Group photograph advice

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by ThunderRobot, Nov 24, 2009.

  1. ThunderRobot macrumors regular


    Aug 10, 2008
    Glasgow, Scotland
    In the main I shoot architecture, street and the very occasional landscape but I’ve been asked by my boss to take a group shot of eight people. This isn’t mission critical, it’s a bit of fun and there’s no payment.

    I have a 5D Mark II, 24-105 f/4 IS L, 70-200 f/4 IS L, 50 f/1.4, a (single) 430 EX II and a very good tripod and head (Markins Q10).

    Using my existing kit can someone please suggest the best way of taking this photograph without buying extra kit.

    I realise ruling out more kit will cripple the potential solutions, but I don’t have the budget or inclination to rent or buy extra lights or softboxes which I won’t use again in the future.

    My thought is probably on camera flash bouncing off the ceiling or with a cardboard reflector elastic banded onto the speedlight and probably shooting around 35mm at f/11.

    However I’m really happy (and hope) to be guided by those with more experience on this kind of photography.

    The photo will probably be in a room with a ceiling around 4m high, white walls and ceiling and the option (if required) of turning on filtered florescent lights.
  2. jampat macrumors 6502a

    Mar 17, 2008
    Do you have an off camera flash cord or a window? I think the 430 will have trouble lighting a group of 8 people in the best of situations. When you are stopping down to f11 and bouncing the flash, I don't know if you will be able to get the picture properly exposed. With an off camera cord, you could try direct flash to get some more light on the group without it looking as terrible. A sunny window is really your best bet here if it is at all possible.
  3. stagi macrumors 65816


    Feb 18, 2006
    With 8 people you can get by shooting at 5.6, I would just use what you have bounce the 430 off the ceiling, shoot around 1/60 @ 5.6 and adjust your ISO as needed (maybe up to 800) With the 5d you should still get a great shot.
    If you are shooting at 35mm you really don't need f/11 to have everyone in focus
  4. ThunderRobot thread starter macrumors regular


    Aug 10, 2008
    Glasgow, Scotland
    I don't have an off-camera flash cord. The room does have a wall full of South facing windows. However these look into a courtyard area which has very high walls meaning even on the brightest of days it's very shaded and subdued light.

    And sadly, in Scotland in November, we don't have many (or any!) bright days.

    Later today I'll give 1/60 @ 5.6 a go with some test subjects.

    Many thanks for the help.
  5. stagi macrumors 65816


    Feb 18, 2006
  6. compuwar macrumors 601


    Oct 5, 2006
    Northern/Central VA
    Find a well-lit room and steps or something that will give you two rows of 4 people- with a 50mm, you may be able to do it, though you'll want to spend time with an online depth of field calculator and try to get a subject->camera distance that will allow you to just use the flash for fill.

    Otherwise, perhaps two groups of four people stacked 2x2 would be a better option and stitch the pictures later in post.

    Last of all, if you can get them to stand very still for a few seconds, put the camera on a tripod on bulb with the shutter held open and pop the flash 2 or 3 times from different angles- or mark the floor and with the camera on a tripod on bulb, have each of them step up to a (different) mark and strobe them individually- if you take the heights into account that might actually work and would probably be fun to experiment with too. With a small enough aperture and a snoot on the flash you could have all sorts of fun with it.

    I'd experiment heavily with the flash before trying to go to 35mm, that's wide and generally requires more light and a flash head with a pretty wide throw pattern. f/11 is probably not going to be workable with a single small flash and eight people even directly, let alone bounced.

    Those with more experience will have more lights- because that's pretty-much what you get down to when you start to shoot groups. A small optically-triggered second flash on a stand or clamp is a pretty minimal investment, so unless you're aiming for results that don't get you asked again, you should really consider it. If you know someone who does video, the small video hot lights can often be used to pump up the light in a venue as well.

    Mixed flash and florescent lighting will suck. Avoid mixed lighting as much as you can, because unless you're doing very low-power fill with the flash you'll have major issues trying to get natural-looking results with the color temperature of both flash and florescent in the same shot- and with eight people there will be lots of opportunity to have the flash shadowed on people's faces giving them that nice green skin tone where just the florescents hit them.
  7. mahood macrumors member

    Aug 6, 2009
    Why not just take them into the courtyard, if the light's not direct it'll probably look nicer anyhow, and the background would be better than a conference room wall....

    Going outside for a photo is a nice change of pace for the people too, they'll be more relaxed and you'll get a better photo :)

    Of course if it has to be indoors (I know how much rain you're getting up there) then the other posters made some good suggestions...

  8. Doylem macrumors 68040


    Dec 30, 2006
    Wherever I hang my hat...
    Outside sounds good to me too. A day that's cloudy (rather than gloomy...) would be fine... fewer shadows to worry about.

    Get people into positions where they make different 'shapes', and heads are at different heights (ie not regimented rows).

    With the camera on a tripod, and composition locked, you can chat to people, make a few alterations, and shoot with a cable release when everything looks right.

    The bigger the group, the more chance that one person will blink or look away at the wrong moment. So take a few shots and pick the best one later. Good luck... :)
  9. ThunderRobot thread starter macrumors regular


    Aug 10, 2008
    Glasgow, Scotland
    Thanks for the ongoing suggestions.

    Unfortunately the 'courtyard' is out. Probably a poor choice of words on my part - it's an inaccessible areas designed purely to allow light into rooms which would otherwise have no natural windows. It’s certainly not a picturesque area and is full of ducting, aircons and pipes.

    Outside would be a preferred option but it can’t be done until after working hours 5:30pm earliest and at the moment it’s dark around 4pm. Frustratingly I’m in a camera club with a dedicated studio environment and lighting set up but the group won’t travel to that location and insurance won’t cover the lighting outside the camera club premises.

    Because this is a favour and there’s no reimbursement I’m not in a position to make any further investment – I only purchased my 70-200 a couple of weeks ago and that wiped out my photo-cash-reserves for the next few months (I didn’t know this would be happening).

    Based on feedback so far, below is the most basic of basic diagrams (please ignore scale and terrible figures) to show one way I was considering doing it. I’m thinking of taking the photo looking down at the group which might make it more interesting and (maybe?) reduce the distance the flash would have to travel to bounce.


    DOF calculator suggests 50mm at f/4 with a subject distance of 4m should be ok. Near limit would be 3.36 and far would be 4.95 which should be enough (I think) to have solid focus on the group.

    In this situation the background would probably be a combination of untreated pine of a wall of inbuilt storage and rubber flooring so there shouldn’t be massive reflections, but semi-interesting textures between the grain of the wood and ‘divots’ on the floor.

    The room is in use today so I’m hoping to get in tomorrow or Monday to make some test shots. I think the ‘big day’ will be Wednesday next week.
    The image is for the group only – it’s for fun, it’s not going to be business critical so I have a reasonable amount of latitude but obviously for my own learning and development I want to produce the best image I can.

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