Lifetouch: Little Photoshop of Horrors


Minnesota-based Lifetouch, which employs thousands of photographers to produce student portraits and high school annuals nationwide, had a lot of explaining to do this week after it sent a very strange shipment of yearbooks to one Dallas-area high school.

How strange? As the Dallas Morning News reported:

Imagine posing for a yearbook photo and ending up with someone else’s body – or looking nude – in the final product … Some girls’ heads ended up on boys’ bodies, and vice versa. Some necks were stretched, and some outfits were altered … One girl’s arm is missing … Multiple students have the same body and clothes. Some shirt colors were changed, while patterns and wording on other shirts were wiped out. At least 34 students had someone else’s body.

Lifetouch babbled disingenuously about “misinterpreting” the school’s “guidelines” in its initial attempt at damage control. But after company VP John Bryant met with school officials this week, the company came clean. Apparently, Lifetouch employees engaged in the Photoshop mangling in a clumsy attempt to cover for another screw-up. According to Bryant:

…images that were being worked on became cropped and were saved at a high resolution. The photos were then altered once it was realized that it was too late to resize them. Pictures were cropped because the initial photography had not followed the industry standard of shooting all photographs the same size.

Such Keystone Cops shenanigans are surely not the image Lifetouch wants to project — especially now. Because Lifetouch’s business model faces upheaval in the form of a Web 2.0 upstart called Picateers.

As VentureBeat reports:

School photos are a pretty big racket with an old-style approach to doing business. Parents have never been that happy paying exhorbitant prices to companies such as Lifetouch … Larry Jacobs, a former manager at Oracle and IBM … founded Picateers to let parents take over the school-picture program. Jacobs finds volunteers among parents to shoot the pictures of kids. They then upload them to the Picateers site, where parents can view the shots and select the ones they want to buy.

Then Picateers delivers the pictures to them for about the same cost as what Lifetouch charges … But the powerful part of this Web 2.0 approach is that PIcateers gives back half the proceeds to the schools. Lifetouch … can’t give more than 15 percent because of its overhead…

The company launched a beta program last August and is doing a full rollout this coming August. Now there are more than 300 schools, from preschools to high schools, participating in the program … There is plenty of room for growth. The Photo Marketing Association estimated last year that 22.7 million households bought school portraits in 2006.

With this kind of challenge afoot, Lifetouch CEO Paul Harmel better have a good head on his shoulders. Preferably, his own head.

[tags]Lifetouch [/tags]


6 Responses to “Lifetouch: Little Photoshop of Horrors”

  1. It could be that they were just playing around and saved it to the wrong file. I work for Lifetouch and sumetimes people play around like that. We have orientation every year and are told not to do so, but people will do things like that. It could be that there wasn't a lot to do that day and they were just killing time to get some hours in.
    Like, this time of year we are slow. Some of us drive a long distance to get to work and get there with nothing to do and have to go home without getting enough hours in to even pay for our gas because the management who of course isn't affected by short hours since they are salaried don't have enough courtesy to call and tell us not to come in, so people sumtimes drag the time out to get a little something on their checks.

  2. We tried Picateers. Thanks for nothing. They have already lost our pictures and shut downm operations...... you are an idiot and have no idea what you are speewing ///
    What a waste of time you are.

  3. That was crap. I remember the yearbook lady that year required all photos to be altered to meet "Her" standards. If a kid wore an inappropriate shirt then she wanted it digitally changed on their body. She even approved the final images after the photoshop was done. I think she made them redo it like 4 or 5 times. I guess they missed some little things when re-editing over and over. I know I would probably miss something. What is crappy is that I don't think she ever told the students or anyone that this was being done. So when that girl got her head on another body it was because that teacher said that her shirt was inappropriate and she made those people change it in photoshop or something. I am glad I don't go there anymore. It's all very shady if you ask me..

  4. I worked at lifetouch and I can honestly tell you John that yes they would do things like that. They are not the greatest company and if people were smart they would get pics taken at Olan Mills or someplace other than Lifetouch. When a mistake is made management lies their way out of it by firing or trying to fire someone else for it so they come out smelling like a rose. Well they are the guilty ones but don't want to look foolish (too late there) so they lay the blame on others. Stuff like that is not supposed to get past them but the truth is they can't be bothered with trivial things like that.

  5. Lifetouch STINKS! Their site form does not match the forms they hand out to parents. They claim you can pay by credit card, but that you need an access code. Online they claim it’s on the form, but it isn’t. Then when you get online, they claim that this code only applies to their Expressions First club, which they don’t mention on their form.
    How this company stays in business or why the schools always use them is beyond me.

  6. I work for Lifetouch and it is a Wonderful company. Like any company out there, you are going to always have that person or persons who mess with things, or may mess up for whatever reason. Alot of the time, it is the school who makes it really difficult to deal with. Constantly changing things and never satisfied no matter what. And for the paying by credit card, that is true that you need a code. That is done because of people who rip us off by giving us bad credit card numbers. Before, the card didnt get ran until it got to the lab and went to a whole different department. The pictures would get printed and sent before the bad card was detected by the payment dept. So for all you who arent honest out there have messed it up for the rest. And by the way, Olan Mills is now owned by us, we have bought out alot of large photography companies in the past few years. So we cant be doing that bad. Like I said, Not All Companies are perfect. There will always be something that goes wrong.

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