We have bought a few embarkation photos, but normally we don't, for the very reason you guys say. We look so terrible.
One reason I am willing to buy ship's photos is I usually look better in the ship's photos than I do in random snapshots. (especially the formal night photos) and instead of going to a photographer studio yearly to get a family photo done, we just get the ship's photo, usually formal night.
Professional photographers are expensive, even "bargain" studios such as Olan Mills, are pricey for what they give you, and usually those bargain places, the photos are not very good.
I am sure the photographers on ship touch up the photos to make you look better. I guess though, the embarkation photos are so bad at times, there is little they can do.
I don't begrudge the cruise line the price of photos too much, when I think they have been fair. (see my previous post about the so called coupon)
My hubby and I don't gamble, he drinks a little, I do hardly at all, we need to give the ship some extra money on something!