Friday, December 10, 2010

Power in Numbers

Today at four in the morning I did something unheard of with me and tagged fifty people in one photo, the amount Facebook allowed me. The last three had to go without being tagged.


It was an idea I had almost on the spur of the moment. At the end of the year, Entertainment Weekly Magazine has this double issue that has a cover with dozens of public figures, celebrities, characters, and even a few cartoons all grouped together. None of the people on the cover posed all at once, together; the cover artist or graphic designer took the character or person from a different photograph, digitally cut him or her out, and placed them in a position on the cover. They did this with every person, grouping them together. TV characters, actors, celebrities, public figures, popular cartoon characters, everyone from Jim Parsons to Harry Potter.


I had a copy sitting around, from 2009-2010, and I figured, it would be quite cool to do my own kind of version of that. Have a bunch of people from different photos crowded around together on the same image or poster.


That's when I decided to take every person I'm friends with on Facebook, every person on there that I know, take them from one of their photos, and put them altogether on one big poster.


I wasn't sure if I could do it; it seemed like a fun idea to think about and imagine, but actually accomplish that? I wasn't sure how to cut out someone from a photo on Photoshop, at least not very well.


I began the project and then started trying ways to get myself out of another picture and onto the canvas. Nothing worked. I looked stuff up online. Couldn't find anything straight forward or exactly what I wanted. Finally, I e-mailed my old graphic design teacher, Irv Osterer, and my old comm. tech. teacher, Scott Hughes, on how to capture someone out of an image and place it on another. I knew it was a lasso tool.


Osterer responded with a suggestion for the polygonal lasso tool. It worked brilliantly. Then I figured out by guesswork how to get the selected, cropped portion of the image out, and placed it on the blank canvas.


Five hours later, I had fifty-three people in varying states of pose and activity on there. People skateboarding, singing, running, spreading their arms wide, swinging, posing with one of those marker things you see on a film set, posing covered in blood like a zombie. And just smiling and looking at the camera.


It was perfect.


I'm not putting it here; I'd need the permission of all those people. I took their faces and images from their own albums on Facebook, and this is public. But it's a holiday poster, with everyone I know from friends to cousins to aunts, uncles, and acquaintances. 
With a great sense of accomplishment, I uploaded it to that website and tagged all the people I could tag in, until I hit fifty and I wasn't allowed anymore. Then I went to bed, hoping for feedback when I got up sometime near noon.


Here's the meaning of this: I won't put the exact thing on Flickr, either. Not just because of privacy - but because on Facebook, it will go unbelievably further in terms of exposure.


This is where the power of numbers comes in. I tagged an unbelievable fifty people all at once in one photo. On Facebook, when you are tagged in a picture, it will show up in every one of your friend's news feeds. "Justin Campbell was tagged in this photo." I tag myself in a photo and every one of my friends knows about it because it will say so.


If an average individual on that site has between 100-600 friends (and in some cases people have over a thousand), multiply that by 50. Fifty people with anywhere between 100-600 friends will see the photo they are tagged in. That's thousands of friends, thousands of people I know and don't know getting a glance at my handiwork, at my little holiday poster. 


Most of my friends on Facebook are friends with each other; they see a photo with themselves in it as well as their friends that we both all share. It goes far. Not everyone of someone's friends will look at it - not everyone's friends are very close, or even know the person well (or in some cases at all) so they won't really be interested - but the majority will. It's kind of funny and ironic when you think about it - I won't put it on Flickr directly due to privacy, yet it will gets hundreds to thousands of more views on Facebook, a tonne more exposure ten times quicker.


Getting up at eleven in the morning, I had ten unread messages, all from Facebook. All were messages about people commenting on my poster. I looked and saw ten comments and several 'likes.' That was the beginning. All day people came onto the site, saw that they'd been tagged, looked at the photo and either liked or commented on it. To my slight surprise, I got a friend request by someone who shared eighteen mutual friends with me.
I wonder if it was because they saw and liked my poster of all their eighteen friends? This goes to an international scale: My cousin from Luxembourg is in it. All of her friends over there will end up seeing in their news feeds that she was tagged in that poster. Chas Smash from Madness is in there (he's also on Facebook). That means a whole community of over 1700 Madness fans all over Europe and around the world will end up with that poster in their news feed, because they're friends of Chas Smash too and he was tagged in it. Like I said before, most or all of them probably won't click on it and view it properly, but it's still there and available to them. I've reached a whole new level in showing my work and getting exposure for it. It's a huge difference: when I tag myself in my photo, fifty-seven people have that show up in their news feed, because I'm their friend. When you tag someone you know in a photo, hundreds of people can end up seeing it.
Tag fifty people and...well, I don't know if you can grasp the sudden blast of exposure and possibility of who sees it. Especially if they're elsewhere in the world, or a pop star like Chas Smash.


On average, I get probably about sixty views per day altogether on Flickr for both my photostream, photos themselves, sets, and collections.


With all of this in mind, I would say that it was definitely worth it to stay up until 4am. Definitely. Because the prospects of people seeing what I've done is so huge that I might as well be a famous photographer, if it's many people and it's on Facebook.
Power in numbers.


Justin C.

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