A couple of weeks ago, I get a phone call. I’d filled in a survey at a shopping mall which had entered me into a lucky draw to win a free photo shoot at a studio that specialises in portrait photography. These guys take spunky-looking family portraits – you can see something like it here and here. Initially, I was a bit reluctant. It all looked a bit like a Woolworths ad, and I wondered whether I wasn’t setting myself for feeling wildly inadequate in the face of all the beaming margarine-ad nuclear families the studio seemed to specialise in.
Anyway, I figured it was a gift, and we might as well go along and see whether they would take some nice pics. So we did. As instructed on the very organised email, we took a few changes of clothing and ventured out into the pouring rain on Sunday morning. We made it, despite a flat tyre and a garage door that almost didn’t want to let us out of the house.
The photographer was a young guy called Daniel. While Kolya explored the marvelously empty, white studio, and attempted to topple the massive lights, Daniel reassured me that he’d be mightily impressed if K could even budge them. Apparently the only time he’s managed to knock them over was when he was demonstrating his breakdancing moves to an enthusiastic 10-year-old.
Having photos taken was fun; we tried out a few different colours of T-shirts (for Kolya) and dresses (for me). And that was that.
Daniel explained that he’d need to work on the pics, discard the botched shots, do a bit of touching up, and then we’d have a viewing during the week, for which he set up a time. He sent us on our way with a brochure explaining the various types of prints and images the studio offers, and said we’d be able to decide at our viewing on Wednesday what we’d like to go for.
Downstairs from the studio, the wonderful French patisserie, Cassis, was open. I bought a box of pear and almond tarts to take home for tea. And, later, over tea (and the astonishingly marvelous tarts), I took a look at the brochure. I’m not quite sure what I expected, but I certainly did not expect to find that the most basic print – a square 25 cm x 25 cm print set in a frameless glass mount – would be listed at R599 (apparently a “discounted” price – it’s usually listed at R749). For a traditionally mounted print in a glass-fronted frame, the starting price is R1159 (again, a “discount” – apparently it’s usually R1149). And if you just want to walk away with a CD-ROM of 35 of the images, that’ll set you back a mere R3599.
I called a friend who confirmed a similar experience, except hers had taken her unprepared. She was offered the free studio time as a passed-on gift from a friend of hers. Like us, she got over initial reservations about the somewhat cheesy product, and went along for the shoot with her husband and lovely children, and had loads of fun doing it. She told me about the viewing though:
“It took ages for me to get round to the viewing, because I just had too much on. But when you get there, they put you in these very comfy couches in a dimmed viewing room with funky music, looking at pictures that show your family as pretty much the ultimate, gorgeous happy family. Which of course you can hardly resist buying.”
At the time, she said, she found herself feeling heavily pressured:
“They’ve spent an hour’s studio time, and they’ve spent all this time touching up your photographs, and then they’ve just spent an hour showing you the photographs. So you don’t really feel you can just walk away without buying anything. I got quite carried away, and said I’d go for about R5000 worth of photographs. But then – thank god – the credit card machine jammed. Three times – it just wouldn’t go through. I was sweating with relief… I told them I’d do an EFT, but when I got home I called and admitted, look, this just isn’t a priority for us right now. I think they were really irritated with me. Eventually I went through their winter specials, and I ordered one print, and then I asked if I could take the price of the one free print they’d offered, and use that to offset a bigger size print. Still, they really suck you in.”
I haven’t been for our viewing yet – it’s on Wednesday. And I have no doubt there will be some gorgeous photographs of Kolya that will be very, very hard to resist. At this stage, I’m curious to see what exactly they offer. I can’t help already feeling somewhat conned by the whole setup. I wonder, if they’d explained it upfront, whether I would’ve gone ahead and let them take the photographs. Anyway, I’ll let y’all know what happens. In the meantime, here are some gorgeous photographs of my child. Not professionally taken, but still cute, huh?