School picture blackmail

Last month, we got notice that Spring photos would be taken the week before Spring Break. We got the form and tossed it because we were not interested in buying more photos. Imagine my surprise when I picked my child up from school and she had pictures.


What you’re seeing here is an 8×10, 5×7, 2 4×6, wallets, decorated wallets and a fun pack (bookmarks, ruler, door tag, key chain). I did not want this. I do not need this.

I am livid that this company, School Portraits by Kranz, Inc. and the school find it appropriate to not only take unwanted photos of my child, but print them and send them home with her so that we can look over them and pay for what we want to keep.


Yep. You read that right. She’s to return the photos if we don’t want them. What they do with these prints, I have no idea.  I do know that little kids want everything. Six year olds, really don’t grasp the concept of cost or not needing useless stuff.

I also don’t get how this makes any business sense. Taking the time to photograph a person who never submitted an order form is one thing, but to print all of this and send it to the school seems like a great way to lose money. There are people who will keep the photos and not pay. There are people, like me, who will send the photos back and not pay for these already printed items.

I am also concerned about what happens to these photos once they are sent back. I want them destroyed. I do not want my daughter’s image used in this company’s marketing materials, if any. I really have no way to guarantee that both happen, beyond any promise the company may give me.

But beyond all of this, I am extremely upset that my little girl was in tears because I had to say ‘no’. She was so excited over the photos and in was in no state to listen to reason as to why I was saying ‘no’. To be sure, I’ll sit down with her tonight and explain again, but a 6 year old should never be put in this position.

What say you? Have you had this experience before? Do you think I’m over-reacting?

  • Allison ABLINGTON
    Also, that background is crap. A girl as cute as your daughter should not be placed in front of a background that horrible.
  • LOL Thanks, Allison & Jay. We got the boy's photos yesterday in front of the same background!

    I did wind up speaking to the principal and incoming PTA president about this last week and suggested a better way to do that. I understand the photos being used for other things in the school, but our school doesn't do that, save at the beginning of the year when they do the ID cards. They are so incredibly resistant to online stuff because they listen to fear-mongering news reports over anything credible and factual. S
  • Allison ABLINGTON
    HA! This is actually my line of work. The last commenter was correct, speculation programs are a dying breed (and typically done in Spring) and many of the large companies like Kranz and Lifetouch actually pay the schools per head for participation in this program. So schools like's a guaranteed lump of money for their desperate PTOs. My company doesn't do speculation, we do prepay method primarily, but we DO take every kid's picture whether or not they order. This is because schools get CDs of images for yearbooks and junk like that, plus schools often use the images for projects and awards, etc. Speculation programs are morally dubious precisely because it upsets kids when their parents don't want to buy them, but over HALF the kids don't get them according to industry stats. Also, my company shreds any returned photos and we are required to get permission from parents to use images for mass marketing.

    Email me a pic of your daughter and I can make her an awesome FunPack and trading cards. Our designs are better than Kranz (I make em). Seriously, do it.
  • Jay
    Hi. I'm help run a small school picture business in Ohio and picked up this blog post through a Google alert. What you're seeing here is called a speculation program. It's just like it sounds... the photography company takes a picture of every student and then delivers the packages back to the school, speculating that enough parents will buy the packages to make a profit. It's a pretty old-fashioned way to do photography that is rooted in the days when film was the only medium and school photography was still one of the only times a student might have a decent photo taken during a year. Obviously, digital changed all that. a few years back and this sort of program seems a little silly now. There are other, less wasteful, more modern ways to do pictures that a principal has the right to request. Pre-pay or a simple proof sheet is one. On-line proofing is another. There are companies all over Los Angeles that can and will provide programs to your school that are not like what you've received. I would encourage you to ask your principal to look around.
  • Here in the UK your not allowed to take photographs of children unless you have permission from the parents. The schools notify the parents of the day photographs are to be taken and parents can then opt out of the school photos.

    What annoys me is the fact that the company taking the photograph retains the copyright. I find this unacceptable. If I'm paying for it I ought to have complete ownership of my own children's photos.
  • I did email the company telling them that I wanted the images destroyed. I plan on putting a letter in with the returned photos tonight.

    Someone else suggested I deface the images before I return them. The funny thing, is that just by giving the child the photos, they're dumping liability on me before I get the chance to see them. I mean, what if my child was walking home and they fell out her backpack? Or what if she had just forgotten about them for a week? Would they then force me to pay for something I hadn't seen? Seems stupid.
  • (Standard IANAL disclaimer) Did you sign any kind of release allowing her photo to be taken? If not, you could be well within your right to insist that the prints (and maybe original image files...negatives for us old school photographers) be destroyed. If I did not sign a release or any kind of permission slip for this, I'd be mighty pissed off.
  • I love that last comment what a brilliant idea. You are right kids just want whatever they are offered they can't think past the moment or reason weather it is worth the money or even decide if they will ever want to look at them again. We are thinking of doing our own 'school photo's' this year as we are home schooling for the first time I think the kids like to feel that they aren't missing out on something that there friends have.
  • You're doing exactly what you should be doing, which is not being pressured in spending money you don't have on stuff you don't need. I bet the form you tossed included an opt-out that you could have sent back to keep her out of this.

    Hey, you have the equipment — do your own photo shoot with the girl, and give her a "package" with lots more outfits & backgrounds than the Kranz-ers did. Print out what you (or she) wants and let her take a stack of wallet-size photos to trade with her friends (that's what they're for as I recall). My parents weren't photographers, so they got us a package every year, but I bet you can do better.
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