Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A Fourth Open Letter to Lifetouch School Portraits

Dear Lifetouch School Portraits,

I really don’t mean to keep taking up so much of your time writing you these letters, since I know you are very busy this time of year taking and printing all those pictures no one ordered. But, since you took the time to once again capture the essence of what my three boys look like on a day when we weren’t planning to have them photographed, I thought I would give you my thoughts on this year’s “spring pictures.”

Fall pictures are a head shot, which is helpful, since at no time is it possible to keep an entire boy clean. While it would be a lot easier if the photos were of the middle of their back – the spot that tends to stay the cleanest on a young boy – I understand the importance of taking a picture of the actual face. We do what we can do, and hope for the best.

With the spring pictures, on the other hand, you went with the full-body sitting position shot. That is problematic. Now again, I don’t mean to keep harping on this point, but you took pictures of my boys even though I didn’t order any, and then you spent your time and money printing them out on photo paper and plastic trinkets, and then spent even more of your time and money delivering them to me. Since you did that, I’d like to take some of my time and some more of yours highlighting why it is really silly for you to do that.

Let’s get back to the full-body sitting position shot. I assume you have your copies of the pictures in front of you. If you will notice, all three of my boys are wearing T-shirts and soccer shorts. I think that should have been your first clue that we really meant to not order pictures. Actually, your first clue should have been that none of my kids were holding an order form, but I think I’ve beaten that one to death. Nevertheless, their casual outfits definitely should have been the clue to not go for the full-body shot.

Also, as I highlighted in my last letter, the art project chalk and glue incident that I was responsible for in Son Number Two’s class prior to pictures that day was very evident on Number Two’s shirt. And arms. And hair. And face. I think that probably should have been another obvious clue to narrow the picture area down as small as possible. Maybe an artsy shot of just his forehead and eyes?

Again, very sorry about all the chalk and glue on all those kids. That was just bad timing.

Besides my multi-colored third-grader, let’s talk about the other two for a minute. I think I told you last year in my first letter that we let our children dress themselves on normal days. If I didn’t mention that, I think it’s fairly obvious based on these pictures. Did your photographer really look at Son Number Three’s outfit and think to him or herself, “Yes. This child’s parents definitely dressed him for picture day.”?

Grab one of those highly-useful plastic rulers you printed out for me that starts at 3/8” and goes to 5-5/8” and check out that awesome picture on the front. That smiling young lad is wearing a T-shirt featuring a bear in full road leathers and gloves, riding a green motorcycle in front of a U.S. flag shaped like an outline of the United States. Where the hell did we even get that shirt?

Now, I realize that in some parts of the country that would be considered “picture day attire,” but this is not Arkansas.

The stylish red-on-maroon outfit anchored by the grass-stained Adidas sweatshirt on Son Number One also makes quite a statement. The statement is, “My parents don’t need or want you to take my picture today, and they certainly don’t need you to then print and send them the pictures they didn’t want in the first place. And by the way, what the hell is going on with the plastic rulers? What am I supposed to be measuring with this? If I bother to get out a ruler, it’s almost certainly because I want to know how long something is, which this ruler will not help with in the slightest.”

Who knew an outfit could say so much? But there it is.

I see you’re going a new route with the backgrounds this year. Last year the big special effect was a shimmering frosty edge to the pictures, but this year you went all green screen on us. I see my three boys have been magically transported to four different wonderlands in this unsolicited picture extravaganza you sent me; Pleasant grassy meadow, nice old barn, peaceful riverbank, and mysterious wooded trail.

The only problem I can see with this new approach is that in each scene they are perched on the same fake plastic rock that in all honestly, looks like a giant cow pie. As you can see, since it wasn’t picture day for our family, despite the fact that it was picture day for you, they wore shorts. (As also stated above in possible large clues that you didn’t need to take their pictures at all, let alone send them to me.) Anyhow, the jaunty cow pie pose really shows off their knees and shins, effectively cataloging about sixty-four separate bruises and scrapes between the three of them, in various stages of freshness and healing.

Not awesome.

The thing that really gets me about these spring pictures you sent me for no reason is the smiles. I mentioned our sons’ Forced Smile Disorders in previous letters. I think it’s funny, but it has plagued my wife for years. We have needed retakes for every fall school picture since the very first one, yet somehow, during this unsolicited spring picture session, you managed to get two of our three boys to smile naturally. How is that possible? Maybe they thought it was funny that you told them to sit on a giant turd? Who knows?

(By the way, I don’t blame you for Son Number One’s smile. It has become clear to us that nothing can be done about it. He has looked like a severely constipated serial killer in every posed picture ever taken of him. Don’t beat yourselves up.)

That’s about it for my thoughts on this year’s fantastic picture packets that I will neither be purchasing nor returning. I do have one new suggestion for you that should cut down on your overall budget, if that is something you’d be interested in:

Maybe instead of spending all this manpower on unwanted pictures in the spring, you could just take a few extra seconds in the fall to try and get a natural smile out of the boys. Maybe tell them a joke about giant turds. They think those are hilarious.

Just a suggestion.

Again, very sorry about the whole chalk and glue incident,

All my best,


Copyright © 2015 Marc Schmatjen

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