Sunday, November 6, 2011

Venture Photography - Worth it (if you're rich)

Venture Photography is a family portrait franchise that started in the UK and made its way over to the US in 2007 (CT, NJ, and MN at the moment). Photos are taken in a studio against a completely white background and floor and photo subjects are encouraged to bring along props, costumes, pets, whatever, to enhance their shoot. Once the photos are shot, the pictures can be further enhanced with editing, color effects, graphics, etc., are sent to the UK to be mounted and framed, and are ready for display in your home--if you pay a high price, that is.

We got sold on a shoot with Venture in Ridgewood, NJ when attending a local Irish Feis (A feis! Look how Irish I am by marriage!) For $50, we got a voucher entitling us to a photo session and an 8x10 framed photo or $350 credit towards another piece of photo art. It sounded like a good deal--especially since you have the option to just take the free 8x10 and run! I really wish we weren't so clueless about the actual prices of the photos from the get-go though--but there aren't any prices on the Venture website and the folks who sold us the Venture voucher kept pretty mum about that.

(Important: We needed to book our photo session within 3 weeks of buying the voucher or the free gift was downgraded into a 5x7 instead of an 8x10). 

Our photo shoot was actually great, even though Andrew had a nap-deprived meltdown midway through. Our photographer Alex worked wonderfully with him and we got quite a few pictures in before my husband and I decided to call it a day. And the studio itself is lovely. The lobby and photo studios are fitted with comfy leather couches and filled with examples of Venture's pricier wall art products. You are offered refreshments of all types. You do really feel like a valued customer, even though you've purchased a discounted voucher.

They sent us home with a flyer full of their prices and I must admit I was a bit surprised. The lowest price was $150 for a framed and mounted 5x7 desk photo (photos are sent to the UK for this part) and the highest was around $6000 for a fancier and bigger piece of wall art. You can not purchase single prints--every photo you order is mounted to a foamy piece of paper on the low price end or other type of medium. They do have the option to buy prints in a photo album (starting at $1600) or as an animated digital slide show ($1500), but it is clearly stated that you may in no way reproduce the images.

We decided we'd give ourselves $300 dollars to spend--on two 5x7s and the free 8x10. And about three weeks later, we went back to the studio for our design consultation--boy do they pull all the stops out for that! You are encouraged to do the design consult without your children in attendance so that you can be fully immersed in the experience. After sinking into a luxurious leather couch, our design consultant--a Carmela Soprano lookalike in a short skirt with stunning legs--asked us if we'd like a drink. Perhaps some coffee? She came back promptly with a french coffee press and the whole nine--we were very impressed indeed.

"Carmela" then began our consultation. She dimmed the lights and an animated slideshow of our best photos flickered across a small movie screen in time to well-chosen music. We oohed and aahed over our adorable child--and I began thinking that maybe we should take out a payment plan to purchase some fancy wall art.

We went through the slideshow again, slowly so that we could pick out our favorite photos. And Carmela used a program that allowed us to build a mock piece of wall art featuring four smallish framed photos. It was so beautiful--but it cost around $2500. Boy how I wanted it though--I wanted each and every good photo actually.

We asked Carmela to leave the room so that my husband could talk me back into reality. We could not afford to spend $2500 for just four photos, no matter how lovely the photo mounting and framing process was. Venture does have a stunning array of photo mounting and framing processes--they are guaranteed not to fade and some even come on a special glassless mounting that can be wiped clean! But we are not millionaires, and we couldn't justify the expense.

So, we left the consultation ordering the free 8x10 and the two 5x7 for $300. And, at the time of picking up our photos 8 weeks later, I ordered another 5x7 for $150 because my mother offered to pitch in for another. The finished product is definitely great, even though they did put the back of my 8x10 on upside down and I had to do a bit of work to flip it (the frame is taped closed AND the photo is taped to the glass to prevent dust getting in and to prevent you from scanning the photo I reckon. I mentioned above that you are prohibited from making reproductions even after you pay all that money. But, I bet a really resourceful person would find a way to scan the photos anyway--even though I'm not sure what the foamy photo mounting material would do to the print quality).

So, yes, Venture gave us a beautiful photography experience and four nice photos for $500, but I could have gotten a ton more nice photos for less money and had some to share with my friends and family if I had just gone to a local photographer or a nearby JC Penny, even. I think I paid $3300 for my entire wedding photography with Julia Pai and I got two photographers for a whole day, a photo album AND a CD with thousands of photos. I just feel like there are better deals out there, you know?

