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Archive 2013 · Advise on shooting a large family (16 people)
  
 
StowePhoto
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p.1 #1 · Advise on shooting a large family (16 people)


Hi guys,

Next Saturday (March 30th) I am shooting a large family portrait. The shots will be taken outside where hopefully the weather will cooperate and the mountain views will be stunning. We've had some nice late season snow and the mountains are beautifully white.

I've shot family groups on many occasions during my weddings but this is going to be my first job shooting strictly this family portrait.

I have a few questions about the best way to light this, as well as how to pose this many people.

For staters, there is a chance the weather will not be 100% perfect. There could be breezes, there could be wind. That worries me as far as having a softbox or umbrella on stands, as even the lightest puff of wind would topple them. I have confidence that I can pull this shot off with a camera mounted 580EXII, but I want to knock the lighting out of the park.

What would you recommend for posing such a large group of people, outside, in a way that looks fun, organized and creative. I don't think we're going to have a beautiful tree that the kids can sit on the branches or anything like that.

Part of the specialness of this photos is that it is the parents 45th wedding anniversary, so they need to be showcased. Would you recommend bringing in chairs and seating the parents? What about paring the sub-families together and incorporating the younger children? How have you posed this many people so everyone is clearly seen by the camera and not buried behind each other? But not stringing everyone out in a long uninteresting line?

And finally what about exposure settings. The setting is a big part of the photo so I don't want to shoot 2.8 and blur out the mountains. Do I want to stop down to 5.6, 8, 11, 16?

Any other tips you guys can give me (and photo examples) would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks so much!

Jesse



Mar 23, 2013 at 02:44 PM
ricardovaste
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p.1 #2 · Advise on shooting a large family (16 people)


I would definitely consider having an assistant, just to make things run smoother (especially if things could be slightly unpredictable).


Mar 23, 2013 at 02:48 PM
sgtbueno
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p.1 #3 · Advise on shooting a large family (16 people)


are you shooting during the day? if you're shooting during the day you dont need lights, find a good place to do it and if you still need lights then you'll need somebody to help you.

About DOF, use F11 and see how looks, you should be ok, if not just drop it some more.

Try do check some group posing samples online, Google always help.



Mar 23, 2013 at 02:56 PM
sherijohnson
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p.1 #4 · Advise on shooting a large family (16 people)


f8-11 should be a safe aperture for this large group provided you have plenty of light, I like your idea of having them seated, if there are young kids, they could possibly sit on the ground in the front.


Mar 23, 2013 at 03:03 PM
jcolman
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p.1 #5 · Advise on shooting a large family (16 people)


Did someone say "large family?".



I disagree with sgtbueno. You will most likely need some extra light unless you want to blow out your background or you are in total shade. (even in shade, I still use light to light up the eyes)

I shot this with two lights, one bare (camera left) and the other bounced into a large umbrella to give some fill.

But if you really want to see a large group shot......





Mar 23, 2013 at 03:38 PM
form
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p.1 #6 · Advise on shooting a large family (16 people)


Shoot from above in shade! That's what I do if possible. I've shot groups with 50+ people in them that way.


Mar 23, 2013 at 04:17 PM
louloulou
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p.1 #7 · Advise on shooting a large family (16 people)


https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=492356427495560&set=a.492326617498541.1073741827.100233186707888&type=1&theater.jpg

find a tractor

How old is the youngest member? The last large family I did the youngest two both not quite two years old were miserable. I didn't realise the parents hadn't fed them lunch first. If you have any kids under five maybe bring lollies or something to bribe them...that was my biggest issue. The next biggest issue was managing the parents who all wanted different things. They wanted a shot with the kids swinging on the gate in hot summer broad daylight. I took it and it turned out ok, but in hindsight I should have had an assistant with a reflector. But with kids that young I seriously had no time to arrange lights. Kids hate photographers who pose them for too long.



Mar 24, 2013 at 12:01 AM
louloulou
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p.1 #8 · Advise on shooting a large family (16 people)


https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=229391300458742&set=a.229361237128415.57847.100233186707888&type=3&theater


Disclaimer, the photos aren't the best I've ever done, but the families loved them. The families I shoot in these situations are usually and specifically after more natural unposed photos where they have a very definite location in mind.

