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Archive 2013 · Outdoor Group Gear Suggestions
  
 
Harold St
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Outdoor Group Gear Suggestions


I'll be taking pictures of an extended family group of 15 outdoors, likely in mid-day sun. To this point most of my outdoor lighting experience has been with singles, couples, or small families with reflectors and head on fill flash but I may want to use this opportunity as an excuse to expand my experience and buy some new gear . The lighting gear I already have:

1 580EXII, 2 550EX speedlights
1 CPE4 battery pack
2 lightstands
2 30" black/white umbrellas
sandbags
72" white oval reflector
50" soft gold round reflector
42" white round reflector
reflector holder

The cheapest alternative I'm considering is getting two silver umbrellas and setting up the 550EXs as slaves to the 580EXII on camera. Looking at these:
Link

The most expensive would be to get a couple of AB800s, the mini lithium, and PLMs but would like other advice as well. I don't often shoot groups this large but do a lot of individuals, couples, and small families. I'm not a working pro, most of my photography is friends, family, nonprofits, etc but I would be inclined to spend more on gear I might use often over something I would use for this shoot then rarely use again.



Jul 19, 2013 at 10:35 PM
BrianO
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Outdoor Group Gear Suggestions


Outdoors you may have trouble getting the slaves to "see" the command flashes of the master. There won't be close-by walls and ceilings for the preflashes to bounce off, and unless you have both slaves in the same spot you can't aim the master's head directly at both of them. If you want to go the Speedlite route, I highly suggest getting radio slaves. (They have many uses indoors, too, such as when the slaves are in a soft box, around a corner, etc.)

I use the reasonably priced Yongnuo YN-622C radios, which work with any Canon body having flash-control menus.

http://flashhavoc.com/yn622c_review/



Jul 20, 2013 at 01:00 AM
markd61
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Outdoor Group Gear Suggestions


I live in the desert and shoot groups in bright sun all the time.

Umbrellas with Speedlights in full sun will not work for a group of 15 people.

You may want to think of having them turn away from the sun and filling with direct flash on stands.
As you have to be a certain distance away from the group by virtue of their size, the benefits of the softening effect of the umbrellas will be redeuced.

Direct flash OTOH opens shadows well to make the scene appear that much softer.
ABs with batteries work great and one 800 will do the trick. You can use a silver PLM (I have one) but the effect will not be too different that a bare flash.
The most softening you will get will be using an 84" white PLM or a silver with a diffuser.

THEN you will provoke the wind gods and be wondering why you are no longer in Kansas.



Jul 20, 2013 at 03:06 PM
RustyBug
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Outdoor Group Gear Suggestions


I don't shoot portraits, but here is an image that caught my attention of someone who shot an outdoor group portrait without a lot of gear. It seems to me that he had a better grasp of understanding at harnessing time of day/orientation @ near noon than I'd seen before.

The thought of harnessing & filling rather than overpowering comes to mind here (even though it seems he didn't have any fill at his disposal). If the vintage lighting gear can produce this ... hmmm, might be a lesson in there somewhere. (i.e. compare/contrast with key vs. fill vs. facing open sky)

http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/1192325/0?keyword=x#11370420



Jul 20, 2013 at 03:55 PM
dmward
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Outdoor Group Gear Suggestions


What looks acceptable on a scan of a vintage photograph is much different that what a discerning customer should accept from a professional today.

Could a group of 15 be shot without additional lighting. Sure, will it be easier for the photographer to introduce a light source to fill shadows or act as a main with sun kicker, absolutely.

A group of 15 is probably easiest turned so the sun is not striking the faces at all, then use a light above the camera far enough to ensure that people in the front aren't casting shadows on those behind. At least the faces. Given that the lens should probably be at least a 50mm full frame equivalent to minimize head size differences between front row and farther back, its likely that the best light will be a monolight with standard reflector. Keep the strobe within a stop of ambient and the shadows won't be too bad.

Other possibilities if you have time to scout the location and ideally do a test. But that will get you a workman like image of the group for use in press releases, websites, etc.

The three speedlites you have may be useable by putting them together on a tri-bracket and firing them in manual mode. Probably close to full power. I'd be sure to test the speedlite option to make sure its enough.



Jul 20, 2013 at 11:35 PM
RustyBug
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Outdoor Group Gear Suggestions


My point was that paying attention to orientation can be a vital consideration ... even looking back to a vintage shot with none of today's plethora of lighting options. It was meant to suggest that harnessing and filling is likely a better strategy than trying to overpower.

I wasn't suggesting to NOT use fill, but that markd61's point @ trying to overpower the sun for a group is probably not going be able to overpower the sun if strongly backlit. In the vintage photo, the orientation/time of day was well used, such that the difference in backlight was nominal. Thus, if you have limited fill, this could be something to pay attention to. Obviously with fill, it could be certainly improved upon.

