Your Jacksonville, FL Senior Yearbook Photos… The Ugly Truth

Ok, so ugly truth is a bit harsh… it was more that it was fun to use the movie title. But, there are some common misconceptions that can make it yearbook photos an ugly and crazy process. Hopefully this will help clear up the misconceptions and give some guidance to seniors and their parents about the contracted school photographers.

The Truth about the contracted School Photographers

Photography is an interesting industry in our fast paced social media world… one that is largely unregulated. Like any creative industry, there is room for creative expression and customization. But, with that, comes lots of unknowns, and grey areas. This one question “Do I have to use the school contracted photographer, and what does it mean” is one of the most asked questions… so lets chat about it!

Do I have to use ONLY the contracted school photographer?

For your official yearbook senior photo, your school will most likely require you to use their contracted photographer. WHY? well, usually to make the yearbook staff {and advisors} lives easier. Imagine all those photos coming in from all over… or worse, not coming in at all! This puts the burden on a large company and makes sure you are in there… and if not, its a contract between the school and the photographer, which gives you come leverage if they leave someone out {and yes, it happens}. The school photographer usually takes the drape/ suit photo, and a cap and gown {which you will see sometime mid spring- no chance for a re-shoot}. Some local contracted photogs offer additional set ups, and maybe even some outdoor photos. But, its important to note, the ONLY photography you NEED from them is the main one for the yearbook {and that is available on their website}. My advice- TAKE IT EARLY! This way, if you hate it, you have time for a redo!

Now for that ugly truth…

For girls, I do recommend getting makeup done, as their flash tends to wash you out {A LOT}. Each studio is different, and I can only speak to the one we are required to use for my seniors class photos in 2021 {but I think 75% of Jacksonville High school seniors use the same one} but it was pretty dreadful. Plan for a crowded, loud, rushed experience. They don’t do much editing {so I can’t recommend paying for the acne removal, or extra touch ups}. Generally speaking, they are newly graduated kiddos, much like you, and don’t have a lot of posing, lighting or photography experience. My first assistant when I photographed weddings had started with them, so I heard all sorts of interesting tidbits and behind the scenes craziness. Now that being said, I always suggest you tag along with your senior, because its one of the first SENIOR moments they get to have, don’t miss it! But, I would really debate on doing any of the additional photos. I think a lot depends on what you are looking for in your photos, and your experience.

The studio may have you convinced they are you ONLY option, but as I said, I am here to answer your questions, and debunk some of these myths. You have options and should ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I want my photos to look like everyone else’s
  • Have I seen contracted school photos I LOVE?
  • Do you want photos that showcase YOU- your activities, your passions, your personality?
  • Do I want a full experience? or do I want something custom but quick?

While the school photographer might make you feel you need to do their big, crazy {not really} custom package, I can promise you, you will get far more beautiful and original photos from a smaller, custom style studio. Their job is to collaborate with you, design the perfect experience based around what makes you YOU… and not what makes you like every other kid getting a diploma this year. No one look is perfect for thousands of students {brick wall, anyone}. The beauty of independent photographers {ME ?} is that we are not bound by the schools, we have the time and resources, but most importantly, years and years of experience in lighting, posing, and editing, to create not only beautiful photos, but beautiful products as well. All of this comes together to make an amazing experience, and I find one that my past clients say is a favorite of their senior year.

The most common complaint I hear about the school photographer is not the cost, but the quality. Most parents know senior photos are special, and something you only do once. So, they hope that what they get of their senior is amazing. Most times I hear parents say they OBLIGATED to buy the pictures from the contracted photographer even though they don’t even like them. That makes my photography soul die a bit inside…

And now for the next question… why cant I just use my phone for photos… read on to get the details on that!

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