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Archive 2012 · Group Photo Lighting Advice Needed
  
 
thollaway
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p.1 #1 · Group Photo Lighting Advice Needed


I’ve been “volunteered” to take High School Homecoming dance class group pictures and need your advice. As you can imagine the location is less than desirable, a dual purpose high school cafeteria and stage combo.

My question is; what is the best way to light this

Setup:

150-250 Kids on the stage. (Stage does have black curtains that will be closed) No outside ambient light, it will be dark. I can have the cafeteria incandescent lights either on, off, or hopefully somewhere in between.

Current Equipment:

Canon 5D Mark iii
Canon EF 24-70 f/2.8L (most likely will use this lens)
Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT (Qty. 2) fired/controlled with Canon Speedlite Transmitter ST-E3-RT

How would you set this up to get the best quality picture? I’ve searched for suggestions, but have come up empty. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Thank you!!!



Sep 18, 2012 at 10:22 PM
BruceF99
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p.1 #2 · Group Photo Lighting Advice Needed


Is there any stage lighting?


Sep 18, 2012 at 11:23 PM
Kenneth Farver
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p.1 #3 · Group Photo Lighting Advice Needed


hopefully you don't mean 150-250 kids on the stage at one time.


Sep 18, 2012 at 11:25 PM
thollaway
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p.1 #4 · Group Photo Lighting Advice Needed


There might be some stage lighting, but it will be questionable at best...

Yes...150-250 simultaneously....freshmen, sophomore, junior, and senior classes seperately.



Sep 18, 2012 at 11:33 PM
RustyBug
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p.1 #5 · Group Photo Lighting Advice Needed


Are you putting everyone ON the stage, or will you putting them ON the cafeteria floor with the stage as the backdrop (curtains closed), or do you have risers for both the floor and stage to tier the group from floor to stage?

I'd be looking at renting some lighting for the shoot, something you can get up high and with power. I realize that you've been "volunteered" ... but they should be able to "volunteer" some $$$ toward the effort if they are going to "skip out" on paying for someone who is properly equipped, skilled, experienced and trained. I don't mind helping out, but if quality is the goal ... there is a difference between overcoming "handcuffed" to achieve "acceptable" and putting out a good product.

I got "volunteered" similarly way back when ... my local rental house was instrumental in helping me handle something that was more than I was prepared for ... both with gear & knowledge.

HTH ... GL

+1 @ Brian's ladder (or shooting from the stage down to the floor).

Edited on Sep 19, 2012 at 03:31 AM · View previous versions



Sep 19, 2012 at 12:38 AM
BrianO
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p.1 #6 · Group Photo Lighting Advice Needed


If you can't get risers/bleachers for 250 people, then the best bet might be to have the kids on the cafeteria floor and you shooting from the stage...even from a ladder on the stage.

By shooting from well above eye level you'll be able to get an angle that will prevent the heads of the kids in front from blocking the heads of the kids in back.

With a group that large I wouldn't try to get fancy with the lighting; ambient lights all on for fill, and your 600EXes (on ETTL II) just to either side of, and higher than, the camera position for a 25- to 30-degree down-angled centered key light.

Be aware of the amount of space you'll need. If we assume 10 rows of kids (for a group of 250) with 30 kids in the back row and 20 or so in the front row, you'll need about 60 feet of width, and the camera will need to be at least 30 feet from the front row if you're at 24mm focal length.

Good luck; this sounds like a challenging shoot.



Sep 19, 2012 at 02:05 AM
thollaway
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p.1 #7 · Group Photo Lighting Advice Needed


Good suggestion on shooting down. Had not thought about that.

It is a big challenge but I want it to be a decent job given the constraints. I hope the 600's will provide enough fill without missing any spots due to width and depth of subjects.

Thank you for all of your suggestions!!!



Sep 19, 2012 at 01:38 PM
Steve Wylie
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p.1 #8 · Group Photo Lighting Advice Needed


If you're going to use the ambient lights for fill (which you probably should) and you know they're incandescent, then set your white balance to tungsten, and gel your two speedlites with a half-cut of CTO to compensate. You'll at least have a fighting chance at consistent color temperature. Also, the more ambient fill you can use the better. Your two speedlites will be challenged to provide enough broad light to fill in the shadows.

