A New Frame: MFS Tries New Company After 17 Years with Photo Works

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While the students of Moorestown Friends School have changed over the last 15 years, our school pictures have not changed — until now.

The administration introduced Schoolhouse Pictures to the school community this week during picture day. Schoolhouse Pictures is not your average backdrop photo company; “[they] specialize in a modern approach to time-honored school portraits,” wrote Mike Schlotterbeck in an email to the community on Monday. They serve a variety of schools, most of them private, in 17 states across the nation.

Schoolhouse Pictures used the Meeting House wall as a backdrop for the photos.

“The school was excited about the different types of photos and the natural background … [Schoolhouse Pictures] works with so many different Friends schools; they have a sense of the importance of community in a Friends sense,” said Middle School Director Kimberly Clarkson.

CEO and Founder of Schoolhouse Pictures, Mary Beth Kully, reached by email, explained that “millennial parents are looking for a fresh perspectives on school pictures that haven’t changed for generations.”

She added that by using the school as the photo background, it makes the photo “more meaningful and memorable.”

MFS administration was first introduced to Schoolhouse Pictures in February 2016 at the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) conference in San Francisco and liked what they had to offer. Clarkson explained how the division directors met after this conference and thought about the benefits to these new photos as well as the benefits of the “long, long relationship we have had with [previous years’]  company, [Photo Works].” Clarkson added that it was a long process to compare the offerings from four potential photo companies the school was considering.

Kully asserted that is one of the reasons that the company’s natural backdrop and candids have not caught on more quickly.  “[When] schools see Schoolhouse Pictures at educational conferences, they often already have a contract with a picture company for the upcoming school year and say that they would like to try our company next year – that could be two years later!”

Clarkson said the division directors ultimately picked Schoolhouse Pictures because of the individualized photo ordering options for certain prints, ability to see the photos before they are printed, and the personality of the school and student in the photo.

“You don’t have to order a package,” explained Beth Kully, adding that parents can spend “as little as $4.99 to have a school picture.”

“Ultimately, after reviewing all the options there were a lot of things that Schoolhouse Pictures could offer that Photoworks couldn’t offer,” said Clarkson.

Reached via email, Photo Works owners Carl and Cheryl Shatz Petruzzelli wrote that they were “disappointed” to learn they would not be taking MFS’s school photos for the first time in 17 years. “Our goal has always been to provide the best service to the faculty, staff, students, and parents, of Moorestown Friends School.”

Feedback from students has been generally positive.

“At first I was skeptical because I didn’t know if I wanted a full-out photo shoot, but personally, I enjoyed it. I think it gave us a chance to express ourselves,” said sophomore Calvin Bell.

Sophomore Sasha Zekavat added that the different poses made it “fun.”

Both students commented that they wished the school had let them know there was going to be a full body shot ahead of time, because some students were only dressed for photos from the waist up.

Clarkson stressed that they made it clear to both photo companies (Photo Works and Schoolhouse Pictures) that MFS would be trying this new system for one year and would be evaluating everything to see what worked and what didn’t.

“So far it’s been [going] very smoothly, but we still have to see the parents go through the online order system,” said Clarkson.

Clarkson also thanked the parent volunteers, including her husband Blair Clarkson, who kept the picture line moving smoothly and in a timely fashion.

“Even though we take four times the pictures that traditional photo companies do,” Beth Kully said, “our pictures are still available within school picture industry turnaround time of two to three weeks.” This is due to a streamlined process of photographers selecting four different poses, an outside, high volume edit service adjusting color and lighting, and then the barcode software sorting the pictures into student albums. Schoolhouse Pictures makes minor edits and reviews the albums, and then they send an email to the school with the link.

While this week has left everyone intrigued about the new photos, all eyes will be on the ordering process, which is set to begin in a few weeks.

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