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Photography Question 
Kim C. Deese

Large Group Photos: Getting the Lighting Right

I have been asked to do a large group photo inside a gym at night of approximately 110 people. I use a SLR 35mm. Could you please give me some tips to get the best photo, as far as aperture, etc.?.

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4/11/2005 8:20:33 AM

Kerry L. Walker   Your biggest problem is going to be light. What kind of flash, or flashes, are you going to use?

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4/11/2005 8:53:12 AM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  So Kim, do these 110 people need to be recognizable in the photo or just appear as a sea of people? As Kerry said, your big problem is light, for a lot of reasons, especially if you intend to shoot this on color film because the lights in a gym aren't usually balanced for daylight and produce color casts, like the lovely fluorescent green, or sodium vapor green, yellow, or cyan. Overhead lighting also produces shadows under the eyes of the subjects who aren't gazing up, so those shadows need to be filled or you're going to have a sea of faceless individuals. (Poetic perhaps, but not very photogenic.)
Unless you've got sufficient lighting directed INTO the group, depth of field is also going to be a problem, so people in the back may not be in focus. You need a lot of light from relatively powerful sources and in broad/ diffusing light modifiers (reflectors, softboxes, etc.) to give you smaller f-stops you need for focus or depth of field. Remember, the smaller the f-stop you can work with - e.g. f-11 through 16 - the better off you'll be no matter how many rows of people you've got. An on-camera flash just won't do it, even with a fast film or ISO.
Multiple lights placed on stands is the right way to do this, using a view camera and a Polaroid back to test your lighting and exposure. Beyond that, you may be outgunned on this one, unless you break the big group down into smaller groups, say 5-10 people. ;>)

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4/11/2005 9:27:43 AM

Christopher A. Vedros
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/14/2005
  For a group that large, you might try getting above the group and taking the picture on a downward angle. The bleachers may be arranged in a way that you could do this, or you might stand on a tall ladder. This way, the people will be looking up, and you won't have as many shadows on their faces. If you reverse it and put the people in the stands with you on the floor, you will get shadows on their faces from the overhead lighting.
The lighting will be the tough part.

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4/11/2005 3:51:25 PM

Maria Melnyk   I've done this sort of thing without using flash. I used a color-correcting filter - an FLD - and I set a small aperture (f/11 or f/16), and I had the people hold real still during the long exposure. I used 800-speed portrait film, and it worked.

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4/12/2005 9:35:23 PM

Victor J.    How about a wide angle lens, say 28mm. You still have a lighting problem. How about getting a set a bleacher seating outside, we now are getting nice weather. If you can do this be aware where the sun light is at the time of the day you'll be doing the shots. Directly overhead, shadows in the eyes. Directly in front of them, squinting eyes. Have about 27 people in each row, with principal people in front row. That is too large a group to do with your present equipment indoors. Good luck. Vic

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4/19/2005 7:36:26 PM

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