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Author Topic: Lighting large groups, help needed!  (Read 7768 times)

Zv

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Lighting large groups, help needed!
« on: September 12, 2013, 10:26:27 PM »
Hey guys I would like some advice on a job I'm doing at the end of the month. It's going to be a series of group shots of employees for a company. It's a busy schedule over 2 days and there will be two shots with 30 people. I have pretty much full creative control and the possibility of doing the shots outside the front entrance. They also want about 30 headshots / ID type shots. The images will them be used in a magazine.

I was wondering how you guys would approach this purely from a lighting perspective. Lenses and camera choice is already sorted, no shortages there! However in terms of lighting equipment I only have 2 shoot through umbrellas and 5 speedlites. (1 430exII, 2 YN-560II and just ordered 2 YN-560III)

I was thinking to try bouncing the speedlite off a wall or ceiling but then I keep coming up with more complex set ups with backlighting and all sorts. I think I'm over thinking this especially since the schedule is tight.

There will be about 30 mins max for set up and execution. Then I get driven to a different location - about 4 in total. Since it's multiple locations (all offices) i can't really scout them out and research so am going in blind.

What is your tried and true lighting set up for groups of 8 and groups of 30. Plus what works best for employee head shots?

Any help or advice would be great!

Thanks!
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Lighting large groups, help needed!
« on: September 12, 2013, 10:26:27 PM »

Janbo Makimbo

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Re: Lighting large groups, help needed!
« Reply #1 on: September 12, 2013, 11:19:33 PM »
When doing group shots don't be tempted to put your flashes as close as you can to the group as you may find fall-off across the group. Using the inverse square law, position your flashes further away and the fall-off from them will be much less. perhaps you could get dual or tri flash stands to double up in to your umbrellas.

Hope this helps

http://ocfworkshop.com/2010/10/29/inverse-square-law/

Zv

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Re: Lighting large groups, help needed!
« Reply #2 on: September 12, 2013, 11:39:40 PM »
When doing group shots don't be tempted to put your flashes as close as you can to the group as you may find fall-off across the group. Using the inverse square law, position your flashes further away and the fall-off from them will be much less. perhaps you could get dual or tri flash stands to double up in to your umbrellas.

Hope this helps

http://ocfworkshop.com/2010/10/29/inverse-square-law/

Thanks, already familiar with the inverse square law. I am looking into tri-flash brackets but the gains are pretty minimum. (One stop for one extra flash, two stops for three extra ..) I'd rather bump up the ISO and deal with the noise in post. Forgot to mention I'll be shooting in RAW and have been doing for some time.
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Re: Lighting large groups, help needed!
« Reply #3 on: September 13, 2013, 01:23:59 AM »
Flashes for this type of group photo, no scouting, multiple locations, limited set-up time, no assitants = recipe for disaster

It's one thing if you're doing this as a favor for a buddy, totally different animal if you are a hired pro.

Rent or buy some Elinchrom Rangers, into octoboxes or large beauty dishes... small consumer flashes are a dead give away. Maybe flashguns for head shots but a really poor idea for large groups and doesn't inspire any confidence that you're a working professional. I often do corporate gigs and sometimes I hire other professionals for photos I need to be included in. Honestly, if a hired "professional" photographer showed up with nothing but flashguns for large group photos... I'd send them home and step behind the camera myself. Same would be true if the photographer showed up alone without at least one assistant and a MUA ( especially for corporate and magazine work).

...Also, don't forget a boat load of double AA's for all those flash guns. Nothing like chasing dead units and swapping out 5-10 flashes worth of batteries with clients waiting.
« Last Edit: September 13, 2013, 02:07:55 AM by DavidKM »

Zv

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Re: Lighting large groups, help needed!
« Reply #4 on: September 13, 2013, 02:10:31 AM »
Flashes for this type of group photo, no scouting, multiple locations, limited set-up time, no assitants = recipe for disaster

Rent or buy some Elinchrom Rangers, into octoboxes or large beauty dishes... small consumer flashes are a dead give away. Maybe flashguns for head shots but a really poor idea for large groups and doesn't inspire any confidence that you're a working professional. I often do corporate gigs and sometimes I hire other professionals for photos I need to be included in. Honestly, if a hired "professional" photographer showed up with nothing but flashguns for large group photos... I'd send them home and step behind the camera myself. Same would be true if the photographer showed up alone without at least one assistant and a MUA ( especially for corporate and magazine work).

