A Sacramento Country Day School Newspaper

The Octagon

SCDS switches from local photographer to national company Lifetouch

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(Photos by Amalie Fackenthal)
Marigot Fackenthal, ’17, said she preferred her ninth-grade ID card from Mira Loma High School to her tenth-grade one from SCDS. Mira Loma’s ID card photo was taken by Lifetouch National School Studio, while Country Day’s was by Swentowsky Photography.

Country Day is switching school photographers for the 2017-18 school year.

The new photographer is Lifetouch National School Studios, which takes pictures for many area schools.

Head of school Lee Thomsen said that SCDS wanted to go “in a different direction” with the school’s photos.

“Every year as a school we look at our business relationships with outside vendors,” Thomsen said.

SCDS has worked with Swentowsky Photography for 10 years, according to Thomsen.

In a previous Octagon story published in print last November and since taken down from the online site at Thomsen’s request, high-school students expressed their opinions about their high-school photos.

In an Oct. 18 poll, 55 percent of 115 students said their photos were fine, 27 percent said they didn’t like them, 10 percent said they hated them and eight percent said they liked them a lot.

Common complaints from those who didn’t like their pictures were unnatural coloring, odd posing and strange Photoshopping.

Sophomore reporter Larkin Barnard-Bahn said she wrote the article after “noticing how often students complained about their ID cards.”

She said that photographer John Swentowsky explained to her in an interview for the article that there wasn’t enough time to make the changes students wanted.

Swentowsky Photography faces a deadline, meaning taking multiple photographs of each student and adjusting lighting to suit students would be nearly impossible, Swentowsky explained in that article.

“When I wrote the story, I hoped that (Mr. Swentowsky would) adopt the tips that the students and parents gave, resulting in better pictures,” Barnard-Bahn said. “It was one of the first articles that I ever wrote; I didn’t expect it to result in anything big. However, I’m glad the school listened to the students’ opinions.”

In an email sent to Country Day parents in  mid-July, Swentowsky, studio director Catherine Ramsey and accounts manager Donna Lauppe said Swentowsky Photography will “miss being (Country Day’s) school photographer!”

“It has been our privilege to provide you with the very best of service and quality, which only a local professional photographer with 38 years of experience can provide,” the email said.

“We’ve enjoyed seeing your children every year and watching them grow up!”

The email goes on to suggest to parents that if they would like the school to continue to contract with Swentowsky Photography, they should contact the headmaster and school administrators.

“After all,” it continues, “you, the parents should have a say in your child’s school photos.”

According to Thomsen, of the parents who did contact the administration, “the majority – I would say all but one – were supportive of the change.”

Swentowsky’s studio director, Catherine Ramsey, said that Swentowsky declined the Octagon’s request for an interview.

The school has a one-year contract with Lifetouch, according to Lifetouch account executive Angela Steinhoff.

“(The contract is) customary – what we do with all of our school partners,” Steinhoff said.

Other high schools in the greater Sacramento area that contract with Lifetouch include Mira Loma High School, Rio Americano High School, and Jesuit High School.

Rio Americano student Ellery Schlingmann said that while she’s never seen odd coloring or Photoshopping in her pictures, she’s also never purchased Lifetouch’s “touch up” package.

Marigot Fackenthal, ‘17, a former Mira Loma student, said her photo in her freshman year at Mira Loma was “much better.”

“It was true to color,” she said. “I looked like me. In my Country Day photos I looked like a different person.”

“I hope that (Lifetouch) does what the students and parents (I spoke to) want: take multiple pictures with good lighting and natural-looking Photoshop effects, if they are applied,” Barnard-Bahn said.

The decision to switch was made after a meeting in early spring of Thomsen, director of technology Tom Wroten and director of communications Julie Nelson.

“We felt that Lifetouch would offer us an ease of capability to do certain things we (want) with the pictures,” Thomsen said.

Barnard-Bahn said she hopes that some of those things include taking multiple pictures with good light and using natural-looking Photoshop effects.

By Sahej Claire

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