BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: New Questions

Photography Question 
Bobbi  S. Tomes
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/27/2005
 

how wrong! but what to do????


I have been having trouble getting any senior photo jobs in my area and I think I found out why. It seems that the local school will not accept senior photos for the yearbook unless they are done by one certain studio that is also in this town. And this place has outragious prices, kids who can afford to buy thier packages are paying 50.00 for one single 5x7 so they can have a picture in the yearbook. I was going to give some good prices for the experience but I cant get any jobs, I spoke to some kids who said they feel that for he most the biggest part is that it be in the yearbook, otherwise hey wouldnt even be getting senior pics done. I guess this studio must be givibg the school a percentage or have to have some sort of deal worked out. It cuts out job oppertunities for all other local photographers and leaves many students who cant afford the pricey pictures out in the cold. Is there anything I could do?


To love this question, log in above
8/7/2005 11:16:45 PM

 
Joan Bellinger   Not that this helps any, but my high school gave students the address to the ONE photographer taking senior photos for the yearbook and this was your only choice.


To love this comment, log in above
8/8/2005 11:04:58 AM

 
Laura E. OConnor
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/12/2005
  Talk to the school administrator or the faculty heading up the yearbook committee. See if they do indeed have an exclusive contract with that photographer. Ask why and tell them what you've found out. I don't know if anything will change, but maybe if they're aware that many students cannot afford that photographer's services and will be left out of their own yearbooks due to financial issues, they may take another look at their practices.


To love this comment, log in above
8/8/2005 11:11:52 AM

 
Melissa  L. Zavadil
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/26/2005
  A letter from a well known attorney would definately do the job. This is an illegal monopoly and would not hold up in any court of law.


To love this comment, log in above
8/8/2005 10:50:53 PM

 
Justin G.
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/13/2004
  I don't see how it is illegal Melissa, no offense but this is just my opinion. The school isn't forcing any student to see that ONE photographer. They're only taking his work for the yearbook. It's just being selective for their "publication". I mean Bobbi can shoot his senior portraits all he wants and have the best in town, but there's no laws saying that a school's yearbook has to use EVERYONE'S pictures they submit. It's their book and they can select whoever they want. Now let's say Bobbi does get a letter from an attorney, they still don't have to use his work. They can simply say, oh we don't like this certain pic, and completely be lying about it and I don't see how that's breaking any laws. And the school isn't saying that he is not allowed to take senior photos, they're just saying that they won't use Bobbi's pictures. So anyone in town can still go to Bobbi.

*Bobbi, I'm not taking the school's side; I personally think this is ridiculous too and quite stupid. The school seniors should strike the yearbook until something happens. I'm only playing devil's advocate in this thread. But I personally don't see how this is illegal, no matter how immoral or wrong it is.

.justin.


To love this comment, log in above
8/9/2005 5:14:43 AM

 
Laura E. OConnor
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/12/2005
  I'm with you on this, Justin. I can't see that having an exclusive agreement or contract with one photographer would be illegal in any way. It's not fair to the other local Photographers and most of all, it's not fair to the students. They should have a list of like 3 local photographers for senior portraits. If they will only take the little photo in the yearbook from one of them, then the kids should only have to pay a negligible fee for that little photo so they may be included in their yearbook, then let them go anywhere they want for photos for family. Actually, why can't they do that? Just pay for their single little yearbook photo from this pricey exclusive guy, then get real portraits for family and friends done through you?

Overall, what the school has done is not fair to anyone and it stinks, but illegal? I really don't think you can claim that.


To love this comment, log in above
8/9/2005 6:01:40 AM

 
Bobbi  S. Tomes
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/27/2005
  Justin, I have to tell you, I am a FEMALE Bobbi. Anyways, I agree, I do not think what they are doing is illegal but what I want to know is what sort of measures could I take to try and change it? I thought of writting a leller to the editor of ou local newspaper for starters to make everyone aware of the situation because most people will also feel it is wrong. But if I do write a letter I am not sure just what to say. I will call the school and the studio posing as a parent and find out he details first. It just seems down right selfish of the school to limit the students for what must be a percentage of the proffit. WHY cant they simply allow students not going to this particular studio to pay a fee and still be able to submitt their photo. It is all aqbout the proffit for the school anyhow, it seems, and they could still make money on the other photos as well. Can anyone give me suggestions of things to say if I do write a letter to the editor of our local paper?