...Also, don't forget a boat load of double AA's for all those flash guns. Nothing like swapping out 5-10 flashes worth of batteries on a professional gig with clients waiting.

It's not that big a contract. I'm not shooting for time magazine here! And who's going to carry all that gear? My non existent assistant? I'm just a part time tog who got asked to do a small time gig. But I want to make the most of it. They aren't paying enough for me to rent extra equipment. Never mind trying to find Elinchrom Rangers and Octaboxes in Japan (it would have to be shipped over like most lighting gear, the stuff here sucks big time and is 2x the cost in the US). I doubt the client would be able to tell a beauty dish from a frying pan.

Judging by the schedule it's just 4 or 5 shots but in different locations. Battery life isn't an issue (did i mention i had 5 speedlites?) They prob expect on camera flash, run and gun style shots but I thought I'd step it up. If you honestly think it can't be done with speedlites I will pack up this whole photography thing and go home and learn to weave baskets instead!

Thanks for the confidence boost. If I wasn't nervous before ....

Edit: the woman who negotiated the deal approached me to help me out. She saw my still under construction website, pitched the idea to the company president and he went with it. They are fully aware of my non pro status. If I turn up with speedlite I think it will be OK!
« Last Edit: September 13, 2013, 02:14:57 AM by Zv »
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Re: Lighting large groups, help needed!
« Reply #5 on: September 13, 2013, 02:24:10 AM »
Ahh... then you're doing this for a friend. As I said, that's completely different, no pressure you're not a hired gun getting paid for professional quality work. You should have stated that first. It appeared as you were doing a job. That means something completely different to professional wedding/event photographers. The problems always start when you ask for money, expectations of a paying client are always difficult to deal with and you should be prepared for it. If you are not, that's what professional photographers are for.

BTW... two pro-quality strobes will be far less to move around than 5 speedlites on stands with modifiers, triggers, etc. And you don't have to rent Elinchroms, any quality hp strobe will suffice.
« Last Edit: September 13, 2013, 02:42:15 AM by DavidKM »

Drizzt321

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Re: Lighting large groups, help needed!
« Reply #6 on: September 13, 2013, 02:40:10 AM »
Ahh... then you're doing this for a friend. As I said, that's completely different, no pressure you're not a hired gun getting paid for professional quality work.

I think there's still probably quite a bit of pressure, but OP shouldn't be as stressed about producing the kind of work as The Strobist or McNally would turn out.

That said, get (or more likely rent) a couple of speedlites, and either use a master mounted on your camera or some RF triggers and put them on stands a decent distance away, at approximately 45 degree angles from the group facing inwards. It'd be better if you could get 2 at each point, one high one low and shooting through or bouncing from an umbrella or octo-box. It'll eat power, but you'll get much more even light. Don't feel you need to be at ISO 100 either. With some decent light, ISO 400 or even 800 will be perfectly acceptable. I'd also go to f/5.6 or 6.3 to increase your DoF. Especially if you have people ranked 3 deep. Last, don't use your 17-40 at 17mm please. At least 24mm, maybe creeping up towards 30-35mm if you have enough room.

Actually, looking at it you will have a decent number of speedlites. If you can get some RF triggers (most also have a PC out connection so you can use 1 per pair of speedlites) that'd make it a lot easier and more reliable to trigger. If at all possible, I'd recommend showing up quite early, getting a good look at the location and then getting your friend (or someone really) to stand at various locations of where the group of people will be while you shoot them and adjust your lighting and power settings. Also use a few bits of gaffers tape to mark the edges of where people need to stand. That way, when you actually need to get shooting you'll just have to herd them into the target area, make sure you can see everyone's face, get 1 or 2 test shots and then get 1-2 minutes of a bunch of shots. Make sure you talk to them, don't just go bang! bang! bang! Tell a joke, or talk with your friend ahead of time and tell him you're going to make fun of him a bit to get a laugh. That'll help get them to relax and you'll get much better photos that way.
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Re: Lighting large groups, help needed!
« Reply #6 on: September 13, 2013, 02:40:10 AM »

