Make Copies of School Pictures?

Updated on December 18, 2011
C.M. asks from Bartlett, IL
18 answers

We purchased our daughter's school pictures and they were very expensive! It was $18 for two 5 x 7s or two 4 x 6. We have grandmas and grandpas all over that all want pictures (with divorces all over she has lots of grandparents/great grandparents). If we got them each a 5 x 7 or 4 x 6 it would have cost us $91 for everyone to get one picture. They don't want wallets, they want a nice size to put in a frame.

Do you copy your child's school pictures? I think you're not supposed to because they are the professional property of the photographer. I know I can get copies made at Walgreens for much cheaper than $18! So far we just bought pictures for us because we couldn't afford to get everyone one so no one is getting one...

ETA: Can you do it at the self-serve kiosk? I know Walgreens won't print it if you don't have a release. We tried to get professional pictures of my recently-deceased uncle copied once at Walgreens and they wouldn't do it without a release. My mom said the picture was 10 years old and her brother had just died and this was to be a gift as a memory to everyone. She was bawling at the counter so the manager said it was okay and he made the copies.

What can I do next?

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So What Happened?

Thanks everyone!

I asked my friend who works for a professional studio and he said the photo belongs to the studio so making copies is borderline illegal. That's why Walgreens and Walmart have cracked down!

But then he said the markup is really, really high on prints. That's where they make their money. He charges $25 for an 8 x 10 and he pays only $4 for them at the company that makes the prints. So he makes $21 on the print, which is typical.

Since he's my friend he offered to take more professional photos of my daughter and print them for me at cost. I'm going to get the pics taken and all the copies for $20. What a great friend!

Thanks for the info moms! I know now not to make copies of pro photos, and maybe just call in favors :)

Featured Answers


answers from Washington DC on

I am a pro photographer and yes it is very illegal to make copies of photos that a professional took. If you get caught, the photographer or company can fine you up to $150000. I make this very clear on my contract to my clients that they sign.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

Frankly, just take her to the nearest Walmart photo studio... they usually have some really cheap packages!

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Anchorage on

It is illegal, even at the self serve Kiosk, and if they see you they will stop you. If you want extra photos you either need to shell out for them, or take some nice photos yourself and than you can have them printed up anywhere, legally, without hurting/stealing from another persons business. Because if you think about it, that is exactly what you are doing, stealing form the photographer.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

Frankly, I have done some of both. There have been times that I have gone to professional photographers and bought $300-400 of pictures. Then I find that I'd like a few more of a certain pose. In that case, I DO make copies and I do NOT feel guilty about it. I would feel pretty guilty if I only bought a couple pictures and then went somewhere else to have most of my pictures printed. But I figure that this photographer made a ton of money off me anyway. I do not think that it is remotely reasonable to charge $20-25 per sheet...

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

I do color photo copies. I just go to a copy place and use a zerox machine or whatever they're called. I don't think it's the same as duplicating the picture.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

We scanned our son's school picture last month and ordered copies online thru Walgreens. I got an email saying the pictures were ready for pick-up and in I went, only to be told by the girl behind the counter that they aren't allowed to make copies of school pictures unless I have a "release" from the photo company. Of course I didn't have that and I knew the photo company would never sign a release, so I left without the pictures. I understand, of course - Walgreen's corporate hands are tied for legal reasons. (I was just hoping to save a few bucks!)

We have a decent color printer/scanner and can make very good copies w/ photo paper, which we may do. Can you do the same? Do you have friends or family who can scan/print copies for you if you provide the photo paper?

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

You might want to consider making the copies at home on your printer. If you don't have a color printer they do make life easier. The photo paper has a shiny finish the they look just wonderful when done.

I do them all the time for scrapbooking. I don't like cutting up old family pictures and basically destroying them so I do lots of color copies.

I had the guy at Walmart notice I was making copies of a professional picture once and he came over, took all my copies, ripped them in half and called me a thief. I told him the picture was of my daughter when she was a baby and he said the picture was owned by the studio that did them. I told him it went out of business about 20 years ago. He turned off the machine so I couldn't make any more copies of it. I went to Staples and bought a nice color copier/scanner.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Houston on

As an employee of Lifetouch National School Studios I know that it is illegal to copy the portraits. That is pretty much the bottom line. Think about the example you are setting for your children if you just blow this off. If it is a case of a death or other major problem you can contact the Lifetouch office and usually get a release that will allow you to make copies. Remember that it is someones artistic work. Now as a mother I remember thinking that I held the original copyright on my kids and it did irritate me to no end. Some places will question anything that looks professional. I took pictures of my DIL's family as a favor and just gave them the film to be developed and printed. When they went to have copies made without the negatives they had a real hassle.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I scan all the kids professional pictures and add them to the photo book I make for them each year. I've sent copies of professional pictures to Winkflash for printing and have never been questioned. I did the same thing this year with our Christmas cards.

