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.)
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…
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?
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
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.