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Kaneland Connection: Picture perfect

School photo experience has come a long way

ELBURN – The stage area in the multipurpose room at John Stewart Elementary School in Elburn was turned into a photo studio of sorts last week, with three photographers from Lifetouch set up for the school’s picture day.

The process runs like a machine. Students march in three lines, with their paperwork all filled out. That paperwork tells photographers what color the background should be and how the students should pose. And, the photographers will check the images to make sure they are correct.

It’s all come a long way since I was in elementary school, when it all was much more imprecise. It’s how I once had school pictures in which my eyes were closed. That would not happen today. My daughters, who attend John Stewart, never have had anything less than absolute perfection in their school pictures. And last week, Lifetouch photographer Penny Zimmerman allowed me to watch it all in action, how scanning the order form tells her everything she needs to know, and how she knows it’s all been accomplished before each student is done.

Zimmerman would do a little coaching, urging kids to smile and relax, “shake it out” or “sit up nice and straight.”

It allows her to deliver “exactly what they want,” she said. Zimmerman, who has been doing this for 13 years, started with film but said digital is “much better.”

So, the process has been perfected, but sometimes, the hair gets in the way. That’s why I feel for Edgar Vasquez, the fifth-grader whose picture appears on today’s cover photo. Photographer Sandy Bressner described how Edgar, dressed so nicely in a short-sleeved shirt and a tie, kept struggling to get his hair just right. He was so determined to get just the right look – and tame a stubborn cowlick – that those who receive Edgar’s photos should know just how hard he worked to get that perfect look.

Edgar was one of the sharp-dressed young men, and there were plenty of well-dressed young ladies as well. Not all were so elegant, but the room really was a sea of plaid dress shirts for boys and dressy tops, skirts and dresses for the girls. Fifth-grader Will Borucki stood in line, dressed in a blue-and-black plaid shirt and said, yes, he was dressed for picture day. And, he said, it’s a big deal, and he looks forward to seeing the pictures afterward.

Everyone gets a picture, regardless of whether the student is ordering one. Teachers also will pose, and there are “class photos” in which pictures of everyone in each classroom will be included. And it’s a full day for the crew. LaShawn Williams of Lifetouch was in the front area, helping to keep the kids in their line and keeping the lines moving. The day before, she said, the crew was at a school in Bensenville. The next day, crew members would be at Clarendon Hills.

And the scene is similar for the crew at each stop, but that’s OK. Zimmerman said it’s rewarding.

“I don’t think I could do anything else but this,” Zimmerman said.

• Al Lagattolla is the news editor of the Kane County Chronicle. Write to him at

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