The other thing, which has been hinted at but not discussed directly, is the difficulty you'll have in getting everyone to have the same size heads if you have too many rows of kids, or the distance from front to back is too great relative to your position. If you put yourself too close to the group, the people up front will look much larger than those in the back. Place yourself as far away as you reasonably can to minimize this problem.



Sep 19, 2012 at 05:05 PM
Deezie
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p.1 #9 · Group Photo Lighting Advice Needed


I would also check the location before the shoot to determine if your 24-70 is wide enough. You might have to rent a wide angle lens.


Sep 19, 2012 at 05:39 PM
BrianO
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p.1 #10 · Group Photo Lighting Advice Needed


Steve Wylie wrote:
...If you put yourself too close to the group, the people up front will look much larger than those in the back. Place yourself as far away as you reasonably can to minimize this problem.


Deezie wrote:
I would also check the location before the shoot to determine if your 24-70 is wide enough. You might have to rent a wide angle lens.


Both excellent tips. Getting enough distance for a large group is critical, and having a zoom lens will give you some framing/composing flexibility.

Here's a site that I find helpful when planning, in particular the Dimensional Field of View calculator and to a lesser extent the Depth of Field calculator:

http://www.tawbaware.com/maxlyons/calc.htm



Sep 19, 2012 at 08:52 PM
 

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BrianO
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p.1 #11 · Group Photo Lighting Advice Needed


thollaway wrote:
...I hope the 600's will provide enough fill without missing any spots due to width and depth of subjects.


The Speedlites should be the key lights, not the fill. They'll be coming from the direction of the camera, and if you position and aim as mentioned above they should cover everyone nicely.

The main reason for using two Speedlites in this case isn't for wider coverage (they should be set to match the focal length of the lens), but for the extra power two lights will provide over one.

Also, the further away from the subjects the lights are (within reason) the better, because the light intensity will be more even from front to back. (The fall-off effect.)



Sep 19, 2012 at 09:01 PM
RustyBug
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p.1 #12 · Group Photo Lighting Advice Needed


Shooting down helps with narrowing the subject distance variance between front to back rows somewhat also.

+1 @ distance of flash to subject for controlling fall off, but comes at the expense needing a larger aperture. Add in the light loss of any light modifier (umbrella, bounce, diffuser etc.) and it becomes a balancing act of quantity vs. quality (hence the rec for rental power).

From the "armchair quarterback" position ... lighting and camera position on the stage, shooting down with/without risers on the floor.



Sep 19, 2012 at 10:40 PM
thollaway
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p.1 #13 · Group Photo Lighting Advice Needed


Excellent suggestions everyone!!! This is much more than I was wanting to be volunteered for with short notice, but will make the best of it!!!


Sep 20, 2012 at 02:38 AM
mmurph
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p.1 #14 · Group Photo Lighting Advice Needed


Personally, I would rent two 2400 Ws packs, with 4 heads. Also 2 Large or Extra Large soft boxes, plus one soft box for hair/kicker and reflector for background.

Do a mostly traditional 4 light setup, with the main light & fill light closer to even (flat lighting) - you need the coverage, not the dramatic shadows.

I did a recent shoot with 3, 1200 Ws packs, with 4 heads (1 pack main, 1 pack fill, 1 pack background & hair.)

With a group of 40-50 people, that was about the minimum to shoot at ISO 400 at 4.0

If you have to spend $100 to $150, do it as a donation (tax deduction? maybe) and a learning experience for the equipment. Hopefully you get it Friday afternoon, return it Monday for a 1 day price.

Practice, take 100+ pictures at home, learn. Worth it. Of course try to get them to cough up for it!

Good luck,
Michael

Edited on Sep 20, 2012 at 07:51 PM · View previous versions



Sep 20, 2012 at 03:56 AM
iJeffG
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p.1 #15 · Group Photo Lighting Advice Needed


Maybe not the best option, but if your equipment limited, do some extra work in post.

