At Home with Tech

Figure out which consumer tech you need, the right gear to buy and how to use your new gadgets.

Tag: family photos

How to Decide which Lifetouch School Picture Package is Best for You

Buying School Picture Day photos doesn’t have to feel complicated. Here’s how I determined what to order…

Our son is in fifth grade, and I’ve been faithfully ordering Lifetouch School Picture Day photos for years. Each time, I pledge to only buy what I really need. Invariably, I realize there are compromises to be made that have necessarily increased the price point. This year is no different. But this time, I think I got it right.

At the end of the day, all I really want is a digital file of my boy’s school portrait. I can then print additional photos at home. I don’t need Lifetouch’s more expensive prints. (Although I do understand that’s the foundation of its business model.)

Also, the photo’s background needs to reflect that this is a school photo and display my son’s elementary school grade. Otherwise, it’s really just another generic posed photo which holds little value for me. The photo has to clearly be his school photo. (I’ve got plenty others.)

If you have a similar perspective, here are my suggestions on how to get the best deal when ordering your Lifetouch photos (assuming there’s still a school picture day scheduled in your neck of the woods during this year so affected by COVID-19).

Order the Basic Package
I really don’t want all of the extra prints that are part of the more expensive packages. (A few prints are just fine.)

I’m looking for the one digital file with the correct background. (And my son’s class photo would be nice too.)

The good news is the Basic Package gives you:

  • 1 8×10
  • 2 5×7
  • the class picture (size unknown)
  • and the digital file! (available as a download via Shutterfly)

All that costs $14.99.
(That’s a much better price point than the forty bucks I’ve been spending in previous years.)

BUT…

You only get access to the generic background with the Basic Package.

Then, Add to the Basic Package
There is a workaround, but it’s an analog solution…
(shudder)

You can add on an extra printed photo to your package and then choose the background you really want for that additional print.

The next step is to simply digitize this physical photo when it shows up. (Scan it or take a picture of the picture.)

Then, you’ve finally got what you wanted in the first place. No, your digital copy won’t look as perfect as the original photo file, but if you order an 8×10, your scanned version should be fine for most uses.

And the price for that extra 8×10?

  • $14.99

So add that to the original $14.99 Basic Package for a new new total of $29.98 (plus tax).

Consider the Plus Package
If you don’t want to go through the trouble of MacGyvering your purchase to save money, your next choice is to go with the Plus Package for $44.99. That officially unlocks the option to choose your own background(s), and it also provides a whole lot more prints that you may or may not want. (In this smartphone age, does anyone even use 2×3 wallet photos anymore?)
Here’s what you get:

  • 1 -8×10
  • 4 -5×7
  • 2- 3×5
  • 8 -2×3 Wallets
  • the class picture
  • and the digital images via Shutterfly

Plus, you get the name and grade on all prints and basic retouching.
(I’d already have the grade as part of the background. As for the photo-retouching… I think that’s unnecessary for kids.)

Barrett’s 2020 Lifetouch School Picture Day Purchase
There are a couple of other packages that offer additional combinations of physical prints, but that didn’t move the needle for me.

I kept my focus on Basic vs. Plus. And it boiled down to this:

  • Spend $15 more for the Plus Package to easily choose your photo backgrounds (and get more prints)
  • Or keep it ‘Basic’ and order the extra 8×10 print with the right background. And then scan that print.

I took a look at my past purchases, and I’ve always gone Plus.

But I have a confession to make. I have a cabinet at home filled with photos that have yet to find a final destination (album or frame). In it, there’s a folder containing years of Lifetouch prints I’ve never used. There were just too many. It’s a painful reminder that I never needed all of those photos in the Plus plans.

Sure, spending a little more for the Plus Package provides all of the ordering flexibility you’ll want. But if you don’t use what you buy, that’s not good value.

So, I decided to keep it basic this year:

  • The Basic Plan for $14.99
  • Plus the extra 8×10 print for another $14.99 with the background that says 5th Grade

Click.

Buy What You Need
Future Barrett might laugh at me for going through all of this effort to save $15. But Future Barrett might also nod approvingly at my ability to finally get the equation right for my actual needs.

I think that’s called progress.

One Way to Help You Reflect on the Past Decade

Happy New Decade

Have you taken a moment to think about your last ten years? What’s the story? Here is one technique to help figure it out.

Life always seems to have a way of moving so quickly. Like me, I’m sure that you’d sometimes like to slow it down to take a breath and reflect.

