I paid $300 for my senior photos and I could’ve done a much better job with an iPhone and a flashlight.
On Oct. 6, the entire senior class got an email from Muhlenberg informing us that opportunities to get our senior photos done would begin soon and to sign up for slots quickly. Students were sent a link that directed us to Lauren Studios’ website, where we could pick from three different types of session: “The Muhlenberg Basic Session” included shots of the student in business attire, and would be free or $5 if you wanted proofs, “The Muhlenberg Graduation Session” included shots of the student in business attire and shots of the students in a cap, gown and Muhlenberg stole/Muhlenberg banner, and would cost $10 or $15 if you wanted proofs and “The Muhlenberg Executive Session” included everything from the other two sessions and additional “executive/career style photographs suitable for business use such as ID cards, job applications, resumes, and social media websites like LinkedIn” (laurenorders.com); this would cost us $20 or $25 if you wanted proofs.
Now maybe this was naive of my friends and I, but we were all led to believe that this initial cost would be the only time we would have to pay Lauren Studios. Nowhere in the sign up information or in the photo session with Lauren Studios did they say there would be a second price to get back my photos. So, you can imagine my surprise when the email came in with the link to my photos and they were asking for a minimum of $175 for printed out photos (and this package only included them printed out on basic photo paper, something that CVS can do for $0.39 per photo.) If you wanted to just digitally download your photos, Lauren Studios requested you pay them $349.95, but they weren’t going to edit them for you. For an edited photo, you would have to pay them an additional $20 or $30 per photo (depending on basic or premium retouching.) Your almost $350 would simply go towards them removing the words off of your photo and then emailing your photos to you in a Dropbox folder, which I was charged a $14 shipping and handling fee for. Phew, that must’ve been hard work. I’m sure glad I paid them that much money.
After speaking with the person in charge of the Muhlenberg’s yearbook, the Ciarla, Kristine Todaro, I learned that the first price that students paid for the basic or graduation sessions wasn’t supposed to have occurred.
“This is the first I’m hearing about this.” Todaro said. “They should not have charged you for that. The deal that we have with Lauren Studios is both the business attire and the cap and gown for free. The sitting is supposed to be free. The deal that we have set up with Lauren Studios is we wanted to make sure students got free senior portraits and a free yearbook. Unfortunately when it comes to the secondary costs, I agree, the prices are pretty outrageous.”
The absurd prices and incorrect charges aren’t the only issues students faced while working with Lauren Studios.
Guilia Gerschel ‘23 said, “They didn’t give me the Muhlenberg banner or Muhlenberg stole for the photo, so I was literally in just a black cap and gown like a judge.”
When I brought this up to Todaro she noted, “The week of October 24th through the 28th—for some reason—the photographer at times did not have a stole or banner and even some students were photographed without a cap and gown even though we had had for them to use.”
In some cases students like Brianna Kovit ‘23 and Sarah Koenig ‘23 reported that they have yet to receive their photos back.
“I never even got my photos back. As someone who is graduating this semester, I was very excited to receive my senior photos. To not receive anything made the entire process not only a waste of time, but a waste of money and effort,” said Kovit.
“I fully never got mine back. I had them taken in mid October and haven’t heard anything since then. It says I have not yet been photographed on their website which is simply not true,” said Koenig.
Todaro was horrified by this. “Oh my gosh. This is not how it worked last year. We had used another company for the 2021 yearbook and they were really having a hard time during COVID and it was really hard for people to get portraits and that was a mess. So I did research and we found [Lauren Studios] who came with better recommendations. They do hundreds of colleges and universities across the country. But there was no charge last year for seeing the proofs. You had access to the proofs and you could pick which one you wanted as your portrait photo for free. The only charge that was supposed to happen is if you wanted [photos] beyond the cap and gown and business attire and if you wanted to buy a package. Those were the only things that were supposed to have additional costs. I am going to fix this and I will have them reimburse the folks who were charged incorrectly, and I will relay that concern to her and tell her that our students would appreciate a heads up that receiving the photos back is an additional fee.”
In a follow-up interview with Todaro, she confirmed that Lauren Studios will be refunding students who paid for the Basic and Graduation Sessions.
This story is not only an issue of a mismanaged company and shocking prices, but of inequity. Every student deserves to have nice photos taken of them to celebrate their hard work and graduation. Asking students to pay prices that many of them cannot afford to pay is extremely immoral. I called Lauren Studios customer service line to speak with them about this and was “reassured” that the company has a payment plan option for students to be able to pay for their photos over time. This simply does not negate the fact that they are asking students to pay the money in the first place.
While Lauren Studios is coming back to campus in January, I hope you decide to not waste your money on them. Instead there are many talented students on campus who can take your photos, such as Louis Cocco, Rachel Fuchs, Britney Jara, Rebecca Clark, Joe Romano and myself. We look forward to hearing from you!