The bottom line: 
Venture Photography can give you a beautiful photo-taking experience and great photos, but I think they should expose their prices up front so that folks booking photo sessions can make a more informed decision before getting emotionally involved. Once you're in that screening room viewing gorgeous photos of your family, it is so hard not to let your guard down and lay out a bunch of money you may or may not have. I'm not saying that their prices aren't warranted when you consider the time and talent of the photographer, the cost of the photo editing, printing and mounting process, and the money it takes to upkeep the fancy studio. But, I think Venture would have a much better reputation and get more repeat customers here and in the UK if they were much more open with their prices. I also think they should come up with an inexpensive way to let photo subjects buy regular prints to reproduce and share with friends and family.

Oh! And Venture just created a smartphone application that is supposed to allow customers to see all their photos online and share them. But here's the rub--you have to be a VIP customer who has spent money on wall art. I'm not sure how much money you have to spend to be a VIP, but I definitely will be calling the studio to request VIP access and will report back about it here. (I have a sneaky suspicion, though, that my $500 will not be enough to warrant VIP access.)

Please email me if you have any questions (maybe you booked a Venture session like we did) or if you want to see our photos. I can't reproduce them per se, but I might be able to send you a photo of my media center with the photos displayed on them. Also, please let me know if you would like to see the price catalog that I have. I can definitely scan it and forward it to you. 


So sorry for the super long review, but I've noticed there aren't many Venture reviews out there--I hope this will be helpful!!

20 comments:

  1. We had almost that same EXACT experience last year; the 3 photos we came home with are *gorgeous,* but it was like Sophie's Choice picking them, and it broke Mommy's heart to have to leave the rest behind. Over $1000 for a thumb drive of pics you can't reproduce? Sigh - Not in this lifetime!

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  2. You made me laugh but you are so right--it is like Sophie's Choice picking photos! You feel like you are leaving beautiful memories behind, but there is no way you can afford to buy them all. :(

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  3. I have never heard of such a thing... I mean, isn't it true that at most places you can buy the rights to the pics at some point? Ickkk I will steer clear of any place like that!

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  4. Your post was so informative. I went with a friend today actuallyand adored the overall place and people there and the pictures they have in the lobby. You were so right, they make you feel so at home and they are the nicest people. I was very much interested in booking a session with them but refused to do so without doing research. I am so glad I came across your post. If you still have that price sheet, it would be a great deal of help.

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  5. We had the same experience last night (Sheffield in the UK). We were called at home to be told we had WON a £145 voucher (but if we attended within the two week period that would be upgraded to £250 - which they conveniently forgot at the sales session!)
    We were treated like visiting royalty throughout the session, coffee, juice, nauseating compliments on our stunning children.

    A week later we were invited back to a viewing. Dimmed lights, leather couches, emotional music whilst watching a show of our photos to choose from. We were totally sucked in to it all. I was surrounded by the stunning wall prints, wondering if we should just 'invest' in one lovely piece.

    At this point, I would add I had already told the staff that had called me twice at home that we were weeks away from our wedding, so under no circumstances could justify any expensive extravagance, to which they confirmed that 'oh no, just come down, enjoy the session then choose your framed image'

    As soon as the lights came back up the hardcore selling kicked in. We had been told to tell them which images we liked, they pulled out all the stops, arranging them with state of the art software to show us how our photo's would look in a montage "Isnt that just gorgeous?" It wanted to be for the £2500 they were asking for it.
    We again explained we just couldnt justify it, to be 'reassured' that this wasn't a problem, just set up a payment plan with their credit agency, effectively getting ourselves into debt over a set of photo's (I think not!)

    My partner then asked about the USB drive - if we bought a wall art we could have 10 of the 40 or so images for £300 - that's good of them! It was made clear that we would be breaking copyright if we tried to reproduce them. So we offered to buy all the images off them on disk - no, they would sell us the 'slide show' on CD for £550.

    Fortunately, my partner is more level headed than I am. My heart was breaking at this point, at thought of leaving behind all the gorgeous pictures of my children. But he just demanded the 'free' picture - half A4 size nothing of a print, which even then they tried to get an additional £75 to upgrade it to A4 size!!

    We were briskly shown out, having our 'order form' thrust at us and told to come back in 8 weeks on our way out of the door - a distinct lack of VIP treatment now I notice!!

    So - the moral of the story - avoid this company at all costs! Nothing is as it seems with them (unless, of course, you are millionaires!)

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  6. wow!!! we have an appt with them this saturday!! i was sold at a street fair for the $50 voucher...what happened to my 8x10? is that in writing?? i have to look...i thought this was a great deal! should i just let them keep my precious hard earned $50?? crap!

