STOW, OHIO -- Here is a running list of the incompetencies I faced at the Stow studio in Ohio: The Stow employee entered in the incorrect spelling of my last name at the initial point of contact. The Stow employee forgot to double-check that all of my purchased pictures were in the carry-out bag. I returned on a separate occasion to pick up what was left out.
The large canvas that I ordered was shipped to this studio after approx. two weeks. When I drove to pick it up, the wrong picture had been put on the canvas. The Stow employee told me that she entered in the correct information, and that the correct canvas would be delivered to my house in approx. two weeks.
After about one week, I called to check on the arrival date of the canvas. Customer Service told me that the canvas had never been ordered. I called the Stow studio and spoke with a manager named Samantha. Samantha was unable to locate the changed order while I was on the phone, and told me it, for sure, would be delivered to my house. I asked her what address was in the system for delivery. She hung up the phone.
Over the next 10 minutes, I called the store multiple times. The first time Joshua answered, apparently heard my voice, and hung up. The second time, Samantha answered, put me on hold, and then hung up. The third time, Samantha answered and put me on hold again for 15 minutes!!! At this point I hung up.
I cannot believe how unprofessional this manager named Samantha was. She was completely unwilling to solve the problems created by her and her employees own incompetence. AND I have yet to hear one apology. I spent over $350 at this store, and 5 weeks later, I STILL do not have the canvas. Next photo session? I will go to JC Penney's, pay half the price, and have MUCH less wasted time and headache.
WESLEY CHAPEL, FLORIDA -- For the last five years, we've used a local JC Penny (owned & operated by LifeTouch Photography) for all of our family portraits. We've been generally happy with that service which, on average, costs $80 and includes a TON of photos PLUS 40 holiday cards. We are also able to purchase at a constant/set price all of the HI-RES images on CD from JC Penny including a copyright release form. This November 2012, we decided to try something different.
At the Wiregrass Mall in Wesley Chapel FL, a new photo studio named "Portrait Innovations" opened for business. In summary, our experience was unsatisfactory. We will never return there nor recommend it to anyone. Here's a list of reasons:
1) Overcrowded studio. The place was PACKED to the point it was severely distracting on several levels. (A) All the children waiting with their families were LOUD, playing in the centrally-located play area as well as (B) throwing balls / toys into the open photo rooms which were currently in-session by different families. (C) It was very difficult to focus on the package choice process, due to the noise level and other customer sitting nearby and staring at the large monitors with all of our personal data displayed (name, home address, phone, etc).
In comparison with JC Penny, there was never more than three families present; the customer currently being photographed, the prior customer choosing their package, and the customer waiting to be photographed next. The JCP studio was ALWAYS quiet and well-mannered.
2) Deceptive marketing. We were enticed by a low-price ad of $14.95. While most ads are designed to lure customers, this one was completely deceptive. When we first sat down to review our photo session, the sales rep's first pitch was for all of the photos taken. Cost? $494.00 USD. I nearly fell off the chair and had to restrain myself not to get up and walk out.
When we asked what the advertisement was offering, we were told it was "CHOOSE ONE POSE ONLY" and have it printed on the variety of formats offered in the ad. This was despite their shooting over 70 images during our session. We definitely feel this was a scam, especially in comparison to our prior years' experience with JCPenny Portrait Studio who never attempted such deceptive marketing measures.
3) Three shots per pose. They only shot three photos of each pose, even if someone blinked or one family member wasn't looking directly at the camera. There was no obvious on-the-spot checking to see if the photographer captured the intended shot. This was not the case with JCP who had a nearby monitor in which they reviewed each and every shot before moving onto the next pose.
4) No placement of subjects/blocking faces. We kept expecting the so-called photographer to place us or, at least, advise us to adjust our positions in reference to the shot and others in our group. This did not occur and, as a result, we had shots where one person was blocking a significant portion of another person's face which destroyed the shot. Again, this is contrary to our experience with JC Penny portraits.
5) No training. When I asked our young photographer where they were trained, they confessed to having NO professional or commercial photography experience prior to working for Portrait Innovations in Wesley Chapel FL at the Wiregrass Mall. They said that the studio offered some training but it focused more on the "protocol" (as they put it; meaning the 3-shots-only as discussed above) and the proprietary software and up-selling process that followed. While I understand that we all have our first job with little to no experience, this does fully explain the other complaints I have mentioned in this blog.
6) No retouching. While many (but not all) of the shots were decent, they all were raw. Neither the sales process nor automated software performed any retouching whereby a photo is "softened" or processed in a way that reduces the wrinkles, blemishes or other imperfections one would get while shooting at the HI-RES (10MB and above) quality that their professional cameras captured. JC Penny Portrait Studio offered this non-intrusive processing on our prior years' photos and it only enhanced the holiday images that were chosen in our package.
For those not understanding what I mean here; the high-resolution photos are intelligently processed by software that recognizes eyes, teeth and other features which are then protected from the "softening" process, so as to retain the crispness of those features. When performed properly, it beautifies the overall photograph.
7) Deceptive CD. (A) The package came with a CD but it only contains the LOW-RES images from the session. Moreover, each digital image has a footer with the studio's name and website address. The studio "encouraged" us to share the low-res images on Facebook and other social websites, clearly at their gain, thanks to the embedded marketing on OUR paid-for photos. Fortunately, using simple and no-cost tools such as WWW. GETPAINT.NET, one can easily and quickly crop off the marking footer from these photos. (B) Following suit with 7A, the CD contains encrypted versions of the hi-res images, in a file-format ".PI2".
8) Digital images are not retained. Session photo images are NOT available online for reordering. In fact, Portrait Innovations was quick to inform us that ALL of our photographs would be DESTROYED after we left the studio. Hence, the CD being the only copy of the session and, regardless of how much money one spent, the images would REMAIN encrypted and would therefore require additional purchasing to order more/different copies... and all this by revisiting the studio with CD in-hand.
This is VERY different from JC Penny Portrait Studio who otherwise provide ALL of the session images on CD - in BOTH high-res and low-res - INCLUDING a digital COPYRIGHT RELEASE thereby allowing the purchaser or their extended families to make copies at any printing facility of their choice such as Walmart, Walgreens, etc.
In summary, we would never again use Portrait Innovations photo studio in Wesley Chapel Florida (nor any other location). Moreover, we would not recommend Portrait Innovations to anyone who would also be upset by the aforementioned issues, should they likely occur during their session.. or by having their precious keepsake digital memories held ransom for a cost.
WATERLOO, IOWA -- We had pictures taken before Christmas. There was to be an ornament sent to us. It never arrived. The day pictures were taken we were treated rudely by not only the photographer but also a manager when we questioned shady sales tactics. So, when our product never arrived over a month later I called and was told she was calling customer service to get details as to why it was being made again and would call me right back. That never happened. I don't like being treated rudely then lied to.
So when I called back again today, yep same treatment. Was treated rudely again and they made excuses why it happened. Only after making a huge fuss they offered me a voucher to be used in their store!!! Why would I pay them a penny more after that! I asked them that same question. She told me I could mail the voucher to the corporate office and they could refund me the money! What a crock of crap!
PLEASANT PRAIRIE, WISCONSIN -- On a trip to meet my new niece in Illinois, I talked my sister-in-law into taking our three children to Portrait Innovations for pictures together. I have been using Portrait Innovations for over 8 years, originally in Colorado, and most recently in Arkansas. At the studio in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, on November 10, 2012, our studio session went great! The photographer was nice, even though her camera battery died just as the infant gave us her best smile of the day - figures, right?
As we were selecting our photos for purchase, I point-blank asked the photographer which package was the smallest package with a CD. She told me the 6 pose package for $129.99 (plus $15 for the gimmick package) was the smallest with a CD. I'll admit my husband is the one with the good memory and he wasn't with me, but I thought that seemed like a little more than we'd selected a few weeks earlier at our Arkansas studio. After selecting our 6 poses, I again asked the photographer if this was the smallest package with a CD. She said yes.
That evening I called my husband to tell him what a great time we had and asked if he remembered what package we'd bought a few weeks earlier in Arkansas. He did better than that - he pulled out the receipt. We had purchased a THREE pose package with a CD for $69.99 on September 23, 2012.
I called the Wisconsin studio the next morning and asked for our photographer. I thought it right to give her an opportunity to explain herself, rather than attacking her to her manager. She said that the 3 pose package had been discontinued. I asked her when that was and she said it was about a month before, when the Christmas backgrounds began being offered. Still not completely trusting the photographer, I called our Arkansas studio and asked if (1) all the studios had the same packages (they said yes) and (2) if they were still offering the 3 pose package with a CD. They said yes again.
This time I called the manager at Pleasant Prairie. She got on the phone and I explained how upset I was that our photographer lied to us! She made no apology!!! I couldn't believe it!!! In fact, she said that her photographer was just trying to help us get a better deal, but that if we wanted to bring three of our poses back she'd refund $15. She said the 3 pose package had increased from $69.99 to $114.99 from September to November! So the price difference from the 3 pose package to the 6 pose package was $15. Furthermore, I couldn't get my refund until the calendars they ordered for us, all poses our photographer selected, arrived via mail!
I decided to eat the $15 rather than drive from Arkansas to Wisconsin to return their items. However, I've learned my lesson. I'm taking bets on how long a company that was great 8 years ago can survive with employees and policies like these. The CD quality has completely deteriorated and they've added an advertisement to the bottom of each picture on the CD. I had been telling my friends in Arkansas about this great studio we'd loved in Colorado that had finally made its way to us in Arkansas. Not anymore.
IF I darken the door of a Portrait Innovations again (solely due to the honesty of the local studio) it will be only for the $15 gimmick package - until they change that too! Be warned - Portrait Innovations lies with no apology!!!
PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA -- Arrived with my 2 year old grandson at 12:10 for my 12:10 appointment to a room full of so many people. There wasn't any room to sit. Then I find out that the one family had been waiting an hour already. So I wait for 20 minutes then go ask the one sales person how long until my turn and she says 2 people ahead of me. So I wait and those 2 families go in and then a 3rd family go in the one room and I say, "Excuse me it is my turn" and they say no I am in the other room. Then the next family go in "my room" and I say, "Ok enough is enough. I am to be next or I am leaving and calling the corporate office!"
So after almost 2 hours I finally got my grandson in for his pictures but by then he was done with waiting and didn't want to cooperate and the photographer/manager had no idea how to take pictures or make a child cooperate or smile. He was completely unprofessional and rude. Then we get to the pictures. The majority of the pictures were terrible. My hands were in the pictures or my arm holding him. He wasn't looking at the camera, etc.
So I buy a couple poses and they want to charge me 6.99 for handling for a "free" mug! And then the printer wasn't working so I had to go back anyway. And I was supposed to get 2 free mugs or mug and ornament but she only gave me one. I WILL NEVER GO BACK TO PORTRAIT INNOVATIONS AGAIN! They are the worst for professionalism, wait time, honesty, and caring.
GRANDVILLE, MICHIGAN -- This was by far the worst experience I have EVER had in getting my children's pictures taken. They do NOT care what the customer wants, what pictures they want done, what their budget is, etc.; they are out for the sale, no matter what. Unprofessional staff, including manager. Wasted an hour of my life I will never get back on something I made very clear I didn't want from the original scheduling of the appointment. They seem to think just because they don't charge a sitting fee that they can override what the customer wants and run their own agenda. I have never been so upset after a photo session.
I will absolutely NEVER go back there and I highly recommend Target, JCPenney, or another portrait studio. Might have to wait an extra week to get your pictures back but it is well worth it in the end. I placed a call to Corporate and they could have cared less about my experience. They have go to be aware of their 1.8-2.0 star rating on several websites putting them at a POOR rating with hundreds of reviews. Why is this place still open. Almost no one had something positive to say.
SOUTHAVEN, MISSISSIPPI -- This place is awful. We arrived a few minutes late for our 4:20 appointment. She tells me "You missed your appointment and now you have to wait until 6." We all know during this time traffic on Goodman Road in Southaven is jammed. I was really angry after this. The customer service is horrible. They had over 20 people scheduled at the same time. Just horrible. My family and I will never return.
BORDMAN, OHIO -- First called to ask if we can use a coupon multiple times. Scheduled appointment thinking we could. After taking photos sat down picked out photos that we didn't really like to begin with. Then we were shocked to see how much they were. We never pay anywhere close to this at J.C. Penney. Then waited for them to print and they do not even look as crisp as they do on the TV screen!! They look like crap and feel like such a waste of time and money going there.
CARMEL, INDIANA -- They were wonderful with my 2-year-old! I have seen too many bad reviews. I have gotten pics at different portrait innovations stores since my son was born and had all good experiences. I love all their extras. Their brag books are great. And to get all the photos right away is not normally done by others. Our photographer today was so patient with our 2-year-old even though they were busy. She was professional and good. We got several great pics. Expensive yes, but they all are.
CRANBERRY TOWNSHIP, PENNSYLVANIA -- I needed to get my son's senior pictures taken - and quickly. I've used Portrait Innovations in the past. I always had a coupon, or went because of their package deals. They had a 10% discount and were also running some other deals. However, I feel like because we were having these senior pictures taken, they felt like they could charge more.
I got a call the day before the photo shoot. They went over how many shots they would take, bring a change of clothes, etc. At the end she said that she wanted me to know packages usually started around $300. Then we ended the call. I kept thinking that that would only be if I bought a package, or that I'd just buy a few sheets. I admit, I should have done a lot more research.
We got some nice pictures. My son refused to take a change of clothes, he doesn't do sports. This was all very basic. We were told we didn't have any choice. The lowest package, the $300 package, was 15 poses and 3 sheets each pose! I said I didn't need that much, wasn't there something else we could do? The answer, again, was no. $300 and 162 photos later and I left until everything was printed. Ran an errand, and thought no way am I doing this. I'm not paying that much money for photos that are going to sit in a drawer.
I did go back in and asked to speak to the manager. Unfortunately, it was the guy who took the photos & already told me they couldn't do anything. I told him I did not want the photos. He said he would do a return, but they couldn't do it until Tuesday (for some reason). I'll be going back and I will let you know what happens.