Last year, I agonised over whether or not to buy my son's school photograph. Then aged 6 and a half, his front teeth were missing, the rough and tumble of lunchtime play had left his hair looking like a fright wig and his tie was wonky.
But I relented. I had to really – I'd already spurned the one from the year before when he looked more like an angry baked-bean encrusted chimpanzee in a school uniform than a sweet little schoolboy.
Then there was the whole-school shot the same year, where he was snapped in profile when everyone else was looking ahead. I wasn't going to pay £30 for a picture of 300 children I didn't know, and a side-on shot of the ear and nose of the one I did.
As each school photo session rolls round, I find myself questioning more and more whether there is actually any point of them at all now; we can all take pictures on our phones, most of us have digital cameras and the facilities to print our snaps out at home. Has the school photo had its day?
"I can honestly say they are a waste of money, and unless I really like them I wont be bribed into buying them," says Sharon, "I have boxes of school photos from my two who are now 31 and 27, and now having my granddaughter living here, I have all hers, too. And apart from doting grannies and aunties, who really wants to see them?"
Exactly – sorting out a cupboard the other day, I came across a dozen 'wallet-size' snaps of my son from Year One, plus four 'desk-size' framed prints and a clutch of out-of-date, unused, photo calenders. What on earth are we supposed to do with them all? And why would I want to inflict a photo, bookmark, calender or key ring on family and friends? I'm sure even grandparents tire of school pics after the first year's worth.
"I dutifully bought them all at first unless they were really dreadful, but stopped after a few years as the house got cluttered with unflattering keyrings, bookmarks and all the other stuff they guilt-trip you into buying," says mum of two, Tricia, "And, although the school is quite good at making them look respectable, one year the photographer decided to whiten their teeth in a group pic and made them all look like Goofy..."
Ah yes. Making them look respectable. One of my main bugbears about the pics generally is that my son will always, without fail, have either a tuft of hair sticking up or the remains of his lunch crusted in the corners of his mouth. Why on earth can't the teachers – or even the photographer – hand around a packet of wet-wipes before the pics are taken, and encourage a bout of hair brushing?
"The kids do look dreadful in the school pics as a general rule," says mum-of-three Milly, "And the packages cost a fortune and are never in the combo I want. Generally, they're an absolute waste of money."
I agree – the package configurations particularly rile me – this year, the best option seemed to be a 'family value pack'. It cost £25 and was still far more than I needed or wanted, but it was the only way to get a large picture for me, and two smaller ones for each set of grandparents – what I'll now do with the four desk pictures, eight passport sized snaps and half a dozen bookmarks it also comes with, I have no idea.
"I bought the whole caboodle what with it being Immy's first year," says mum-of-one Emma, "I do love the pic actually but then my daughter is sickeningly photogenic. I did mull over what one of the mum's said though – it's probably not actually allowed, but I'm sure most people are doing it – buying just one copy in a medium size then copying them for the relatives... If I'd have done that I wouldn't now have 30 photos on my hands..."
What do you think about school pictures?
A rip off, or a lovely must-have memento of your child's school days?
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