To love this comment, log in above
8/9/2005 8:24:38 AM

 
Laura E. OConnor
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/12/2005
  They probably just want a consistent look to their yearbook and got a deal through that photographer to do them. Maybe he discounted his rates to the school? I'd DEFINITELY start with the school and the Yearbook advisor FIRST before submitting anything to the paper. Ask them "Why?", either as a "parent" or as a local photographer who has heard many concerned kids express their disappointment with the situation. Maybe they just haven't thought of the "It's not fair to kids who can't afford it" angle. Think about this, too.... When I was in school, the STUDENT leaders of the Yearbook committee arranged the "deal" with the photographer with a nod from the facutly advisor, so it was the kids who decided as the yearbook staff, not the school itself. Kids don't always see the "big picture" and perhaps if it comes up from an outside source or a call from a "parent" of a disappointed teen, they'll open it up to other photographers. I'd definitely call the photographer for his side, too. Like you said, ask as a parent and just tell him "My son'daughter attends ______ High and I was told you are the one taking their Senior Portraits. I need some information about the fees and packages you are offering.

If the sitting is nominal or non-existent, and the kids just have one shot taken for the yearbook photo to maintain the "look" the yearbook staff wants, then the kids are free to have their portraits for friends and family taken through you, anyway, and maybe it's the kids who just don't understand (or care about) their options.


To love this comment, log in above
8/9/2005 8:43:54 AM

 

BetterPhoto Member
  Bobbi - Just be straight up with the school. Your a budding business and would like to be considered. Anything that may appear sneaky will only hurt you in other aspects of your business career. Build your business based n your integrity. It will take time but you will be the better person for it. I am a salesperson in my real life and have found being straight forward as the best rule. Now if you can uncover a "pain" ,as I call it, a way you can make life easier for the person(s) who put the yearbook together you may have a foot in the door, build that relationship and over time and you may be surprised what can happen. This is a big world and there is a lot opportunity to be had, do not bind yourself to a single problem. I'm just learning this photography thing. Someday I hopoe to know enough to hire out for kid's ocassions where I can capture some positive and fun family history for my clients. Take care. --Paul


To love this comment, log in above
8/9/2005 8:55:55 AM

 
Susan L. Vasquez
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/24/2005
  I have a senior this year, she fully agreed that she would go the school's photographer for her yearbook pictures but I would be the one that takes her senior portrait that she will pass around to her friends.


To love this comment, log in above
8/9/2005 9:09:48 AM

 
Bobbi  S. Tomes
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/27/2005
  I dont know how many kids in this area would want to go to 2 different photographers for theit portraits. This town unfortunatly does have an enormous amount of low income families, and for those kids even the 50 bucks for the single photo for the yearbook will be a big expence for the families. I am sure a lot of these kids will unfortunatly end up with one single picture. Its also unfortunate for me as a begining photographer that the amount of clients I get will certainly be limited. And my work no matter how nice it is will not be in the yearbook. I will just collect all the facts and go from there.


To love this comment, log in above
8/9/2005 11:42:07 AM

 
Julie  A. Sword   Hi Bobbi. I understand where you are coming from. My advice (what I did also) contact the school and ask what the requirements on the photos are, such as background, head size and such. I freelance and I am doing my son's (Bobby also) photos. I just contacted the school (the person in charge of the photos and the yearbook)she stated that the student can go any where they want oa I can do it, but the head shot has to be a certain size for the yearbook. With Bobby not choosing to go to a studio, he just won't get a class composite. But he doesn't even care about that. Sum it up: Contact photo personal at school, let them know you want to do your childs and is friends for senior pictues and you would like to know the proper size of the head shots. Hope this helps you Bobbi. Take Care and Good Shooting. JAS


To love this comment, log in above
8/9/2005 12:27:38 PM

 
Julie  A. Sword   Sorry for misspelled and missing letters. in a rush.


To love this comment, log in above
8/9/2005 12:30:25 PM

 
Liza M. Franco
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/26/2004
  Bobbi, I have taken a lot of senior portraits and try to offer the best deal possible. My son graduated last year and the prices were outrageous. It is true that most schools prefer one studio to maintain a consistent look throughout.