The good news is the end of every year is always the traditional time when you’re encouraged to look back at the past twelve months. That could take the form of a champagne toast or creating a photo book or even a cloud digital photo album to encapsulate the story of your past year.

But how should anyone begin to look back and gain a real understanding of their past decade? That’s a much bigger psychological exercise. Of course, anyone can easily pick out significant life events like marriage and kids being born, but those consist of just a few days over the course of several thousand.

Do you recall what was going on during most of those other days? Of course not. So how then are you supposed to begin putting together a point of view on this much bigger chunk of your life?

Well, here’s one tactic that I’ve used.

Photo Review
Simply take a couple of hours and walk down memory lane with your digital photo collection.

I mean really dig in.
My decade in 14 seconds
If it’s in any semblance of order, you should be able to expose yourself to a good percentage of your past decade’s activities that warranted a photo. Not that you can’t remember some of this on your own, but this exercise can really help to shake the branches on those ‘second-tier’ memories that also added to your overall experience from the decade.

Finding the Meaning
But here comes the hard part.

Which photos represent the pieces of your life that really tell your story? And which story are you actually trying to figure out? (Everyone’s life contains multiple stories.)

At this point, I recommend not stressing over the impulse to answer these questions. Simply enjoy the visual echoes from your past. Refresh your mind.

A New Photo Collection
That’s the gift to give yourself as you approach the end of the decade. How you process it is entirely an individual experience.

You can also throw the digital pics that stood out to you into a new folder on your computer. This specific collection can be for your eyes only, or if you choose, you can share them with your family and friends.

Remember
No, most lives are not neatly organized into ten-year chapters. So, looking to tie it all up in a bow is an entirely flawed exercise.

Still, this is one way to help remain present in living your life today, because you’ve got a better handle on your past through this little photo project refresher.

And if you happen to get a new photo collage out of the exercise, that always a bonus!

How to Take Great Photos at Family Events While Still Enjoying the Party

Taking a DSLR Photo

If you’re often too focused taking photos and then forget to enjoy the activity, I can entirely relate. So I’ve got three ways to help you have your cake and eat it too.

So you’ve decided to take on the responsibility of documenting your family get-together with your camera. Well, that decision can really get in the way of your own enjoyment. If you’re like me, you usually show up with a predetermined ‘shot list’ that you absolutely have to get. And I’ve sometimes had to remind myself to be more mindful of the moment and actually pay attention to ‘experiencing’ my family affair as opposed to ‘covering’ it.

To do that, I feel it usually comes down to staying emotionally connected to the action.

Here are three ways to help ensure that happens:

1. Snap Your Shots Early
I find the longer you wait to begin taking photos, the less likely it is that you’ll get the shots you really want, and you’ll quickly begin to stress. So whenever you see a natural moment, you’ve got to go for it. You just can’t wait and hope that another opportunity will magically appear later on.

I used to feel that the appropriate time to ask folks to say “cheese,” or gather everyone together for a group family photo was towards the end of the party.

While that may make sense from a social etiquette perspective, you may find any number of variables that foil your plan. Some people may have already left. Others may be tired and a little cranky. And if you do actually get to take the shot, it had better be perfect with nobody’s eye mid-blink, because there will be no second chances for you.
(If you orchestrate the shot earlier, then there’s still time for a second attempt later on.)

2. Take Lots of Group Selfies
You’ve got to pick the right moment, because suggesting that a ‘conversation pod’ suddenly join you for a group selfie will likely halt things. But once you’ve successfully sold the idea, it can be a really fun group activity, especially if you’ve got to jam a bunch of people into the shot. Yes, it will be entirely imperfect, but the often absurd attempt to squeeze everyone together to fit in the frame is usually a whole lot of fun. I highly recommend trying it, and the resulting goofy shots will pleasantly surprise you.

3. Set a Time Limit
This is where you draw your own line in the sand to ensure that you also get to fully participate in the event. I like to spend 20-30 minutes or so walking about the room to get the shots I want. I quickly review what I’ve got, and then I put my camera or iPhone away.

If another photo opportunity spontaneously self generates, yes, of course you can still snap it. But the important point is you’re not putting any more pressure on yourself to continue on as the family photographer after your self-imposed time limit.

It’s a Balancing Act
Where’s the value in documenting your family event if you don’t really experience it yourself? Sure, you may be contributing to the greater good, but at what cost?

So, go get the photos you want, and don’t forget to add to the life of the party.

Find your balance and enjoy!
Thanksgiving Dinner

 

%d bloggers like this: