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Tag: Lifetouch school photos

Why You Should Spend More for these Backgrounds in your Lifetouch School Photos

It’s another Picture Day! Here’s why choosing the right background is the most important part of your kid’s Lifetouch Picture Day portrait. And what exactly is the right background…?

Our son’s 7th grade school ‘Picture Day’ is coming up, and it’s time again to decide which Lifetouch photo package to order. Sure, it’s nice to have another official ‘portrait,’ but I’ve already got plenty of photos of our twelve year old. For me, the reason to pay for yet another Lifetouch picture is only if it visually represents a specific moment in time. If you can’t tell it’s his 7th grade photo, what’s really the point?

While you can also write that detail on the back of a physical print, it’s best if the photograph itself displays the year or his grade.

The Two Best Digital Backgrounds
The ‘standard’ background offered in the less expensive photo packages is relatively useless. It’s just a colored background. That gives no indication that it’s a school portrait from a specific year.

In the old days, it may have been worth it to have one of these generic ‘professional photos’ for the coffee table. But today, come on… aren’t we all photographers who are capable of capturing countless amazing moments of our children to frame?

The standard background is a non-starter… I don’t need it. Don’t want it. Not worth it.

And remember, the portrait is shot on a green screen. In the post production process, the digital backgrounds can be easily changed with a click of a button. It really costs nothing to switch them around. (This is all about the perceived value of something, and what people will pay for it.)

Here are the two best digital backgrounds:

  • 7th Grade
  • 2022-2023

Either of those backgrounds provide the critical context. Without context, the photos aren’t school photos.

So, will you pay more for the right background in your kid’s Picture Day photo?

That’s certainly the hook for me.

The Digital-Only Package
I really only require the digital file of the portrait. (I can print out my own photos, thank you very much.) There’s no need to pay a premium for a physical print.

Clearly Lifetouch knows this, and they’ve been pretty stingy over the years giving up digital files, and they baked them into the more expensive packages.

Happily, this year, Lifetouch offers a Digital-Only Package for $34.99.

For that price, you get two digital files and no physical prints. It’s actually the same photo, but you get that generic background with the first photo file. Fortunately, the second photo file can have the background of your choice.

So really, you’re getting one jpeg for thirty five bucks.
(Then, you’ve got to print it out yourself, if you want a hard copy.)

The Basic Package
By comparison:

The least expensive Basic Package is $19.99.

  • You get one digital file with the awful standard background
  • And a few physical pics with the same standard background

Not interested.

And what do the more expensive packages get you?

The Plus Package
The $49.99 ‘Plus Package’ provides:

  • A whopping 5 digital files with the background of your choice
  • Plus your kid’s name and grade listed on the bottom of the photo
  • And all of the prints you’ll never really need (1 8×10, 4 5×7, 2 3×5, 8 2×3 wallets)

Do I need 5 digital backgrounds? No, not at all. (Only the two matter to me.)
Do I need all of those prints? Nope.

All that said, is it nice to have a couple prints? Sure. That way, I don’t have make the effort to print anything out. It’s delivered and done.

Delivered and Done
Is it worth $15 more to get what I really want and not have to boot up the Lester Printing Factory?

Or should I just spend $35 on the Digital-Only Package to get the one usable file and call it a day?

I’m sure the execs at Lifetouch have spent a fair amount of time noodling over this exact question.

$50 for what you want or $35 for what you need?

On, the Plus Package is promoted as “Best Value.”
After all of my griping on this topic, I must admit…that much is absolutely true.

Plus it is.


Fifty Bucks a Year?
Will I ever break free from my annual spend for Picture Day?

(I certainly haven’t reached escape velocity yet.)

But here’s one way to resolve my ongoing dilemma, if at least at least for another year…

At the end of the day, all I really want are the digital files with the background of my choice. Plus.. maybe one physical print for the convenience of not having to do it myself.

And how much does Lifetouch charge for an extra 8×10?

So by choosing the Plus Package for $49.99, I’ve actually saved myself two bucks!
(By comparison, the Digital Package plus the à la carte 8×10 print = $52)

I call that Lester Math Logic.

Happy Picture Day. And don’t forget to smile.

The Best Way to Order Lifetouch Photos after Picture Day

Take it from a parent who has done this four times already… you’ve got to keep it simple when approaching your Lifetouch photo order. And it all boils down to one important detail…

It’s that time of year again at my son’s elementary school… Picture Day. Lifetouch photographers arrived to take individual photo portraits of all of the students. And of course, I’m one of the parents who’s always guaranteed to buy a picture package. I’m not exactly sure why it feels so important… why I need my son’s official fourth-grade photo. It’s not like I don’t have any pictures of him. Heck, I’ve even got a cool collection of pics I snapped as he walked into his first day at school this year. Couldn’t one of those be his fourth-grade picture? Apparently not.

I think I still suffer from a 19th-century belief-system that a posed and sometimes awkward-looking photograph is the official way to visually document a family’s history. And I’m not alone. But today, we don’t really need a professional photographer to take a simple shot of our children in front of a green screen. We’ve got skills, right? Even a smartphone could get the job done. In fact, why couldn’t kids simply take selfies of themselves on school picture day? It would be fun, easy and essentially free.

I know I might get a few nasty letters from angry parents and Lifetouch (now owned by Shutterfly) even for suggesting this radical idea. But if I could put on my futurist hat for a moment…. I wonder how solid the annual school photo business model will be in a few decades when today’s kids grow up and become elementary school parents.

But I’m getting ahead of myself…

So Many Hurdles
It’s still today, and I’ve again got some Lifetouch photo-ordering decisions to make. I’ve gone through this exercise for the past four years… As simple as the photo-package choices appear, every year it’s still a relatively complicated online purchasing process to figure out exactly what you’re getting. And it’s expensive.

The truth is, all I really want is the one digital file of my son’s photo. I can handle the rest. But that’s not a business model for any kind of profit… so the digital file is never something you can purchase just by itself.

So, I inevitably select a more expensive photo package than I need, and I’ve tried to maximize the value of my orders by choosing different backgrounds for as many of the physical photos I end up getting.

And I’ve done all of this without the benefit of seeing my son’s actual portrait ahead of time. (This blind-selection process is also a business model that really shouldn’t stand the test of time.)

And now, as I go through all of this again for a fifth round, I’ve had a parental epiphany… I’ve realize I’ve been looking at this all wrong!

Let the Background Tell the Story
I thought I was being clever by ordering lots of different digital backgrounds in my photo package. In fact, that detail is entirely irrelevant. You’ve got only one image of your kid to work with. One background is all you really need, because different backgrounds really can’t obscure the reality that it’s still the same picture!

And the other mind-bending reality I’ve finally figured out is the image of my kid is mostly irrelevant. As long as he looks okay and isn’t mid-blink, that’s not the central element of the photograph. This picture isn’t really about him…

I’ve realized the most important part of my son’s school portrait is the ‘when!’ It’s his ‘fourth grade’ photo.

And to reflect that, this year I’ve chosen the digital background that says…
“4th Grade.”
That’s it. That’s the piece that matters most.

Maybe you’ll prefer the background which displays the year. I think that’s okay too. But in future years, you’ll later need to do the math about which grade that was.

For me, all that matters is the digital background choice that displays the school grade. That’s the whole point of the picture.

And that also gives the photo some long-term value. Otherwise, it becomes just another one of thousands of photos that will briefly cycle through your consciousness or social media stream.

Finding the Joy of Simplicity
So suddenly, this whole Lifetouch ordering exercise is so simple. Just choose the background with your kid’s grade. Everything else is like buying the extra undercoating on a new car.
(They don’t really do that anymore, but you get my point.)

Try not to buy a bigger and more expensive package than you need, and please don’t forget to select a package that gives you access to your digital file via Shutterfly.

Pencils down.
It’s time for juice and cookies…

Best Lifetouch School Portrait Looks for 2018

If ordering your Lifetouch school photos feels a bit like the complexities of AP calculus, then I’ve got a few shortcuts to the best Portrait Looks…

It’s Picture Day! Your child is having his or her photo taken by Lifetouch at school. Congratulations. Now, it’s time to order your pictures. Are you overwhelmed with all of your Lifetouch photo choices? Well, join the party…

Last year, I rolled up my sleeves and tried to figure out which photo package was the best one to go with. If you’re interested, here’s my exceptionally detailed book report on the subject.