However, if you aren't comfortable doing that, you can take the kids to JCPenny and have their pictures taken for very inexpensive. They have coupons for $3.99 sheets (1-8x10; 2-5x7; 4-3 1/2 x 5) and free sitting fees.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

I always order the smallest package possible that still comes with a CD. Buying a CD means you alway buy the copyrights, so you just print their copyright release and take it with you to the store and you're good.

I have one kid in school and one in daycare, so I've been a bit dishonest in that I only actually pay for the CD for one of them and have just used the release for both. I know that's not the right thing to do, but ordering pictures is rediculously expensive. Next year they'll be in school together, so I won't be doing that again.



answers from Minneapolis on

If you don't have a scanner at home, just go to a self-serve kiosk and scan it. I did that with a picture from my stepdaughter's wedding. I used it to make 25 Christmas cards.

I did this at Kinko's last year.



answers from Seattle on

Talk to your school.

The ones around here hire digital photographers who sell a CD for $20 that had the picture on it. You can print your own. I'm surprised to hear of schools that don't hire studios these days with this policy.



answers from Chicago on

That is nice that your friend will take pics and print at cost for you. Another idea is to have pictures done once a year at JCPenney. They do a really good job and they are really inexpensive! If you go to the Vernon Hills center, Beth is one of the photographers and she is great! I do not purchase school pictures, except for the class picture because they are way to much money.



answers from Los Angeles on

The self-serve kiosk is hit or miss. Sometimes an employee will kind of walk around and look to make sure that you aren't copying professional photos. I've seen them refuse to let people purchase copies even after they've been printed out.



answers from Seattle on

So strange that no one seems to be able to do it.

I get our pictures done at JcPenney and then make bunch of extra copies at Walmart many times at their kiosk. Maybe it depends on what state or town but I've never had a problem and have had employees help too!

I don't see it as stealing because you paid for the pictures and their services so why should it matter if you make more copies. What would be the difference if you did it at a local store copies or at home? Just my opinion. If ones illegal then the other should be too. But I really don't think it is.



answers from San Francisco on

It's illegal. The self Serve Kiosks have a message that you check saying you aren't copying copyrighted materials and that you have ownership of the photo.

Since a copy isn't tangible like a piece of jewelry or a car people have a hard time realizing that it is considered stealing by law.

IF you want to be on the up and up, why not read a little bit about photograpy online, take your own photos (you can get some good ones from an inexpensive camera) and share those. I bet you can get better photos of your kids than the school photographer in most cases. In this day of digital, work with quantity! Experiment and take a gazillion pics and chose the best one. Instead of a 5 x 7 print out 4x6s. You could take it a step furter and get a frame for a 4x6 or some Christmas cards hold 4x6 photos. A little more work but very rewarding and fun.

I spring for the CD now as I like to use the photos in photobooks and want it to be legal. Not a judgement if you don't, it's up to you what you are comfortable with doing.

I'm going to research the laws regarding old photos. I'm wondering if at some point they are considered "public domain" Magazine articles unless the copyright is renewed expire after a number of years...... I'll update for others if I find something useful. Otherwise if we did follow the laws as stated here, old photos could be lost for good if they aren't copied.

ETA: Found a promising source -

First off it explains almost all photos pre 1923 are public domain. Helps me but how does one prove this? HMMM. It also has links to this law and others. I won't post them all but if someone needs it looks like a good place to start.



answers from Omaha on

I always try to buy the cd or digital download of pictures. It costs a little more, but that way they become my property to do with as I wish. Otherwise, you will probably have to scan them on a home scanner or take your own snapshots instead. I always have to produce a written release for new pictures I had printed at Walmart.



answers from Philadelphia on

after my mom died i took her picture of santa with my brother and I. I tried to make copies at the self serve kiosk at walmart and they would not print them. The store we went to for those pictures closed 20 yrs ago... so am I SOL.
unless you find a place that does not care you are going to have to do it yourself at home. Or just take a cute picture of you children with your own camera and make prints of those....

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