I'd strongly advise having an assistant with a reflector if nothing else.




https://fbcdn-sphotos-g-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-snc6/265102_171455562918983_7048458_n.jpg



Mar 24, 2013 at 12:29 AM
nolaguy
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p.1 #9 · Advise on shooting a large family (16 people)


Hi Jesse,

I’ve never loved large group portraits where everyone is positioned ducks in a row. Years ago I noticed Vanity Fair spreads with 20 or so celebrities and how the photographers (Annie and Herb, I think) would pose them in small clusters – sort of a dinner party vibe where one might imagine several individual conversations going on – an approach I found much more interesting.

The portrait below was a Christmas present for the grandparents. In posing the siblings/cousins, I looked for the natural relationships between them - who was clowning around with who and positioned them based on that, not necessarily posing siblings together. The shot is a little soft and could have used a bit more reflected (or strobe) light but for me it’s been a good case study. I also considered desaturating some but the truth is, this is pretty much how they looked. Their attire was super vibrant.

The sharpness (or lack thereof) might have benefitted from something higher than f/4 but I wanted to make sure the cattails in the background were sufficiently blurred;

Shot about 10:00AM in December (if you’re worried about wind, a morning session may help reduce that possibility);

Sun obviously camera right perhaps 30 degrees behind the crew;

Horizontally positioned 6’ x 4’ (roughly) white reflector camera left at about 45 degrees to the subjects and largely level with them – would have been nice to get it up higher;

I’d established a rapport with most of the children and all but two were having fun with the session. The two youngest were less interested so I had their mom’s walk around with them for a minute or so to soothe them, then when I called for them, they’d quickly swoop in and out of the frame, position the children and I’d take 10 or 20 shots – rinse, then repeat.

It was useful to assign “caretaking” of the little ones to a couple of the older children during the actual shooting.

The other thing I think really adds to this shot is the touching and connectivity going on between the children. Even though the pose sort of has three individual groups, almost all of them have a hand on another cousin.

HTH

Chuck





  NIKON D700    105mm    f/4.0    1/250s    200 ISO    0.0 EV  




Mar 24, 2013 at 05:11 PM
jefferies1
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p.1 #10 · Advise on shooting a large family (16 people)


Hard if on flat land to position a large group. I try to break the group up into 3 levels. That can be one on the ground, one in the middle ( chairs, kneeling) last higher standing. If large rocks are available that would make it easy. A park bench helps, even a kids play set would be fun. After you get 3 levels divide into groups. again 2-3 per group. Angle each group to fit. Point is NO straighht lines. You want depth from the groups/angles and different height from the 3 levels. Of course when you turn around everyone will move into a line because they think that is how it should be. Few people have that creative eye and natural feeling is move to a line. An assistant helps hold things together. Bring weights for the light stands. Try for F8-11 as others have said. Tell them ahead of time some kids will be on the ground.


Mar 24, 2013 at 06:45 PM
 

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Ian Ivey
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p.1 #11 · Advise on shooting a large family (16 people)


1) Bring a small or medium stepladder from which to shoot, to get you above eye level of the highest (rear) row, which generally is more flattering to groups and gives you better visibility of faces.
2) See if you can find a park bench or something similar (park table, set of stairs) that can serve as a riser for the back row, which will give you options for four or five levels/rows.
3) You've got at least three levels without a riser: seated in front, kneeling (second row) and standing (third row).
4) Usually, the more you vary head height the better. Let that be a little voice in the back of your head pushing you to get people to lean in, using shoulders of the people in front of them, or lean back, or anything that can create a connect-the-dots pattern to break up rows. The example I've attached isn't great in this regard -- not horrible, but I wish I'd done more to get body and head positions different within rows. Clustering people can be helpful so long as it doesn't create a sense of detached little groups.
5) Off-camera flash gives you much more control. Speedlights are fine, but if you have Einsteins or similar, so much the better. Keep in mind that, with even the smallest amount of wind, umbrellas = kites.






Family photo, using park bench




Mar 25, 2013 at 03:44 PM
StowePhoto
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p.1 #12 · Advise on shooting a large family (16 people)


Hi guys,

Thanks so much for the great responses and examples, it is greatly appreciated.
I have not been to the spot where the photo will be taken as it is at one of the brothers private residences. The mother said that the land holds great views of the mountaintains. So my plan will be to arrive, spec out the land and see if there is a level spot, hopefully containing some sort of natural feature that kids could stand on. Next will be to bring out some chairs so the mom and dad (who are celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary) can sit in front with their familes surrounding them. Because there will be snow (possibly wet snow) on the ground, I'm not sure about sitting anyone or having people kneel. That being said, I'm going to need to find a solution to creating 'rows' of people. I'll have to work on that one.