Zv

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Re: Lighting large groups, help needed!
« Reply #7 on: September 13, 2013, 02:50:50 AM »
Ahh... then you're doing this for a friend. As I said, that's completely different, no pressure you're not a hired gun getting paid for professional quality work. You should have stated that first. It appeared as you were doing a job. That means something completely different to professional wedding/event photographers.

BTW... two pro-quality strobes will be far less to move around than 5 speedlites on stands with modifiers, triggers, etc. And you don't have to rent Elinchroms, any quality hp strobe will suffice.

I'll look into the strobes. Any ideas on lighting set ups? I'm thinking indoors will be far easier to control as outdoors I'll end up limited by the sync speed. And stopping down would just reduce the power of the flash further. Indoors in a meeting room I could bounce the flash off walls or ceiling for smaller groups of 8. And the ID shots I will use umbrella high and camera right with a reflector or second umbrella underneath for fill. It's really the group shot of 30 that troubles me. Might just shoot that outside and hope the sun f---s off behind a cloud! If not - shade. I scouted the entrance and it's sort of shaded by trees to an extent. Flash would be useless with that many people outdoors, right? Or just fire all 5 into the crowd and hope to God that some photons land on a few faces!
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Zv

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Re: Lighting large groups, help needed!
« Reply #8 on: September 13, 2013, 02:53:04 AM »
Here's the entrance (shot with iphone)

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RAKAMRAK

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Re: Lighting large groups, help needed!
« Reply #9 on: September 13, 2013, 04:00:15 AM »
Hmm, it looks like you cannot rent anything (I am assuming from whatever you have written till now) and coming from a country which is not USA I understand that. Not all countries have such extensive gear renting opportunities like US. But with 30 people standing (and sitting may be) you will need to figure out some way to put one flash to the right of the group (hitting the right side of the group) and another on the left and the third one from top of your camera. So you will need some sort of posts or walls towards your right and left (you can use something like gaffers tape or strong cloth tapes to do that). you may also want to put two of your speedlights at the back of the group facing the back wall slightly uppishly to give some light to the background and to make the group of employees standout from the background. I am assuming you have someway of remotely triggering the four flashes that are not on the camera.

For the headshots go to the strobist website, they have a nice article on headshots in office spaces with speedlights. They may also have something on group shot.
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Zv

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Re: Lighting large groups, help needed!
« Reply #10 on: September 13, 2013, 04:12:26 AM »
Hmm, it looks like you cannot rent anything (I am assuming from whatever you have written till now) and coming from a country which is not USA I understand that. Not all countries have such extensive gear renting opportunities like US. But with 30 people standing (and sitting may be) you will need to figure out some way to put one flash to the right of the group (hitting the right side of the group) and another on the left and the third one from top of your camera. So you will need some sort of posts or walls towards your right and left (you can use something like gaffers tape or strong cloth tapes to do that). you may also want to put two of your speedlights at the back of the group facing the back wall slightly uppishly to give some light to the background and to make the group of employees standout from the background. I am assuming you have someway of remotely triggering the four flashes that are not on the camera.

For the headshots go to the strobist website, they have a nice article on headshots in office spaces with speedlights. They may also have something on group shot.

Yeah I wasthinking something like that. One left one right and one on axis fill. I'll try and stand on a step ladder. I have triggers and stands plus the 560IIIs have built in triggers (why I bought them for this to make life easier). Thanks for the help.
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Zv

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Re: Lighting large groups, help needed!
« Reply #11 on: September 13, 2013, 04:24:37 AM »
Ahh... then you're doing this for a friend. As I said, that's completely different, no pressure you're not a hired gun getting paid for professional quality work.

I think there's still probably quite a bit of pressure, but OP shouldn't be as stressed about producing the kind of work as The Strobist or McNally would turn out.