I wanted to capture a school stage worth of 6, 7, and 8th graders....during the 10 minutes this group was on stage (singing) I captured three pictures (left group, right group, and center) ensuring I had overlap. Also, make sure to lock exposure.


In post, I used Photoshop Elements to create a panorama-style group shot. Went over very well.



Sep 20, 2012 at 01:33 PM
swoop
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p.1 #16 · Group Photo Lighting Advice Needed


When I was in high school my entire graduating class stood on the lawn while the photographer photographed us from the roof. Looking back with a photographers eye, it's simple, there's plenty of daylight, and you'll have no trouble getting everyone in the frame.



Sep 20, 2012 at 07:40 PM
whitewash
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p.1 #17 · Group Photo Lighting Advice Needed


My graduating class was about 300 students, and the photographer used a sweeping panoramic camera to shoot us as a group (aside, some students got a kick out of running behind from one side of the bleachers to the other, trying to get into the shot twice). I think Jeff's idea of a panorama-style shot (or maybe swoop's roof shot) would be the only way to get significant detail in so many faces.


Sep 21, 2012 at 07:31 AM
sic0048
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p.1 #18 · Group Photo Lighting Advice Needed


There is no way just two speed lights are going to put a dent in lighting 150-250 people. Even in a fill light role, they will be woefully under powered. Either rent multiple studio lights, or plan to not use artificial lighting at all and shoot outside.




Sep 22, 2012 at 02:27 AM
BrianO
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p.1 #19 · Group Photo Lighting Advice Needed


sic0048 wrote:
There is no way just two speed lights are going to put a dent in lighting 150-250 people. Even in a fill light role, they will be woefully under powered.


I disagree. 250 people in ten rows can be shot at f/4 with a 28mm lens from about 55 feet away from the front row; well within the limits of two 600EX Speedlites even at ISO 100. Up the sensitivity to ISO 400 or so and you're gold.



Sep 22, 2012 at 04:17 AM
RustyBug
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p.1 #20 · Group Photo Lighting Advice Needed


The 600ex specs out at GN 85 for use @ 20mm setting (100 ISO)

The problem is going to be getting the light to cover the FOV needed for the width and depth of the subject.

Shooting @ f4 will provide yield a 20 foot flash to subject distance. BUT ... at 20 ft subject distance @ 20mm flash setting, the coverage will be approximately 30-35 feet wide not taking into account falloff from center to edges.

Arranging 150 people in 6 rows of 25 shoulder to shoulder will be stretch kinda wide. Angling everyone so they are closer together will help, but then that makes the depth of the rows go deeper. Reducing the number of people wide, increases the depth of the rows as well.

Change that to 250 people and you are looking at 25 people, 10 rows deep. Now you are trying to illuminate the front row from 20 feet away to get the width, but the back row is 40 feet away. If you move your lights back to matching Brian's 55 ft shooting position, you've got good coverage but you've got to bump your ISO (which is okay) to offset the distance to the back rows.

Having the two speedlights can offer assistance in getting broader coverage, but there is still the issue @ depth falloff. If you can get your lights higher and/or stagger them for front to rear coverage, you can offset some of the falloff.

Of course, the bump in ISO will assist with exposure & aperture for lens DOF ... but it doesn't address the falloff or width of coverage needed depending on arrangement.

I might take a look at orienting the flash portrait (so it spreads the light deeper than wide) and set the two speedlights @ 1/3 & 2/3 of the FOV width.

I know I didn't say that very well, but it will be challenging to contend with the fov coverage of the speedlight vs. the GN vs. falloff.

You might see if you can run some test shots prior to the event to get a feel for what your 600EX's can do for you, so you'll have a better idea @ how to arrange your groups & lights. I don't think exposure is the big challenge here (ISO helps here) ... I think it is coverage vs. falloff vs. GN.

Edited on Sep 22, 2012 at 04:32 AM · View previous versions



Sep 22, 2012 at 04:23 AM
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