For extra light. Let's pretend there is no wind and we are lucky enough to get a calm morning (the shoot is at 10 am.). I currently have a pair of sofboxes mounted on Chettah Stands and 580EXII's providing the light. I also have a large silver backed umbrella.

Would I want to place both softboxes on either side of the camera (not close to me but fanned out about 5-10ft away on either side?). Set each to the same power and go from there?

I will bring a medium sized step ladder to push me above the group.

Any other advise, examples or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

Jesse



Mar 25, 2013 at 07:33 PM
DigMeTX
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p.1 #13 · Advise on shooting a large family (16 people)


You might find some ideas in this thread:

http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/1107431


brad



Mar 25, 2013 at 08:40 PM
Ian Ivey
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p.1 #14 · Advise on shooting a large family (16 people)


Softboxes are less kite-like than umbrellas. They certainly still get blown around and can tip over, but the umbrella's shape makes it work first like a weather vane and then immediately like a kite.

If you can bring an assistant, you can probably use either if the wind isn't bad. If you're shooting by yourself, consider shooting with just the bare speedlights. Even a bare speedlight can get blown over, but it's a lot less likely to topple in moderate wind than one with a modifier attached.



Mar 26, 2013 at 12:58 AM
eburge
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p.1 #15 · Advise on shooting a large family (16 people)


My 2 cents:
Take at least 2 assistants to hold the lights. (sandbags might work also)

Take at least 2 chairs for the couple or take 6 chairs for 2 people (couples) to sit on either side of the honorees.

Set the camera to manual.

Set the flashes to manual at ¼ power on both sides of the camera. (I use Pocket Wizard Plus II's)

Use a light meter to measure the ambient light. Set the camera to the meter readings.

Use a flash meter (I use the Sekonic L358, it does both) to set the flashes. With 16 people that will be 6 people seated and 2 rows of 5 standing. F4, F5.6, F8 should be good depth of field.

Personal preferences: I would have the 4 tallest people sitting with the honorees then arrange the 10 by height from the middle out and from the back row in. I would take a few pictures with the light even. Then I would lower one to 1/8 or 1/16 to get some modeling in the picture (watch the direction of the sun).



Mar 26, 2013 at 07:59 PM
StowePhoto
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p.1 #16 · Advise on shooting a large family (16 people)


eburge wrote:
My 2 cents:
Take at least 2 assistants to hold the lights. (sandbags might work also)

Take at least 2 chairs for the couple or take 6 chairs for 2 people (couples) to sit on either side of the honorees.

Set the camera to manual.

Set the flashes to manual at ¼ power on both sides of the camera. (I use Pocket Wizard Plus II's)

Use a light meter to measure the ambient light. Set the camera to the meter readings.

Use a flash meter (I use the Sekonic L358, it does both) to set the flashes. With 16 people that will be 6 people seated
...Show more

This sounds like a very reasonable, neat, organized and achievable preparation for this photo. Thank you.
One thing, I do not have a light meters. I know, I should. I will get them. But I don't yet. That being said, I can meter the scene for proper exposure through the camera using the cameras meter, correct? I am also using Radio Popper JRx trigger and receivers, which will allow me to dial in power to the flashes from the transmitter. Should I set correct exposure in camera, then slowly dial in the fill flash until it looks good. Should only take me one or two test fires to get good exposure with the flash.

I know I sound a bit inexperienced with this and the truth is I have shot a lot of groups, but I want to get very good at this and that is why I have asked for advise on this. If I am proud of this photo I will definitely share the result for critique.

Thanks again for any advice,

Jesse


Edited on Mar 29, 2013 at 01:19 AM · View previous versions



Mar 28, 2013 at 11:31 PM
Ian Ivey
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p.1 #17 · Advise on shooting a large family (16 people)


I can meter the scene for proper exposure through the camera using the cameras meter, correct?

Yeah -- you always have a light meter with you. A dedicated meter does it a bit differently, but it's rarely necessary in order to get a good exposure; the camera's meter is very useful if you use it deliberately.



