVER WANT TO DO!
  2. Enter your data and work your jobs as quickly as you can, in short get your work into the lab in timely fashion! In 33 years in this business, I have never seen a volume lab that does not have some delays during the heaviest part of the busy season.

Plan your schedule correctly, work you jobs immediately after picture day and get them into the lab and you will almost think you are doing school pictures in a perfect world.

This article was written by Jeff Edwards, he is a 36 year veteran of the school portrait industry. His company, Scholastic Reflections, serves over 150 schools for undergraduate photography and scholastic sports.

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