The photography column, to run each Saturday in Orange County Life, is designed to help both the serious amateur and the weekend shooter and will examine a variety of topics--from where to have your film processed to how to shoot quality Christmas photos. Questions and ideas are welcome and encouraged. Write to: Robert Lachman, Chief Photographer, Orange County Edition, L.A. Times, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, Calif., 92626.
Most people have two things in their wallet--a credit card quickly approaching its limit and a wallet-size photo taken at a fast-food-type studio.
The snapshot just may be one of the better bargains in your wallet. Major department stores, such as Sears and J.C. Penney, can give you pictures more inexpensively than you could do yourself.
But that's not to say that either of these outfits does its own photography. Kinderfoto, with a nationwide network, produces the photos for J.C. Penney. In addition, Kinderfoto runs its own studios in shopping malls that don't have a J.C. Penney outlet.
Sears uses a company called Consumer Programs Inc., based in St.Louis, to produce its photography.
On a recent trip to Kinderfoto at the Mission Viejo Mall, it was Christmas time in October. There were children dressed in holiday outfits, playing with sleds in front of a snow scene. There were even Christmas trees next to a fireplace. You could almost smell the chestnuts roasting on that imitation fire. All that was missing was the mistletoe.
Christmas, it seems, is the perfect time to update the relatives' wallets with new pictures. "November and December definitely are the busiest months," said Cindy Vogel, studio manager for Kinderfoto and J.C. Penney. "It accounts for about 30% of the year's business." It's this Christmas-time volume that allows these companies to give you pictures more inexpensively than you could do at home.
The low cost and the ease of dropping into your local mall makes having your picture made a snap. The shoot itself takes about 15 minutes. The lighting is quite simple. Most studios use one strong blast of light from the front and a small one from the side. If you're looking for a dramatic lighting effect or airbrushing to get rid of wrinkles, you've picked the wrong studio.
Consumers basically have two decisions to make: which backdrop to use and which props should be present. The backdrops vary from simple white or black paper to winter scenes or autumn forests. Props frequently used include stuffed toys, sleds, chairs or boxes.
The quality of the photos is actually quite good. The fact that the exposures and lighting are all preset makes the pictures come out with a consistency.
The only variable is the people who are taking the pictures. Most people who work at these studios are trained to work with children. The key, however, is how comfortable they make you and your children feel during the process. Personal recommendations remain the best way to discover a favorite studio.
The advantage, however, shifts from the consumer to the studio, once the initial set of pictures has been taken. The real profit rests in the number of sales the studio makes when you return to pick up your order. It's next to impossible to turn down photos of your own children, so be prepared to spend more than you had bargained for.
'FAST-FOOD PHOTOS:' MAJOR OUTLETS AT A GLANCE J.C. Penney / Kinderfoto
Packages at J.C. Penney start at $29.95 for 1 10 X 13, 2 8 X 10s, 3 5 X 7s and 12 wallet size.
The sitting fee is $1.95, plus $1.95 for each additional person.
Packages at Kinderfoto start at $26.95 for 2 8 X 10s, 2 5 X 7s and 8 wallet size.
The sitting fee is $1.95, plus $2 for each additional person.
With coupons and studio specials, prices are usually less. Cutoff time for Christmas is Dec. 17.
Processing is in Reno, using Kodak paper.
Locations include Laguna Hills, Huntington Beach, Orange and Buena Park.
Package prices can vary from $12.95 for 1 8 X 10, 3 5 X 7s, and 15 wallet to$21.95 for 1 10 X 13, 2 8 X 10s, 3 5 X 7s and 15 wallet size. It varies week to week, depending on which special is offered.
The sitting fee is $2, plus $2 for each additional person.
Look for coupons for savings added to the package deals. Cutoff time for Christmas is Dec. 17.
Processing is done in Las Vegas, using Konica paper, which carries a guarantee that color will remain consistent for 100 years.
Locations include Brea, Buena Park, Costa Mesa, Laguna Hills, Orange and Westminster.