What families are doing to avoid pricey photos

Affordable Alternatives to Expensive School Photos

by Dollar Stretcher Contributors

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Affordable Alternatives to Expensive School Photos

We are barely a week into the school year, and it is almost time for the first of two school photo sessions at my daughter's school. Is it just me or have school photo package prices become extremely expensive? Can most families really afford these prices? I'd love to hear what other families are doing to get professional quality photos of their kids without spending the kind of money my kid's school photographer is charging. Thanks!

Cut the Cost of Expensive School Photos

I work at a school, and the photographers and school always want helpers for that day to shepherd students to and from class, help with hair, and keep things organized. The company that our school uses offers gift certificates to the helpers that usually cover one of the smaller packets. So volunteer! You can also order "a la carte" if you would like. Don't order the full packets unless you have a huge family!

Affordable Alternative in a Student Photographer

Try your local high school for a student in graphic arts or a similar program. My daughter was in this program and did senior pictures for a fraction of the cost of those professionals. And the students loved the pictures.

Who Is In Your Social Circle?

Two things occur to me. First, ask around among your friends and family to see if you can find a good amateur photographer who would do pictures for free or cheap (or who would barter something you can do).

Second, if you don't come up with anything, ask for recommendations for a local professional photographer. I found out through Facebook that we have at least six really good amateurs and as many professionals just in our social circle!

Affordable Alternatives to Expensive School Photos

Volunteer to Reduce Costs of School Photos

I offered to volunteer on the day of pictures and they gave me the teacher discount.

Several Affordable Alternatives for School Photos

If you know a good amateur photographer with a decent camera, offer them a modest fee to take some pictures. If not, perhaps your local high school or college photography class can recommend somebody who could use the money and the experience. Another option is grandparents or other family members. If you explain the issue, they may be more than happy to pay for a package if you share the photos with them. I've heard of parents who offered to assist the school photographer with combing hair, straightening collars, etc. in exchange for free photos. If all else fails, you could just make a minimal purchase like one 8x10 or a few wallets instead of a large package.

Stay Away from This Fundraiser

School photos are a fundraiser for the school. Our kids have to have their photo taken for yearbook and IDs, but we don't buy anything from the company. We go to the photo studio at JCPenney® and can get several photos for less money than the school charges. We get a few sheets and give one to the grandparents and have a few for framing.
D and K

Two Pieces of Advice on Expensive School Photos

I have struggled with this as well and have two pieces of advice.

  1. I read years ago the opinion of Amy Dacyczyn of The Tightwad Gazette on school photos. She argued parents should not fall for the twice-yearly school photo package. Kids don't change that much as six to seven months, especially as they get older. She felt that once a year is enough. I agree and have always purchased school photos at the fall photo session and opted out of the spring photos. In the spring, my kids' school would take a photo for the yearbook, but I would not buy a class photo.
  2. Purchase photos a la carte. You save money and only pay for exactly what you want. I always bought an 8x10 for framing and displaying in our family home and then a sheet of wallet photos for mailing to relatives/grandparents. That's it. For years, each a la carte item was $10 for a total of $20. Luckily, my two kids were never interested in handing out wallets to their friends, who, by the way, see them every day at school anyway! So I was spared that expense.


Be Part of School Picture Day Fun and Save

I volunteer at my school for picture day. Join the PTA and tell them you want to help on photo day. It's typically for a half day. Then typically you get a coupon for half off or $25 off your order. This is great if you have more than one kiddo in the school.

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