Mar 29, 2013 at 01:05 AM
StowePhoto
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p.1 #18 · Advise on shooting a large family (16 people)


Hi guys,

I am setting up my flashes tonight in preparation for tomorrows shoot. I have opted to use two Canon 580EXII's on chettah stands. I'm going to use just the flash heads, not the softboxes, but I am using flash head diffusers on each flash. I think this setup will prove to be light enough to move around a bunch, plus not get kited away by any wind that might be blowing.

My plan is to set these flashes on either side of me, about eight feet away on either side from my position. Raise the stands to about 6.5 feet and angle the flash heads so they are pointing at the assembled group of family members.

I have a question about the zoom feature of the flashes. I plan to shoot this with my 24-70, probably zoomed to approx. the 50mm range, but I'm not sure on that. Does it matter the mm that each flash is set to zoom at? I have to ability to match the power output by using the Radio Popper JRx system. You set the flashes in ETTL mode and then set each dial on the transmitter to the same level, thus directing each flash to output the same amount. Does that override the zoom feature? Do I want to manually dial in the correct mm of zoom that I am planning to shoot the photo in? What if I zoom in/out some between photos?

Also, one flash keeps periodically popping? I don't know why that is but if the flash is left on it will just randomly pop off. Any explanation for that?

Hopefully someone can clear this up for me!

-Jesse



Mar 29, 2013 at 11:04 PM
jcolman
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p.1 #19 · Advise on shooting a large family (16 people)


StowePhoto wrote:
Hi guys,

I am setting up my flashes tonight in preparation for tomorrows shoot. I have opted to use two Canon 580EXII's on chettah stands. I'm going to use just the flash heads, not the softboxes, but I am using flash head diffusers on each flash. I think this setup will prove to be light enough to move around a bunch, plus not get kited away by any wind that might be blowing.

My plan is to set these flashes on either side of me, about eight feet away on either side from my position. Raise the stands to about 6.5 feet
...Show more

If you are shooting outside, a plastic diffuser on your flash head will do nothing but limit the output of your flash. It will not in and of itself, soften the light. Zooming your flashes to 50mm should give you enough spread but you may find that you want to go wider, depending on the size of the group and the distance they are from your lights. The random popping is most likely because the flash shoe is not seated properly in the cold shoe on your light stand. This can cause a flash to fire.



Mar 30, 2013 at 01:36 AM
BrianO
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p.1 #20 · Advise on shooting a large family (16 people)


StowePhoto wrote:
...I am setting up my flashes tonight in preparation for tomorrows shoot. I have opted to use two Canon 580EXII's on chettah stands. I'm going to use just the flash heads, not the softboxes, but I am using flash head diffusers on each flash. ...My plan is to set these flashes on either side of me, about eight feet away on either side from my position.


I may be too late, but I don't frequent this forum any more; someone PMed me and suggested I weight in.

Ditto what jcolman said about not using small diffusion devices (flip-out lenses, Sto-Fen Omni-Bounce caps, Fong Domes, etc.) outdoors. They're all designed to spread out the light so it can bounce off walls and ceiling to give dispersed bounce fill; if you're outdoors, all that light has nothing to bounce off and will just be wasted going out into space.

What creates soft light is a light source that is large relative to the subject, and bouce caps et al don't make the light enough larger to be worthwhile if it's not bouncing off anything. If it's too windy to use a really big umbrella or softbox, then you're better off just using the straight flash.

As for spreading the lights 16-feet wide, I wouldn't; I'd put the lights close-in on either side of the camera and aimed so each one covers the whole group. (Having two lighst will allow each one to operate at less than full power even in daylight.) Keeping the lights close to the camera laterally will avoid crossed shadows, and also prevent anyone's head from casting a shadow on anyone behind him or her.

The heads should be zoomed to the same setting as the focal length of the lens, or slightly wider, to get full coverage of the group.

Raise the light stands high enough that the light shines down on the group at an angle that will avoid the "deer in the headlights" look, but not so high that the eys are shaded by the eyebrow ridges to the extent that they turn into dark "raccoon eyes."

Also, ditto on the advice to use a step ladder so you're looking slightly down on the group. Don't over-do it though (we have one frequent poster here who likes to get so high that standing figures look like cardboard cutouts lying on the grass); getting some sense of a horizon helps keep the perspective feeling normal, and in your case if the mountains in the background look good you'll not want to be too high for that reason alone.

Good luck, and have fun.



Mar 30, 2013 at 04:27 AM
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