Fast forward to the 21'st century, and I'd suggest taking a look at some of Lisa Holloway's stuff in the People Photography forum. Search her posts or check out her site. Obviously, she isn't the only person in the world to shoot outdoor portraits, but imo, her approach is very identifiable if you read how she harnesses ambient light so that she isn't fighting it.

http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/1210165/0?keyword=x#11529165
Note her comment @ post #9 regarding ambient vs. ocf usage in the below thread.
http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/1200291/0?keyword=x#11444311

Here's one from another photographer with similar time of day/orientation.
http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/1133580/0?keyword=x#10821558

Notice the time of day/orientation Andy is using in this image and how much it resembles the vintage image orientation/time of day. Obviously, he is using fill, but his understanding of how/where to position people relative to the sun/sky is likey more of a key to the image than what gear he is using for fill.

The point of showing the vintage shot is to illustrate how you don't have to have the latest & greatest gear to pull it off.

BTW ... I'd recommend take some test shots before hand (you don't need the group for test shots). That, or visit your local rental house to get more than enough light to overpower the sun if you want to go that route. A good rental house will not only rent you the gear, but can give you a "crash course" on using it for your assignment as you discuss what gear to rent for your needs.



Jul 21, 2013 at 12:37 AM
dmward
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Outdoor Group Gear Suggestions


Over powering the sun is an oft used and almost universally misunderstood phrase.
All the examples in the post above use the sun as a kicker, or its not relevant as a light source.

What is important, and there are good examples in the links, is balancing ambient light with your light. The senior portraits illustrate how to use a fill light that is soft and minimizes tonality to soften features and enhance the subject.
The last link illustrates how to use a light source with the sun as a kicker where its necessary to create a distinct light source as main and let shadows add shape. Its a nice example but probably not the way to approach a large group.
emulating the lighting for the senior portraits where the red headed girl is in the window frame with sun as a kicker is probably the best example of what you want to accomplish.



Jul 21, 2013 at 03:15 AM
 

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RustyBug
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Outdoor Group Gear Suggestions


+1 @ the sun is oriented as a kicker (orientation). But by using the sun as the kicker, it puts the open sky as providing ambient front lighting and the difference between background and subject is minimal, so a lot of additional key lighting isn't likely necessary.

Many of Lisa's were shot with ambient only, and Andy's likely didn't need very much boost above ambient to balance. Granted, these are individual's not groups, but with the need for additional lighting nominal (Lisa & vintage used none), the three strobes the OP currently has can probably get the job done, as long as they'll trigger ocf (re: BrianO). It's not like they have to provide full exposure, just a little "lift/fill/pop" to the already plentiful ambient at that time of day.




Jul 21, 2013 at 03:38 AM
dmward
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Outdoor Group Gear Suggestions


RustyBug wrote:
+1 @ the sun is oriented as a kicker (orientation). But by using the sun as the kicker, it puts the open sky as providing ambient front lighting and the difference between background and subject is minimal, so a lot of additional key lighting isn't likely necessary.


You're joking right?
Sun as kicker, depending on the circumstances can leave the subject facing the camera a silhouette.

Not what someone wants for a group shot.

You started your earlier post saying you're not a portrait photographer, I deal with this sort of get the group in crappy light situation about once a week during the summer.

For me the simplest solution is to get them into open shade if available, if not get the sun behind them as a kicker, get enough light into the faces for a good primary exposure, minimize shadows on faces. Done on to the next one. There as several ways to accomplish that objective. All include fill light.



Jul 21, 2013 at 04:00 AM
RustyBug
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Outdoor Group Gear Suggestions


dmward wrote:
You're joking right?
Sun as kicker, depending on the circumstances can leave the subject facing the camera a silhouette.


The OP said likely to be midday (vintage, some of Lisa's, Andy). The angle of the sun @ high overhead (slightly behind/side) with the open sky toward the subjects (as shown in others). At no time did I say fill was to be excluded, just that here were some examples where fill was/was not used and the reason they worked to the degree that they did was because of how the photographer oriented his subjects relative to the sun.

Open shade is certainly viable due to its evenness of illumination, but open shade will be more than a stop difference between subject and background, so yes fill is very much warranted if your bg is in sunny 16. Also, open shade is very soft light, whereas open sky provides more contrast. The point that I was making @ vintage/Lisa is that some were open sky (some were also open shade) and that even with being not in the shade, the greater amount of ambient (open sky vs. open shade) light can be harnessed, if you are careful to orient your subject in a manner that has the sun not in your subject's face.

