As a mother of three young children — ages 2, 5, and 7 — I take dozens of digital snapshots every day, through every activity, be it a mundane or milestone moment. And yet, I’ve always cherished their official school photos, starting when my eldest was in preschool and the photographer captured my daughter alongside some details of who she was at age three: Her favorite color was pink and when she grew up, she wanted to be an elephant. The following year, my son joined the preschool, and on picture day, his big sister helped him brave the camera lens. The result is my favorite picture of them, holding hands no less, that now hangs in our living room. These class pictures have given me a glimpse of who they are on their own, without me. I love it.
With approximately 57 million K-12 students in 132,853 U.S. schools — and each one getting a school photo — it’s no wonder the industry pulls in $1.6 billion a year, according to IBISWorld, a Los Angeles-based market research firm.
Photographer Kim Marchesano, who works with preschools and the middle school in her hometown of Kinnelon, New Jersey, says she also sees high demand for her school photos year after year, especially for prints.
“While I do offer digital-only packages, the most popular is one of the print packages,” Marchesano says. “That’s kind of surprising these days.”
Indeed, even in this social-media-driven age, in which people can (and do) obsessively document every minute detail of their children’s lives, the school photo still holds a special place in our hearts.
“The school picture is a cultural thing,” says industry expert Robert Ste-Marie, president of 36Pix, a Montreal-based school portrait company that prints school photos on HP Indigo digital presses. “Every year, you get that moment when you can record what your children look like at that point in time, and the value for a print copy will always be there.”