Thursday, November 24, 2016

My Walmart Photos Unlimited/On-Location Photography Experience

And with good reason!
A few weeks ago we needed to get Baby's passport photo. Based on a recommendation, we headed over to the Photos Unlimited shop located inside the Dufferin Mall Walmart.

While we weren't able to walk right in, after about a 10-12 minute wait, they were able to see us. The woman we dealt with explained how Baby needed to be posed and how we could help. Since Baby can sit up on her own, we plopped her down and hoped for the best. And to my surprise, the photographer got the photo on her first try.

So that turned out to be a very quick and easy experience and because of that, I completely recommend the the Photos Unlimited located found inside the Dufferin Mall Walmart. The only downside to the whole process was the price: $30.

Not so recommended is the On-Location Photography package that they upsold Husband on. Now, I wasn't at the till when he bought it so I don't know if they gave him the hard sell or just casually mentioned it. I suspect it was the latter because in the days leading up to our Walmart trip, I had been researching cake smash photo sessions, something that runs $200-$300. I have no doubt that when Husband heard that for just another $20 we could secure a photographer to come to our house to shoot the cake smash, he thought this was a great and most importantly cheap solution to my quest.

I have to admit that initially I was bit annoyed that Husband purchased the photo package. While it was a 30-minute long session at a location of our choosing and could feature as many people as we wanted, it would result in one edited shot that would be produced as one 11x14 print, one 8x10 print and two 5x7 prints. Of course, additional copies and shots could be purchased if we wanted. There was no mention of digital copies, which all I cared about.

But since it was bought, I decided to view the situation as motivation to figure out a cake, backdrop and outfit for Baby's cake smash. I figured that we could always do our own photo shoot as a backup.

A few days later, I spoke with someone from On-Location Photography and she reassured me that she's paired us with an experienced baby photographer who knew how to shoot a cake smash. I ended the call feeling pretty good about the whole thing.

Unfortunately that feeling vanished when I talked to our photographer. Our contact got off to a rough start when he called me roughly 24 hours before the shoot instead of the 72 hours I was originally quoted. He initially had the wrong date and didn't seem to know any details of what we had requested, including that he'd be shooting a baby. I prepared myself for the guy not even showing up.

A couple of our proofs
Thankfully I was wrong and in fact, the photographer arrived a few minutes early. But he didn't make small talk, didn't try to warm Baby up (he didn't even ask her name) and didn't have any way of getting her attention beyond moving his hand and having me stand near him. He gave almost no advice or direction and to be honest, didn't seem that comfortable or confident with what he was doing. His gear was a Canon DSLR with a flash; nothing fancy but while I don't know much about cameras, I know that some people can work magic with a smart phone so I wasn't too concerned about that.

The best part about our photographer was that he didn't care that Husband was taking photos on our point-and-shoot camera while I was taking them on my iPhone. Our photos actually looked pretty good and the session wrapped up with me feeling positive about the whole thing

Then on Sunday, we got to see our photos. I'm really, really happy that Husband and I were able to take our own photos because the ones the photographer were mostly overexposed and just not very good. I'm glad we only paid $20 for this package because really, that's all the photos were worth.

But while our experience with the photographer and his work was disappointing, the customer service we received at Photos Unlimited was fantastic. In order to see our photos, we had to sit down with one of its employees and the woman we worked with was warm, friendly and most importantly, agreed that our photos weren't great (apparently overexposed images are a common problem). She knew her stuff and had a few tricks to improve the look of our photos (though unfortunately her software program had minimal editing power).

One of the pics I took
As I mentioned earlier, our package came with one shot. I thought picking this image would be hard but it was actually pretty easy as there was only one cake smash-related shot that looked good (and even then, the photos on my camera looked better). Through the magic of basic editing, we were able to salvage two other shots and we ended up buying them at $20 a sheet. Perhaps in a way it was good that our photos sucked, otherwise we likely would have spent a lot of money on photos.

We've yet to receive our physical photos; they'll arrive in two-three weeks. I did though see samples of other people's photos and the quality looks reasonable, especially considering we put spent $20 on the package. Once I have them, I might try to scan one and then compare it against a photo I took on my iPhone.

While using On-Location Photography did save us hundreds of dollars, it didn't get us great photos. I would not use it in a situation where I (or someone else) couldn't take high quality back-up photos. But for something like a baby's cake smash it worked, if only because it made me get organized.

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