That said, get (or more likely rent) a couple of speedlites, and either use a master mounted on your camera or some RF triggers and put them on stands a decent distance away, at approximately 45 degree angles from the group facing inwards. It'd be better if you could get 2 at each point, one high one low and shooting through or bouncing from an umbrella or octo-box. It'll eat power, but you'll get much more even light. Don't feel you need to be at ISO 100 either. With some decent light, ISO 400 or even 800 will be perfectly acceptable. I'd also go to f/5.6 or 6.3 to increase your DoF. Especially if you have people ranked 3 deep. Last, don't use your 17-40 at 17mm please. At least 24mm, maybe creeping up towards 30-35mm if you have enough room.

Actually, looking at it you will have a decent number of speedlites. If you can get some RF triggers (most also have a PC out connection so you can use 1 per pair of speedlites) that'd make it a lot easier and more reliable to trigger. If at all possible, I'd recommend showing up quite early, getting a good look at the location and then getting your friend (or someone really) to stand at various locations of where the group of people will be while you shoot them and adjust your lighting and power settings. Also use a few bits of gaffers tape to mark the edges of where people need to stand. That way, when you actually need to get shooting you'll just have to herd them into the target area, make sure you can see everyone's face, get 1 or 2 test shots and then get 1-2 minutes of a bunch of shots. Make sure you talk to them, don't just go bang! bang! bang! Tell a joke, or talk with your friend ahead of time and tell him you're going to make fun of him a bit to get a laugh. That'll help get them to relax and you'll get much better photos that way.

Solid advice thanks! I should mention I have 4x RF-603 triggers.
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RAKAMRAK

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Re: Lighting large groups, help needed!
« Reply #12 on: September 13, 2013, 04:31:53 AM »
My plan would be something like this
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Re: Lighting large groups, help needed!
« Reply #12 on: September 13, 2013, 04:31:53 AM »

Rienzphotoz

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Re: Lighting large groups, help needed!
« Reply #13 on: September 13, 2013, 04:49:30 AM »
there will be two shots with 30 people.

Any help or advice would be great!

Thanks!
Hi Zv, I regularly make lots of group photos in my office with up to 60 people in the pic (I am not a hired pro ... I just do it for the joy of it and the company I work for requests me to take group photos ... in return I get lots of good will and faster services from our HR and admin departments  ;D). Because I only get 2 or 3 minutes max to gather everyone for the group shot in random places and the environments I shoot in don't have nice backgrounds or lighting,  I bounce the light off the ceiling (when I'm indoors) with my two 600 EX-RT speedlites (triggering with my ST-E3 RT) + two Yonguo YN-300 II LED lights (these are very cheap and powerful LED lights for just $79 each) ... when I'm outdoors (usually onshore/offshore rig sites), I use 2 cheap light stands (bought from Amazon) to hold whiteboards and I bounce the light off of them ... it is not the perfect setup but it does a decent job of illuminating all the people in the pic ... once I'm happy with the image, I remove the background and any other distractions in post production and paint it to a nice matching color ... my PP takes longer than the actual image.

Edit: I see from your signature that you have 17-40L / 17-55 / 24-105L for group shots ... I've had/have all those 3 lenses and I found that 7D with 24-105L gave me better group shots than the other 2 lenses (assuming you can back up far enough to get the entire group in the image) ... I could get better deep depth of field on the 7D at f/4 (with 24-105 at 24mm) than the 5D III at 5.6
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RAKAMRAK

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Re: Lighting large groups, help needed!
« Reply #14 on: September 13, 2013, 04:59:22 AM »
...... I use 2 cheap light stands (bought from Amazon) to hold whiteboards and I bounce the light off of them ... it is not the perfect setup but it does a decent job of illuminating all the people in the pic ...

I think that is brilliant. I have been thinking of that for long, but could not figure out how to fix the white board on the lightstands and then where to fix the speedlights. Rienzphotoz could you please some info about that if that is possible? Thank you.....
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Re: Lighting large groups, help needed!
« Reply #14 on: September 13, 2013, 04:59:22 AM »