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  7. BTW...THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR TAKING THE TIME TO SHARE THIS!! I DONT UNDERSTAND...I WOULD JUST LIKE TO TRUST PEOPLE AGAIN...THEY MAKE IT SO DIFFICULT...I THOUGHT I WAS MAKING A NICE AFFORDABLE FAMILY TREASURE..

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  8. thanks for the information. We have a session in 2wks. I think I'll just forgo the $50dollars loss and cancel my appointment. I already know I'll want to buy each and every print and would rather not feel the guilt leaving any behind because of the cost.

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  9. Thanks for posting this. I had a feeling there would be some sort of hoopla with this company, it just seems too good to be true. From what I've seen, I'd want to buy all the pictures but I simply can't afford it and would get sucked into it too.

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  10. My husband and I just returned from our viewing in Greenwich CT and I am blown away with how much money we would have to spend to get 3 photos. This place is a rip off and the pics aren't even that great!!

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  11. We just finished our shoot in Ridgewood location. We had so much fun at the photoshoot and i know ill be heartbroken to leave good pics of our kids behind. But im so mad with them, i feel like i have to go and get our free picture.

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  12. We went last Saturday and I am appalled at the costs. The voucher was a gift from my dad and I am going to stick to my guns and only get my free picture...or at least try not to spend a small fortune.

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  13. We went through the whole process as well. It reminded me of time share sales. The sales pressure never stops. However, at Venture they know full well your emotions will get the better of you. That's why the pressure is so high during the viewing. If you walk out of the studio without buying, the chances of you coming back are next to zero. Once you go for the "free gift", the friendly sales person goes cold. If it quacks like a time share, it's a time share.

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  14. I just wanted to thank you all for continuing to add your comments to this post! It makes me so glad that we are helping others make a more informed decision regarding getting a photo shoot with this company. Thank you all!

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  15. Haha "anonymous," that's exactly what said to my husband... it's like a time-share. We got sucked into that one but it was definitely more value than what Venture is offering. We just had our photo shoot yesterday and can't believe the crazy prices.... I mean seriously... why would anyone pay that much, even if you could afford it? Well, we have our viewing in a couple of weeks and I am determined to be strong and just take the free gift..... we'll see...lol!

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  16. Haha "Anonymous," that's exactly what I said to my husband.... it's exactly like a time-share. We got sucked into that one, but that was definitely better value than what Venture is offering. We had our shoot yesterday and it was a lot of fun, but seriously... who in their right mind would spend that kind of money even if they afford it. We go in next week for the viewing, and I am determined to be strong ... we'll see... :)

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  17. we had our appt to view the photos... my husband and I decided that we were going to budget ourselves and not go over $1000. Anyway, we walked out without anything but our free 8x10. How we did this amazing because I am usually a sucker for these things, but the salesman with his nasty attitude made it really easy. What a contrast this guy was to our photographer. When he told me that a 5x7 was $150, I said, that's crazy... and he got all defensive and said that I should not call what he does crazy. I told him that I was entitled to an opinion. Then he said that it cost him $1200 to see me today for an hour, and I told him that we never wanted to come in, we were solicited, and enticed by them to purchase the photo session. I don't know what his problem was... I guess i would have a chip on my shoulder too if I was a salesperson, and had to work on a Sunday. It's too bad, the pictures were great, and if he had been a nicer salesperson, we probably would have bought a couple of 8x10s.

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  18. This is the worst company I have ever dealt with. Photographs were actually the worst they have ever taken in my life. Very pricy and very bad pictures. Also, they did not take the shots we requested for after we spent 1.5 hrs and the photographer "promise" my children he would have shoots they requested. I tried to cancelled my order and they wouldn't allow me to and they also questioned my credibility...Customer service is poor. Never never sign a contract with them. They also didn't want to refund the money. It was a nightmare. I hope you find a better and friendlier place!!!!! They got one star because there is not another option for a minus star.

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  19. This is the worst company I have ever dealt with. Photographs were actually the worst they have ever taken in my life. Very pricy and very bad pictures. Also, they did not take the shots we requested for after we spent 1.5 hrs and the photographer "promise" my children he would have shoots they requested. I tried to cancelled my order and they wouldn't allow me to and they also questioned my credibility...Customer service is poor. Never never sign a contract with them. They also didn't want to refund the money. It was a nightmare. I hope you find a better and friendlier place!!!!! They got one star because there is not another option for a minus star.

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