Yes, I purposely left the subject generic on purpose. Even though it is my Uncle's birthday. I've already wished him happy birthday on The Book. With the photo that you see here. Which then caused me to realize the same thing I always do when it comes to my blog. That once again, the folks that read this aren't privy to the greatness (yes, I called it greatness) that is being shared on that social networking site.
It's more than just this photo though. It's what this photo represents. An idea that I came up with a while back when it comes to birthdays. It's really just a different way of wishing a person a happy birthday. Something inexpensive that can still manage to brighten their special day.
On The Book, it's common knowledge that when it's someone's birthday, folks will flood their wall with posts wishing them happy birthday. Some of them are sincere. Some are just folks saying it because they feel obligated. Or they're just trying to be friendly. You can usually tell the difference in the punctuation that's being used. I try to be cordial as well by doing the same, but I take it a step further in some instances.
There are a lot of folks on The Book that have done shoots with me. So as a sign of gratitude to them on their birthday I alter one of the pics from their shoot to give them their own distinguished birthday shout out. When I first did it, I made my XL-Images logo the prominent part of the picture. Just switching it up how it normally looks. Then it occurred to me that was rather selfish since it was that person's birthday. So I changed it to that person's name being the focal point.
I do have parameters as to what pics I can and can't use. By rule, I will only do it if the person has done a shoot with me. For instance, if I shot an event and that person was in one of the pics, I technically could photoshop the pic they were in and use it. However, that cheapens the whole thing for me. It's not like they were supporting XL-Images by just showing at up an event I was shooting. Obviously, they were supporting us if they did a shoot.
Naturally, there are exceptions to the rule. As you see here. Of course this isn't from a shoot. It's from the banquet celebrating Union Baptist's 100th anniversary. But Uncle Johnny is family. I make an exception for family when it comes to the birthday shout outs. Just as long as I can find a picture that's good enough to use. And who knows...maybe family will return the favor and get me to do one of their shoots?
Normally, I would do a Random XL-Images Pic of the Day here by just posting the pic and calling it a day. No backstory at all. Which is ironic because in all actuality, every single of of my shoots have a backstory.
Some of them are actually quite interesting. I just don't want to bore you all with them. Most of them would probably only be interesting to me. And possibly the photo subject. But this one was a little different.
I had done this shoot with RayVynn quite a while ago. I want to say it was almost a year ago in Ames. It was at a park there that is known for it's great landscaping and flowers. Something that I knew that would be the perfect backdrop for a spring-like look with the right bright clothes. She brought the ideal gear for it and the shoot turned out great. I posted a few of my favorites on Facebook. Folks liked some of them. Folks commented on some. That was that.
However, recently this particular photo really caught fire on The Book. For those of you who don't know how it works...when someone "likes" a photo on The Book, it puts it back in circulation in the current news feed of anyone who is friends with that person who liked it. In this case, Ray recently changed her profile to this picture which recirculated it. More people started seeing it who missed it before and it was bombarded with a frenzy of "likes".
I'm not quite sure what caused this particular one to gain such popularity so quick. I'm thinking it was just the perfect storm. The entire state of Iowa (as with most of the midwest) is still experiencing one of their longest winters ever. They've been inundated with cold dreary weather and snow for so long that it seemed like Spring would never come. Then along comes this colorful picture right around the time of their Spring Break. It provided a visual sign of hope that those summer temps were just around the corner. That's my theory anyway.
So what ended it up happening is this picture became the most liked photo of any picture I have ever done. And it wasn't even close. The next closest photo to it has around 210 likes. As of the posting of this entry, it's currently at 328 likes and growing. All it takes is one comment and/or like for it to start increasing even more. Now if only my photo business could reap some of the benefits from the huge exposure that pic is getting...
Now I know what you're thinking..."How cheap is that? His kids get the #1 spot?!" Yep. Sure do. This capture
right here is the entire reason I moved to Texas in the first place. Now all three of my children are in the same area for the first time in years. Otherwise I would have to wait for a special occasion to get the three of them together for a photo. Although now it's still not quite that easy.
I still have the issue of trying to get schedules to mesh. That was even more difficult during the first part of the school year. Elijah had practice non-stop for the school musical he was involved in. By the time he was done with that it was usually too dark for any outside photos. Mariah was always working crazy hours at her job as a manager. When she wasn't doing that she was your typical 21-year-old who wanted to hang with her friends. Naturally, G was pretty much free whenever.
The last time I got the three of them together it was in a studio setting. Ikonix East Village to be exact. Although I've found a studio location down here to use, I wanted to keep it a little more informal. I wanted to make good use of the decent weather while it was still around. Next time I'll find something a little more scenic. At the time, I hadn't yet been in town long enough to know any of the good locations. However, this particular shot was all about the subject matter anyway.
So yeah...my children get the number one spot for the Top Captures of 2012. Don't let this list be a reflection of favoritism by any means though. Well..except for the top spot. And the second spot. Outside of that, I could have included at least one shot from every session I did throughout the course of the year. It was an outstanding year across the board for XL-Images. The support I experienced was unparalleled to previous years. I just hope I can continue the same success in 2013.