If you’d prefer to read the CliffsNotes version…
…Then, I say you should go with the Premium Package for $49.

You get:

  • Twelve 2×3
  • Four 3×5
  • Four 5×7
  • Two 8×10
  • One 8×10 Calendar
  • One 8×10 Class Picture
  • And the Portrait CD

No, you’re probably not going to be able to hand out all twelve of those 2×3” wallet photos, but you’ll get less value with the less expensive packages. Plus, none of the cheaper packages include the Portrait CD with all of your digital photo files. And for me, that’s the most important item!

In this digital age when thousands of pictures can be taken of your little darlings for free using your own tech, It does feel a little crazy to be spending this much money for one picture. But granted, it’s a ‘professional’ shot, and yes, you’re paying for some photo paper stock.

So let’s move on and figure out how to make the most of what you’re getting…

Choose a Variety of Portrait Looks
I think the hidden trick to the ordering process is to pick as many different backgrounds (Portrait Looks) as you can. It’s easy to do that by selecting a different background in each of the photo sizes. And then… they all show up on the Portrait CD!

So that’s where you’re getting additional value, because suddenly you’ve got eight different photos on the CD. Granted, they’re all using the same shot, but they feel different with the variety of all the digitally inserted backgrounds.

Now, you’ve got a wide range of choices when you want to print any additional pics yourself…

The other important detail to keep in mind is some of the Portrait Looks use a wider version of your child’s photo and others use a cropped version. I think it’s nice to include both.

You Can’t Copy Last Year’s Choices!
Since I did my exhaustive research on this last year, I figured I would just copy my choices and be quickly done with the ordering process this time. But guess what…?

They changed the numbering for the Photo Looks this year!
(That’s worse than “my dog ate my homework!”)

So, I had to go through it all over again online at
But that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, because there’s been some evolution to my thinking on the best Portrait Looks…

Go with the School Backgrounds
I say the backgrounds for the Portrait Looks you choose should specifically reflect the fact that these are actually school photos. And you should include Photo Looks that reflect the year or grade. Generic-colored backgrounds are so… generic. They can be taken anywhere at any time.

Sure, a colored background doesn’t date as quickly, but then again… why would you really want someone to be looking at last year’s photo anyway?
(You know how I feel about sharing old pictures of your kid.)

Barrett’s 2018 Lifetouch Order

Here’s what I ordered in my Premium Package
to celebrate my son’s third-grade year.
Please feel free to copy my homework…

Eight 2×3 Wallets
Choose: Look #112 in ‘Pick Your Grade ‘
Blackboard with 3rd grade/Tight/Horizontal
(You need a tight shot of your child here, because these are so small.)

Four 2×3 Wallets
Choose: Look #78 in ‘Outdoor’
Edge of brick building/Sidewalk and tree/Tight/Vertical
(An outside shot is nice as long as it looks real!)

One 8×10
Choose: Look #140 in ‘Pick Your Grade’
Blackboard with 3rd grade/Wide/Horizontal
(This is the ‘money shot’ I like to frame at home. It says it all.)

The Other 8×10
Choose: Look #54 in ‘School Days’
Bookcase and window/Wide/Vertical
(Go with a vertical option, since the other 8×10 is horizontal.)

CD High and Low Resolution
Choose: Look #90 in ‘Special Edition’
Grey background/Wide/Vertical/2018/2019
(Go for a wide shot… that gives you the most flexibility in cropping.)

Four 3×5’s
Choose: Look #50 in ‘School Days’
Blackboard with year and apple/Tight/Horizontal
(Again, because it’s a small print.. go with a tight shot.)

Two 5×7’s
Choose: Look #1 in ‘Featured Looks’
Blue Background/Tight/Vertical
(Okay… for this one, I’m going with the classic blue background. You’ve got to have one, right?)

The Other Two 5×7’s
Choose: Look #67 in ‘School Days’
Classroom background with American flag and window/Wide/Vertical
(Go wider on this set.)

One 8×10 Calendar
They don’t give you a choice here. Please move on!

Pencils Down!
Phew! I hope that helped you get quickly through this complicated homework assignment. Enjoy your photos!

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