It’s a good thing we didn’t pay for this

7 05 2006

Last weekend was Annabelle’s 100th day celebration. It was a good time with a few friends; small but nice. Usually with a celebration like this, the “Korean custom” is to take lots of pictures. Actually, I think it’s a parent custom.

So it was that in recognition of this milestone, that we wanted to have some pictures taken by some more accomplished photographers than myself. Also, my new camera hasn’t quite come in yet as it has yet to be released. We decided to take Annabelle to the same place we took Eliana to when she was the same age: The Picture People. The idea here is to try to give each daughter the same treatment as they grow older. We decided to visit the store at the Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall since it was near the bike shop from which I will be ordering my new bike.

When you first get there, you tell them you have a reservation and they pull your record. This person had quite a difficult time understanding my wife, and was not able to ask the correct questions in order to pull up our record. By telling this person our previous phone number (an avenue she did not ask my wife), our record came up in seconds.

While waiting for a booth to become available, we were watching some other kids get their pictures taken, and it seemed that the photographers were doing quite well. The kids were laughing on queue, and generally having a good time. I thought we would have some generally good pictures. When we were called into the booth, I was a little unsettled that the person who checked us in was also the person who would be photographing out daughters. I was willing to give this person the benefit of the doubt.

The first pose was typical to what we knew from our past experience with The Picture People; we had both kids sitting in the picture on a white beanbag with a white background. Since we now wanted two small children to cooperate and smile at the camera at the same time, we knew we had our work cutout for us. Usually, the photographer does a few funny things, and gets the kids to laugh, and even though there s chaos most of the time, the pictures come out good because the photographer was able to get the shot at just the right moment.

There were a few moments that were just right, however some angle may have been wrong, or someone was not facing the camera correctly, but it seems that times when I would have expected the flash to go off, nothing happened. To me, it seemed that she was pretty much fed up with trying to get the kids to smile and do things correctly, that she just took a shot just to switch to another pose.

We had two “poses” with both Eliana and Annabelle, and three more with just Annabelle by herself. Usually after each pose, the photographer gives us a choice of what we would like to do for a next pose. This time around, we were asking her to change it up a little. Even towards the last couple of poses, we asked if there was some other background besides a bean bag, and she politely told us that since Annabelle does not sit up on her own, there wasn’t a whole lot she could try other than the bean bag. We were already unimpressed, and at this point want to finish the shot and leave, so we didn’t argue the point.

We were hoping to come away with a photo and Annabelle doing her baby thing, and another with the two sisters together. We took at least 8 shots. When we returned an hour later (after processing) only 4 made the cut, and out of those, only one was half was decent, however, the clothing tag was showing, and was not presentable. A good photographer would know what the lens would see and have asked us to hide that. Another photo that was presentable was somewhat ruined again by the photographers lack of experience. It was a full length shot of Annabelle, and in it, and the right side of her head was cut off just enough to render that photo ugly. And yet in most of the pictures, the photos looked over exposed as many things came out far more white than I have seen from previous samples and purchases.

For all the work of getting dresses, preparing the kids, driving 30+ minutes to a far off mall, we had no really great pictures. We did, however, have a coupon for a free print. While the plan was to get a free one and buy another (a two for one type deal), were on the verge of getting no pictures. My wife, however, decided on getting a free one. As shown here, they aren’t smiling, and Eliana (the larger child) doesn’t seem to even be ready for a picture. This picture also looks a bit overexposed.

In reflection of the terrible experience, we have learned a few things: try to get an experienced photographer even when going to these Mall photo stores. It also may be better to get no pictures than to use a coupon for a free one. Now, to get some decent pictures of our daughters, we have made an appointment with The Picture People for this Tuesday night at a different Mall.

From our previous experiences with The Picture People, we would like to think this was an isolated incident, and are willing to give a different store another shot at creating great photographs of our kids.

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3 responses

21 05 2006
Blog de Mora » My Next Project

[…] After our last experience with the Picture People, my wife and I have decided that my photograhy skills and current crop of good photos of the girls is good enough that we will invest in some decent camera equipment and start a mini home photo studio.  Ok, there was a lot of words going on in that last statement; let me clerify: […]

6 07 2006
HEATHER

Hello!
I have never read your blog before, but rather just stumbled upon it! I use to work for the picture people when I was in college. It was, needless to say, a college job! Without being said, I know the secrets of the Picture People, and as an ex-employee it is my duty to spread the word that people pay way to much for prints at the Picture People. They are expensive, not that great of quality and the poses are standard and can be done at home. Even when I was in college, I was so confused as to the reason why they were so expensive.
I understand your issue! If you ever want more secrets, feel free to ask!

8 09 2006
Bonnie

Hi there. I used to work at the Picture People, so I figured I’d leave a couple of comments here (it’s against company policy for employees to even mention PP in their blogs, but I’m thinking of starting a blog about my experiences).

The fact that your photographer only took eight shots is ridiculous. As the top non-management photographer at my old store, I would frequently take four-five rolls of film (that’s 36-45 pictures) for each family, no matter how difficult the children were. I suggest you call management over that–the store manager won’t be pleased.

Now, the beanbag thing is, unfortunately, company policy that saves a lot of lawsuits (people would want their babies in chairs, etc.), but if your other child or you are willing to hold the baby for the picture, the beanbag is unnecessary. Even if it’s just your arms in the picture with the infant (honestly I think it gives the picture a very personal, emotional feel, and it was one of my favorite poses), there are other ways.

If the store was not digital, it relies on a machine called the San Marco to print pictures and develop negatives. Unfortunately, the San Marco is one million-dollar piece of shit, but looking at your picture above, the backdrop should be that white–the reason it looks so bad is because you can see the white fleece on the beanbag shadow into grey. The photographers were expected to make it look as though there were no backdrop at all–they needed to come a bit closer with the camera.

I’m sorry your experience was bad, but as we always asked, don’t write off PP because of one bad experience. Change photographers and you could be surprised!

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