My son had a basketball game yesterday. We had to arrive early because it was picture day, the most dreaded day of all youth sports seasons. Chaos reigned, as always, with teams delaying the photographers so that they could locate players who had wandered away. As a result, all of the games started late and everyone was ready to go home before half-time.
We hate picture day because it is yet another fund raiser that forces parents to either purchase incredibly overpriced pictures or to tell their children that even though all of the other kids are buying pictures, they cannot. It is a no-win situation. Pay the prices of price-gauging photographers or let down your child. Neither is palatable.
Sadly, it seems that every youth organization, from schools to sports and from churches to scouts, has jumped on the “picture day” band wagon. When I was a kid, we had picture day once per year at our school. It provided a nice chronological retrospective of my development. This year, my son will have no fewer than nine picture days — two at school, three in his various basketball leagues, three in his baseball league and one in his flag football league. If we were to purchase pictures at each event, we would easily spend a minimum of $200 for pictures that we could just as easily take (and do take) with our digital cameras.
I can understand that schools and youth organizations need to raise money. I find fault, however, in organizations that try to use the desires of children to leverage those money raising efforts. No parent should be forced to spend money that they do not need to spend, just so that their child does not feel left out of a group. That is just wrong.
With my older son, we often did buy every picture that we were asked to purchase. Perhaps we will look at them in years to come, but my son has now thrown away all of the copies that we gave to him. Also, since the photos are not digital, they are not nearly as versatile as the photos that we take on our own and store on our computers.
With my younger son, we took a different approach. We taught him early on that it was excessive to spend so much money on photos that we could take on our own, and we taught him that if we did not spend money on pictures, we would have money to spend on other things that he might actually prefer. He liked that. Accordingly, we always limit ourselves to buying his school year book which includes many of his team pictures ($25) and a set of baseball cards featuring his image for each baseball season ($12 each, but something that my wife and I really like). We also let our son know that any time he wants to pose for a picture before a game or a practice, we will happily take his photo. Of course, that never happens.
Have you had to deal with an increase in the number of times that schools and teams ask you to pay for expensive photos? Do you pay for the photos or do you pass at each opportunity? How does your child react if you skip the photo sessions? Does he or she feel left out? Do boys and girls handle photo day differently?