Day 157/365: Senior Pictures On A Budget

Senior Pictures

Senior Pictures

High School senior pictures can one of the biggest expenses of your son or daughters senior year.  Some parents pay thousands of dollars to professional photographers for pictures that are often dated and forgotten about just a few years later. If you’re on a budget is it really worth breaking the bank? They seem so important at the time. But, with the help of Hamilton Color Labs and my friend Beth at Vivid Image Photography I created a huge senior portraits package for less than $125.

Many photographers will now provide the original images on a disc and you can order prints at a variety of professional labs. That’s what Beth does. She started out taking portraits of her own boys and has expanded her hobby of photography to taking senior pictures for friends and family. For a small sitting fee she lets the senior pick the location and then provides them the original unedited images to do with what they wish.

Original SOOC

This bridge photograph was originally uninspiring, but I loved my son’s Marine shirt, so I cropped it down to the photo at the top of this post. I loved the tight crop, but since the cropping was drastic the resolution decreased. This I compensated for by creating a sepia effect, creating a blurred background layer, and printing it on a metallic paper at Hamilton Color Labs.

The result was stunning. The Marine wallet became his classmates favorite. My favorite senior portrait was the traditional shot sitting by the hay bale, until I saw the printed Marine wallet. Now the Marine print sits in the front of my wallet.

Top printed on metallic paper, bottom SOOC

Another favorite wallet amongst Davids classmates was the creek image, again printed on metallic paper.  The glaring sun in the original bottom photograph made it difficult to bring out his face and seemed to overwhelm the photograph. By changing the color tone and bringing up the blues in a separate layer this changed the focal point and the metallic paper gave the image a surreal effect which was perfect.

Senior Pictures

By far David’s favorite senior picture was hanging upside down in the barn. As a wallet it didn’t have the same impact, but made a great enlargement. There are those that like the “studio experience”, especially girls, the process mimics a model shoot. Many people don’t have the ability, or time, to edit or create post production effects, but I enjoyed this aspect.

With so many favorite photographs, it was hard to choose, but I didn’t have skimp. Since since I was ordering through Hamilton Color Labs in Omaha Nebraska I could have them all. A sheet of 8 wallets costs less than $3.00, and an 8 x 10 on professional Lustre paper was less than $5.00. Amazing! Check out their prices yourself. This photography lab is the same place professional photographers use, but hobbyist are welcome at this professional processing lab.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t use a professional photographer. There are benefits in their years of experience and camera investment. If I was add up all the post production hours experimenting and put a time value on the process it would be several hundred dollars. But it’s something I enjoy and the end result yielded compliments all the way around. It’s a personal senior gift from me and my best friend to my son.

Hamilton Color Labs

The people at Hamilton Lab are fantastic. My first experience was with Shelli when I brought in my digital files on a USB drive. Not only was she extremely helpful, but we had a lot in common and I felt I had made a new friend. In fact, we are now Facebook friends and she reads this blog. “Hi Shelli!” She has her own blog and loves trying new recipes, check out her cinnamon roll recipe, it’s to die for.

Shelli helped my upload my files onto the lobby computer, noted my sized wallets were smaller than the standard size and pointed me to their website where I could upload them from home. In less than a week the package of senior pictures was finished and I picked them up. Three 8 x 10’s, six 5 x 7’s and over one hundred professional rounded die-cut wallets for less than $40.00, can’t beat the price.

David Hamilton is the owner of Hamilton Color Labs and I met him just last week when I picked up some additional wallet reprints. My son had run out of the “Marine” and “Creek” senior wallets and needed more. We started talking cameras and he was very gracious and informative. The Hamilton Color Lab website offers soft proofing plug-ins for Photoshop on all their papers, and it does make a difference. The colors on your computer screen do not normally reflect how the photo will look on a metallic or Lustre paper unless you change the proof set-up. They explain soft proofing much better though.

I’m going to definitely use them again and look into their gallery options, mounting, framing, lamination services, and other photography services. They do provide nationwide service  so if you don’t live in Nebraska you can use their upload function and have it shipped.