Best of UCF Graduation Photos (My Favorite Shots Over the Years)

Every new beginning starts with some other beginning's end...

I've been shooting graduation photos for UCF Knights over the past three years, beginning with the lovely ElloSteph from YouTube(check her out if you haven't already)! That's a lot of time in the University of Central Florida's gorgeous reflection pond and a lot of dodging rogue champagne corks! 

With the Spring 2017 Graduation Ceremony coming up, I thought I'd look back at all my past shoots, and list out my top five favorite shoots. Here we go:

#5

The Reflection Pond at UCF is arguably the most popular location on campus for graduation photos, but it presents a few challenges. Due to how crowded it gets, making sure there aren't OTHER photographers and their clients in your shots is sometimes difficult. However, the stars aligned just right for this photo of Christina, and I love the pool float prop she brought along as well. Also, just look at that swish in the tassel on her grad cap!

#4

It's a godsend when I'm able to shoot different locations with a client. You can only shoot the same two or three locations on campus before they start blurring together a little bit. This shot was taken in the UCF library. I had no idea this glass mural even existed, so I was pleasantly surprised when we came upon it, and it worked out perfectly to also bring out the silhouette of the Mickey ears.

#3

As I said earlier, this was my very first graduation portrait session, so it will always hold some sentimental value to me. In 2015(when this shot was taken), I was nowhere near as confident as I am now as a photographer or in my abilities to direct someone during a shoot. THANKFULLY my first grad session was with a YouTuber whose charisma has garnered her over 300,000 subscribers over her career - so working together went really smooth, and it all came together to get this great one.

#2

This is a reminder that as beautiful as these shots are, they're not the most eco-friendly to create. LUCKILY, beginning this year, UCF's Student Union will be giving out bio-degradable confetti for photographers to use on their shoots. Not only will this really make the cleaning staff happy, but you'll also have the freedom to use as much as you'd like without any of the guilt.

#1

There are SO many fountain photos taken each year, but how many actually utilize the fact that it lights up at night? This shoot ran a little bit longer than we were hoping, and it actually got dark really early on into our shoot. However, once I saw bright the fountain looking once lit up, I decided to have Jessica do the classic hands-up victory pose and silhouette her against the fountain. It doesn't hurt either that with these colors, the water from the fountain almost looks golden - one of UCF's school colors.

My State is Freaking Gorgeous (A P.S.A. to Experience Florida Nature)

Without a doubt, Florida is home to some of the best vast displays of Mother Nature. Growing up around it, you either fall in love with it or you begin to hate it.

Until recently, I was in the latter group. I began to get really tired of the same ferns, trees, etc. while other states have gorgeous mountains, waterfalls, and definitely more flowers. Not to mention, living in Florida, we're only welcome to virtually one season year-round, so it's not like we get a big variety or major differences as the year goes on. It's a lot of the same... all the time.

However, as I've begun to travel more and mature a bit, I no longer find myself taking Florida nature for granted. I recently went to New York City for a personal Spring Break, and I never realized what it felt like to not have any nature at all when you're commuting day-to-day. Being constantly trapped by concrete begins to have an effect on the psyche.

Taking that experience into account, I think I'm beginning to understand why Florida is such a hot spot for an older generation to retire to toward the final chapters of their life - my state is simply gorgeous as fuck.

With that in mind, it was a no-brainer choosing the magnificent Mead Botanical Gardens in Winter Park as the backdrop for my muse Nicolette & I's next photo shoot. This was also the first shoot in a long time where I felt completely in control - I even meticulously picked out the outfits and decided on the hair & makeup! It's a relief when you do weddings and graduation photos, situations where you've got to relinquish a bit of control in order to bring about someone else's vision.

The Mead Botanical Gardens is host to a bewildering display of Florida nature that allows you to experience an escape from the fast-paced, empty world of notifications and small talk that I feel we are inundated by today. It's a place where you can forget everything else, and truly ground yourself in a busy city like Orlando is. 

For more info on Mead Botanical Garden, you may visit their website at http://www.meadgarden.org/ 

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Little Big Econ State Forest

When is the last time you took a stroll through your local state forest? Have you ever gone to a local state forest, at all? 

If not, I highly recommend you go as soon as possible. For all of the jokes people make about Florida's weather, it's actually almost perfect year-round for the outdoors. Even when it does get a little chilly, it actually makes for an enjoyable walk.

One of my favorite forests to go to is Little Big Econ State Forest. Here's some cool info:

The Little Big Econ State Forest is approximately 10,279 acres and was established on March 24, 1994, by the Florida Legislature. The forest's name comes from combining the names of the Little Econlockhatchee River and the larger Econlockhatchee River, which come together just south of the forest.

The forest is quite scenic, and no matter how many times I go, I'm always in awe when I finally see the river. On this particular December afternoon, the water was quite still(or, like glass) and gave a beautiful reflection of the sky and trees above it.

Econlockhatchee River

Econlockhatchee River

Of course, my friend and I decided to also use Mother Nature as our backdrop for some impromptu model shots~

Getting out into nature is one of the most enlightening and therapeutic things you can do for yourself, and it usually can be enjoyed for free. Whether you want to rekindle your bond with mother nature that you once had as a kid, or just want to take some awesome photos, go to a local state forest ASAP.

Want to find your local state forest? Visit http://www.discovertheforest.org/ and find one near you today!

Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Oops!

The end of every semester brings about lots of joy for me. Mostly because it means I'll be able to binge watch all my favorite shows on Netflix with no regrets, but it also means another thing: grad photo sessions! However, this isn't a post to talk about how fun it is to take a splash in the Reflection Pond at the University Central Florida or avoiding a near-death experience from flying champagne corks. This is about something much simpler: editing.

As anyone who is interested in photography, one of the coolest things is to see the transformation of a photograph from its original form, into the finished intended product. Usually, you hear about photographers having to "hide" or take away some distractions, blemishes, acne, etc. to clean up a photo, but, what about having to add a missing gold letter to someone's graduation cap? 

For those that don't know, it's a tradition to go all-out decorating your grad cap with whatever your heart desires. I'll be graduating this semester, and I've already had thoughts of somehow incorporating a rowing boat with oars into mine. For one of my clients, Rachel, she wanted hers to be a spin off the famous song from Cinderella, "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo."

Unfortunately, tragedy struck when she realized that her cap seemed to have lost one of its sparkling letters, which posed two problems:

  1. Her cap now read "Bibbidi Obbidi Done," and
  2. How were we going to continue this shoot when one of the main props was practically ruined?

After closer inspection, and a quick internal audit of my Photoshop skills, I realized it would be a simple job to "copy and paste" one of the Bs from her cap in place of the missing one.

Our shoot went on as planned, and after some post-processing, the task of simply clone brushing one of the Bs to replace the other was a lot simpler than I imagined it would be. Luck was definitely on our sides, because had it been any other letter besides the ones already on the cap, we would have had a much different result.

"But did she ever fix her actual grad cap?!"

Well, I'll let this picture speak for itself...