Why Are School Photos So Expensive?

In the UK most nursery, primary & secondary schools have a professional photographer come in once or twice a year to take photos, ranging from individual and sibling portraits, to class groups and special events.  The photographer gets paid by selling the pictures speculatively to the parents, and in exchange the school receives images for their management information system and archives.

So why do school photos cost so much?  A simple head and shoulders shot of a child looking presentable is not a lot to ask, and given the small amount of time that the photographer spends on each child, in theory it shouldn’t cost very much.  With pack prices ranging from £8- £50 it is often thought that the school photographer must be making an absolute fortune. However, if the components of the selling price are analysed it can be seen that this isn’t the case:

  1. Commission of up to 25% is often paid to the school.
  2. VAT in the UK accounts for 20% in tax.
  3. Production costs of 35% for staff, equipment, insurance, proof cards, prints, mounts and school freebies.
  4. Photographer keeps 20% if they are lucky.

Remember that this is a speculative sale, so if a parent does not purchase a photo, then the costs outlined in point 3 are not paid for and need to be spread between photos that are purchased or deducted from point 4.

With a digital camera it’s not too difficult to take a decent photo and for a few pounds have prints made on the high street.  With family budgets stretched to the max, a lot of parents can’t afford to spend money on school photos especially when they have several kids. In the UK children are photographed in their school uniforms, which mean that the images look the same year on year. It also doesn’t help that chatter on Mums websites advocate buying the smallest photo possible and scanning it in order to get cheap reprints on the high street.

The bottom line is that school photographers & pro labs are going out of business as the take up rate is dwindling. But it’s the schools that will lose out.  They need images for student identification, and the revenue from school photo commission is essential with education budgets cut to the bone.

With traditional photography methods dying, a modern solution is needed to save the school portrait before it disappears as a relic.

Between the PTA, school admin & IT departments there is usually someone who is good with a camera.  Pics Checkout offers schools the methodology & an online software solution to match the photo with the pupil, to generate images for the school MIS, and offer e-commerce for the school to increase their revenue considerably.

If a school photo cost £5 or even £10 for a digital file, would you buy it?  Please leave a comment.

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Where’s the money in shooting school portraits?

Most schools want the photographer straight in and straight out again – with minimal disruption.  They don’t want admin or distribution hassle – just good, fast images for their data records.  They like products to suit their school and community, high commission rates, and satisfied parents.

The parents want a user-friendly, simple way to see, select, buy and receive the photos of their children.  They want value-for-money, quality products, and a fast reliable service.

Taking hundreds of great portraits is one thing, but the means to efficiently and accurately match each image or series to relevant data quickly is another.  This is the critical point: Your workflow.  Should you hand the job over to someone at the expense of profitability?

The key is that margins increase by streamlining your processes.  Keep your costs low, create additional sales avenues, advertise products, and organise your store.  This will help increase your profitability, eliminate unproductive time at the screen and allow you to focus on what you’re good at – photography.

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