Just after the New Year, Brandi contacted me to see if I would do a surprise “we’re pregnant” shoot. At the time, she was not pregnant but told me she was hoping to be in the next few months. I love doing things like this so this shoot was super easy for me to say yet. She sent me a few ideas she had for the shoot and told me she would send me a text when she finds out. To my surprise, just a few weeks later I received the following text, “Soooooooo…I’m ready to have your services for the pregnancy announcement to Zach J” I thought the pregnancy may take a bit longer to happen but I was super excited to find out that they were pregnant.
Now, we had to come up with a plan to surprise Zach. Brandi sent me the text on Wednesday morning and we decided to do the surprise Saturday afternoon. Zach was out of town on a business trip until Friday so we had a couple days to get everything planned out. Initially we were worried about bad weather for Saturday so we thought about doing the surprise in the airport but we soon decided that logistically this would be too challenging and just crossed our fingers and hoped that the weather would work out for us on Saturday.
To surprise Zach, I had to tell a few white lies in order to make this happen. Zach is getting interested in doing photography so I suggested that I send him a text about getting together so he could practice with a his new camera gear. I sent the following text, “If you’re not busy this weekend and want to get together and shoot some, let me now. We can play around with my lights and I can maybe give you a few pointers. I’m free Saturday afternoon. Maybe Brandi can help model for us if she’d like to. If not, I may be able to round up someone.” Of course, I knew Brandi would be willing to model! J She acted like she didn’t want to but in the end Zach was able to “convince” her to come along and do the shoot. At the point we set things up to meet at Two Rivers Park in Little Rock at 3pm on Saturday.
The day before the surprise, I met up with Brandi near the airport so she could give me the props that she wanted to use during and after the shoot. She had purchased two chalkboards, a baby’s onesie and some shoes to use during the shoot. She also went by Party City to order four huge balloons that spell out BABY to use after Zach found out.
When I woke up Saturday morning, the first thing I did was check the weather and the app I use was showing that storms were likely at 3pm! Brandi told me later that she did the same thing and was worried about it but we were going to go ahead and give it a try. Thankfully, the storms didn’t roll through at that time and we were able to do the shoot without any rain.
I ran by Party City to pick up the balloons and then my assistant and I were off to Two Rivers Park to do our best to surprise Zach. I intentionally arrived a few minutes late so Brandi could get Zach over the bridge and away from the parking lot. I didn’t want to chance him seeing the huge balloons that were floating around in the back of my SUV. As we were pulling into the parking lot, I saw Brandi and Zach walking across the bridge and I knew then that we had crossed our first hurdle in keeping this surprise alive.
I was so excited to get started and meet up with them that I forgot to grab the chalkboards and chalk initially. I had just about made it to where Brandi and Zach were standing when my assistant asked me where are the chalkboards. I had to run back over the bridge and retrieve them from my vehicle. My assistant told the couple that I forgotten a controller for one of my lights. When I finally met up with everyone, I had a bag that contained the necessary chalkboards and chalk for the surprise so I had to come up with a believable story to tell Zach why I had brought those along. After greeting both he and Brandi and pretending like I hadn’t seen them in a year I proceeded to tell Zach that I brought the chalkboards along because I was working on a special photo project this year in which I’m going to have all the couples I shoot write down three words that describe their partners. I told him I was giving him a lot of time to think about this so that when I have the two of them do this he would be ready. I explained that I didn’t want him to say the words out loud beforehand because I wanted it to be a surprise and let him know that they would be standing back to back and then on the count of three each would turn around and show the other what was written on the board. He bought this story hook, line and sinker! J He had no clue that Brandi was going to write down, “You’re going to be a daddy!”
To really make this work, I knew I shouldn’t go straight to the surprise so I spent the next hour giving Zach a tutorial about his camera gear. We took some practice shots of Brandi with and without flash. We talked about how to use his gear. We talked business. I’m sure Brandi in her mind was thinking, “let’s speed this along” but she did a great job of holding it all in.
Around 4pm, I thought we had done enough to keep Zach clueless about the real reason we were all there, so I decided to start the ball rolling to make the surprise a reality. I told Zach that I wanted to photograph them, but to do it in a different location. We were out in a very popular spot and the park was crowded. I wanted them to have some privacy with this so we walked about a half-mile to a spot that I knew would work out well.
Once we got to the location, I gave both Zach and Brandi the chalkboards and told them to begin writing the three words that describe the other person. Zach was very thoughtful and took his time to make sure he got the three words just right which was perfect for me. It allowed me to photograph both of them from many different angles. Whenever they were both ready, I counted down and told them to reveal their boards to each other. The shock on Zach’s face is something that will stay with me for a lifetime. I don’t think I’ve ever surprised anyone like this before and it was truly an amazing moment to capture.
I’ve been a part of this couple’s lives for several years now. I’ve photographed their engagement, bridal and wedding and it was such an honor to get to capture this moment for both of them. I’m so happy for Brandi and Zach and for their friendship through the years. After the shock wore off for Zach, we finished the shoot by gathering all the props that Brandi had bought.
We did have one small mishap on the bridge when the letter “A” decided it was time to fly away. You’ll probably notice in the photos that the “A” was missing in the word “BABY” Zach and I went back to my car to retrieve all the props and when we were crossing back over the bridge to meet up with my assistant and Brandi, a huge gust of wind blew by just as Zach was rearranging the balloons. We both watched in horror as “A” flew over the bridge, up and over the hill and toward Pinnacle Mountain. There was nothing we could do but laugh about it. Thankfully, Brandi wasn’t upset and we were all able to have some fun with it during the rest of the shoot. On the way back to our vehicles, Brandi and Zach told me that they had already been discussing names and their current top girl name begins with an “A” so maybe this is a sign!
Thank you Brand and Zach for allowing me to be a part of this special moment. It’s a wonderful way for me to start this New Year and I’m excited for all the great things in store for the two of you in 2017!