Be careful trying to go to the newspaper. While you may have a lot of supporters there are always those who may think of it as sour grapes and you don't want to have you business suffer in any way.

I found that word spread amongst the kids and they started calling me. Give the first few a really good deal or perhaps even do it at half price. Then tell them that for every order that comes in due to them giving a recommendation, you will give them "X" amount of additional photos or a dollar amount. Of course since they are under age you may want to clear this with parents. This has worked really well for me.

Another option just to do something good for your community would be to set up a couple of days dedicated to taking senior photos and offer photos a tiny bit above your cost. Get the yearbook photo specifications as mentioned above. I think if you work within their specs the school should have no reason not to comply. You would help some of these kids not feel left out in their senior year, have a tax write off should you go that route and I'm sure these kids parents would be greatly appreciative. Good word of mouth could go a long way for future business for you. You may not make a fortune doing it this way, but you would help a lot of kids and maybe be able to somehow get your foot in the door.


To love this comment, log in above
8/9/2005 1:14:55 PM

 

BetterPhoto Member
  Bobbi - Lisa is right on the money. Excellent business acumen.


To love this comment, log in above
8/9/2005 1:23:50 PM

 
Tammy L. Odell
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/7/2004
  Bobbi,
I went thru this similar situation last fall. A teacher who was a parent of a senior asked me to do her son's senior pics. Then she told several of the other seniors and they all wanted to speak with me. So another teacher arranged for me to meet with the entire senior class during english class. This is a small school, only about 20 seniors total. Then the principal found out and forbid me to speak with them at school. I had a flyer and the teacher secretly passed them out. They have a contract with a studio, who charges outrageous prices, for everything. Including homecoming pics and sports. I think, not 100 percent sure, but that's what I was told is that they have to use a head shot from the studio that has the contract with the school for yearbook purposes. I think the studio helps with the yearbook photos in some way....and I am pretty sure the school gets a percentage of the sales with the studio for all photos taken all year long. Anyhow, 8 of the seniors still came to me for their pics and had to do the headshot with the studio and had to pay $25 for it. Most of the kids in the class couldn't afford to have senior pics done and I know some didn't do any at all. But my prices were soooo much cheaper than the studio and the kids loved them! I would definalty start with the yearbook sponser and ask what the deal is. And still try to recruit some of the seniors. You may think of offering a discount for the first customer. Chances are he/she may show them around and the other kids may really like what they see. And the prices will probably be cheaper than if they did go to the studio even after they pay for their yearbook photo. Good luck!!!!!!!!!!!


To love this comment, log in above
8/9/2005 1:49:32 PM

 
Bobbi  S. Tomes
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/27/2005
  This is all great advise guys, and I will act on much of it. I still want to write an annonomose letter to the paper, in NO WAY connecting it to me or my buisiness because I feel like the people in my town should know, and I do realize that some people will be on the other side and possibly have some nasty comments to bash me with but that doesnt mater because they wont know who I am anyways and I am sure I will have more supporters then not. The school may reconsider if htey see how many adults in the community are upset about it.


To love this comment, log in above
8/9/2005 4:39:20 PM

 
Tann Chesley   Tammy O hit on a key point. Most studios give the school (or booster club) a cut of the action. I'm aware of contracts for as much as 10%.


To love this comment, log in above
8/9/2005 6:59:33 PM

 
Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
gregorylagrange.org
  Is this about the class photos in alphabetical order, or the ones in the back of the book with poses by their car, cheerleader outfit, what sport they played, etc...
Copyright problems are what they might be trying to avoid. If they have an agreement from one place to use any pictures from there, cuts out any worry about who gave permission and who didn't.


To love this comment, log in above
8/9/2005 7:15:24 PM

 
Pete H
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/9/2005
  Ahh, marketing..Gotta' love it. :)
I faced the same challenge several yrs ago as you do now, here's what I did.

I approached 2 seniors..ones that were active in sports, choir or debating team etc..simply, they had a large group of friends. I offered to do their portraits for FREE! Yep..Free!
If you're good, (i.e) creative, the kids will show off your work to their friends..and BAM! Within a month I had more bookings than I could handle. Hope this helps. Hey; "ya' gotta' give to get." I love the old adage, "work smarter, NOT harder" Cheers & good shooting.
Pete


To love this comment, log in above
8/9/2005 10:11:17 PM

 
Log in to respond or ask your own question.