If you were shooting at a much earlier/later time of day, then the angle of the sun and the amount of light from the open sky will be different ... and yes, that difference becomes more pronounced in need of more fill as the amount of ambient + fill is now different. All I'm saying is that while midday sun has it's challenges, there are some photographers who have shown an ability to harness the available ambient in a way that many people run from. It's just provided as food for thought that an approach that takes advantage of the natural light present reduces the reliance on purchasing more powerful fill if one learns to harness it as well as Lisa, etc.

My avatar illustrates your point @ more silhouette at different conditions (no disagreement there). Had my avatar been taken a different time of day (i.e. closer to mid-day), the amount of light coming from the open sky would have been closer (closer, not the same) to the that coming from the sun and the differential would have been much less as we see in the high overhead examples.



Jul 21, 2013 at 04:33 AM
Harold St
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Outdoor Group Gear Suggestions


Thanks for feedback, I should be able to get the group to a location with some shade


Jul 21, 2013 at 01:24 PM
dmacmillan
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Outdoor Group Gear Suggestions


Well, since a photo I posted is referenced, I feel compelled to respond.

First, I wouldn't use my vintage photo, probably taken by my great uncle, as an example of outdoor lighting. It's a snapshot even though it was captured on a 5x7 glass plate. The lighting isn't horrible, but the regular issues you encounter (eye socket shadows, etc.) are evident. They were on an outing and grabbed a shot. I doubt the photographer thought much past the Kodak "sun over your shoulder" lighting scheme.

Now, here's come advice for Harold. My advice is based on photographing groups outside at weddings and other events. I once had contracts for Senior photos at two local high schools, one which graduated 1,000+ every year. We would have between 300 and 500 Seniors opt for our deluxe sitting, which included outdoor, "environmental" portraits. I had another full time photographer working for me and during late Spring, Summer and early Fall we started shooting @8:00 am and often shot until dark. We had to be able to get good results outside at all times of the day. We also had to work fast.

I suggest you keep your kit as simple as possible. It's hard to use reflectors with groups of 10-15, therefore I suggest a single flash on a stand, high and slightly to the left of the camera. If you are shooting midday, the sun will create an unattractive pattern. Your idea of seeking open shade is going in the right direction. If you are near the woods, getting them at the edge of the woods with an open field in front works well. Use a WhiBal card or other WB device to help correct for foliage cast and/or skylight.

If you do use flash, avoid using too high a setting to prevent the overfilled look.

I suggest you avoid the brute force approach of using multiple flashes. This can create a confused and ugly lighting pattern. The time you spend fiddling with equipment rises exponentially with every light you add. That time is better spent grouping and posing and shooting for good expressions.

Is this a family photo? If not, do you shoot part time? You sound like you're primarily interested in gear and you see this as an opportunity to use a captive audience to fiddle around with stuff. Be aware that more than likely, your subjects aren't nearly as fascinated with the nuts and bolts of photography as you are. If this gathering is solely to capture the photograph, they will give you five or ten minutes to get the image. If this is a sidebar at an event, such as a family reunion or wedding, you'll be lucky to get two minutes of their time.



Jul 22, 2013 at 02:39 PM
BrianO
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Outdoor Group Gear Suggestions


dmacmillan wrote:
...I suggest you keep your kit as simple as possible. It's hard to use reflectors with groups of 10-15, therefore I suggest a single flash on a stand, high and slightly to the left of the camera. ...I suggest you avoid the brute force approach of using multiple flashes. This can create a confused and ugly lighting pattern. The time you spend fiddling with equipment rises exponentially with every light you add. That time is better spent grouping and posing and shooting for good expressions. ...Be aware that more than likely, your subjects aren't nearly as fascinated with the
...Show more

+1 at keeping it simple.

I don't think putting the flash to the left of the camera is the only way to do it, but close to the camera on the left or right -- or even directly over it if you have the right kind of light stand -- is good advice to avoid shadows being cast by one person from shading another.

+1 at mounting the light up high. The larger the group, and thus the further from the group you are, the higher it needs to be, but not so high that you get deep shadows in the eye sockets and long shadows under their noses.

Lastly, I'd suggest bringing a small step ladder if you can. If the group is all on one level you can get up a little higher than them so that they are all visible; it has the same effect as if the group was standing on risers.

Remember that for large groups the fancy lighting schemes with dramatic shadow patterns that might be attractive in a single portrait are usually not desirable; a simpler pattern that shows everyone in the group evenly lit is the goal.

Good luck, and have fun!



Jul 22, 2013 at 05:46 PM
Harold St
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Outdoor Group Gear Suggestions


Thanks for the advice - using a single flash for fill has been what I've been doing in past similar situations - will try the advice of mounting it higher for better shadow control.


Jul 23, 2013 at 03:20 AM





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