I have a bad habit of monitoring the number of 'likes' certain photos of mine receive on The Book. I say it's a bad habit because it really shouldn't matter how many likes one gets over the other. I learned long ago that folks aren't really 'liking' the photo due to the quality of the shot. Many of them are doing it because someone they know was tagged in the picture and they like the way that person and/or their family looks in the photo. Therefore, I've come to the conclusion that when I post a photo of someone who's not even on The Book that the chances are pretty good that pic will get very little likes.
Having said that, here is another photo that would fall victim to that same issue. It's not like Grandma is on Facebook. I don't even think she gets online even though she now has a computer at the house. So it's not like I can tag her. But don't get me wrong...I will be tagging every single one of her grandchildren in the pic. And her "children" too. Grandma's not getting short-changed just because she doesn't do the online thing.
This picture came about when I was visiting Kansas City for our mid-year reunion in May. Which reminds me...let me first say that I'm so glad our family not only has regular annual reunions but also mid-year reunions as well. For folks that can't make one it gives them a chance to make the other. That was precisely the case with me this year as I wasn't able to make the Arkansas one over Labor Day weekend but I was able to hit KC. I know lots of friends whose families don't do family reunions at all. That would totally suck. Sorry...getting off track again.
We all met on Saturday to have a family potluck and play a game of family Jeopardy hosted by Auntie. At least I think it was Jeopardy. I clearly remember it was some trivia game. That also had me looking forward to the visit. You know how I love me some trivia since I'm filled with all kinds of useless knowledge. That game was just a bonus though. The best part was being able to see Grandma again. I lived just 3 1/2 hours away, but didn't get down to visit near as often as I should have.
This visit was extra special because it was the first time I had seen Grandma since Popoo had passed away. My relatives in Kansas City were accustomed to seeing her by herelf by then. I wasn't. It was rather surreal. I swear I kept expecting Popoo to arrive later somehow or some way. The thing was that he was there all along. He's always with us. Didn't mean to get all spiritual on you there. Dangit...got off track again...
Anyway...I was a little surprised that Grandma even agreed to let me take her picture. She's usually not big on that at all. I would have to get her in a candid shot when she's not looking and doesn't realize the picure is being taken. Not this time. Not sure what inspired her to agree to it, but I was sure happy she did. That was the main reason why this capture is this high on the countdown. Because of the rarity of such a photo being available. The main reason: It's my grandmother. Come on...did you really have to ask??
Doing maternity photos was something that I never would have seen myself doing when I first got involved with photography. I certainly didn't have anything against them. I just didn't think it was something that I would able to do with the same creativity that I had done on some of my other shoots. But honestly, the real reason was I was just never approached with the opportunity. That was until Adaeze contacted me regarding her pregnancy.
I never knew who Adaeze even was before she reached out to me. She was a friend of a friend and she quickly enlightened me to the fact that she was also a photographer. That made me a little nervous. Not only would I be doing the type of photo shoot I had never done before but my subject was a fellow photog. Would she be over critical since she was in the same business? Would she scrutinize my concepts if they weren't in line with how she would shoot if she were behind the camera? Or maybe I was just over-thinking the entire thing.
Before going into the shoot, I figured it would be in my best interest to do a little research on some
maternity photos. What angles worked and didn't work? What were the super cheesy poses that I wanted to avoid? What looks were done so much that they were now trite? You would be surprised how many horrible maternity pictures are out there. It was quite easy for me to choose the direction I wanted to go to assure that my photos would not also fall in that category.
Soon as I met Adaeze and her family I immediately felt at ease. All three of them (her, her husband Rashard and their son) were extremely photogenic. If there was a Family magazine (and there probably is that I just don't know about) then they looked like they could have fallen off the cover. All three of them were just as joyful and pleasant as they could be. I didn't have to worry about trying to make them feel comfortable in front of the lens because they had already more than succeeded with doing that themselves.
I had formulated some ideas of what different poses I wanted to try; however, more came to me on the fly while we were there in the studio. It was more than just the positioning that worked in my favor. It was changing up the lighting to complement the different poses so that I was able to get achieve just the right looks. Especially when I went to the one-light set up with the only light being the gridded stripbox. The shots from that light set-up were hands down some of my favorites from that session.
I didn't have to wait until I started editing to see which ones would be the best captures. I could tell right then and there just looking in-camera which ones those would be. And there were several. So many that I was tempted to break my own rule and post more than just a few as a photo album. As hard as it was, that was one rule I still couldn't break. I can't post too much of my work from one session. Can't be giving away all of my best secrets to the competition.
The reason I went with this collage format is it captured every aspect of the family. We have Adaeze in the forefront who was basically the entire reason for the shoot. That's why her photo was purposely the biggest. Then the entire family together where you can clearly see she's pregnant, but the focus is shifted to the family as a unit. Then the one of mother and father together. The love being expressed in their faces and body language could not have been more genuine.
All in all, I would say that I did pretty dang good for this to be my first maternity shoot ever. Heck, it was just a great shoot overall no matter what the theme was. But as far as maternity shoots go, this one would serve as a springboard that I didn't even see coming. More folks started approaching me for these type of shoots once these photos dropped. I wasn't mad at all. Turns out I was pretty good at the maternity captures too. It's amazing what you can discover when you really test your skills.