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Photography Question 
Sandra Rouse
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/19/2006
 

A family portrait on the beach at sunrise


My Mother, bless her heart, (for those of you not from the South, bless her heart means, "Geez, she is so particular") has decided that we will have a family picture on the beach in Florida at sunrise. All subject are required to wear the khaki pants and white shirts...here is my question. I have a Canon Digital Rebel, and I want to have the best lens to make this picture perfect. What would you recommend? And please, oh please, any other words of wisdom/tips that will help make my Mom happy, bless her heart.

There will be approximately 17 people ranging in various ages and sizes. Help.


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2/19/2006 10:39:58 AM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Forget lenses for the moment. Your on-camera flash doesn't have enough horsepower to pull this one off, even if they were facing the sunrise and the light was illuminating them, which kinda eliminates the sunrise (or sunset)in the background.

So Sandra, your first problem is going to be how to assemble and illuminate 17 people with the sun in the background. You also want to avoid the white shirts since if you do get enough light, they'll create a reflecting and exposure problem that you're not likely equipped to handle. The shirts will (pardon the pun) look washed out.

As for lenses, you probably need a substantial amount of depth of field, so something along the lines of a 35mm would be appropriate. Anything less, like a 28mm, you'll likely start seeing some distortion around the edges and people may not look right. A 50mm is ok for this, but again, you'll need depth of field and need to be working at higher f-stops like f8.0-11.0, to keep the background sharp.

Quite honestly, you should rent a battery powered commercial strobe that puts out at least 200 (400 is much better) W/S of diffused light and turn off your on-camera flash, rent a flash meter too and learn how to use it, and then practice with the rig before you actually need to shoot this. For strobes, I'd rent a Quantum unit and a light stand to hang it on.
Good luck
Mark


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2/19/2006 5:59:09 PM

 
Pete H
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/9/2005
  I have to go with Mark on this one.
Your problem is NOT lens selection, that's easy..the difficulty will be light balance.

If I were you, and given perhaps a limited budget, I doubt even "one" studio strobe will be enough.

You 1st need to decide if you will be shooting full length standing? Head to toe etc...
With a 35mm I would probably avoid this pose due to the distance from you to your subjects..The people's faces will look small.

As a suggestion, I would do this.

1) Group them tightly in a seated position.
2) Bring a blanket or two if they don't want to sit in the sand.
3) Face away from the sun, although at sunrise this may not be a problem.
4) Make sure the shadow of any one person does NOT fall on another.
Here's the tricky part:

Light balance

I would use reflectors..camera left and right AND center.
Center reflector should be slightly angled to throw some light on your subjects. You can Adobe it out later..just make sure this reflector is not covering your subjects.

Large "foamex" white board will work ok, but if you can beg, borrow or rent silver discs, do so. 36" or better.

You will need assistants to hold these reflectors unless you can afford several tripods to secure the reflectors.
Bracket like crazy. As Mark has said, don't meter off the white shirts..actually I would recommend some other color for the shirts.

Hope that helps a little.
What you are doing is not easy..at least if you seek good results..but it IS doable.
Just as an idea and a easy fix with time and patience as a guide.


Pete

ps: If you group the people tight, perhaps no more than 8 feet side to side..You may be able to back off with a tele, 100-135mm..at least the faces will look bigger.

failing everything?..Hire a pro. LOL


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2/19/2006 8:37:14 PM

 
Christopher A. Vedros
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/14/2005
  Guys, can we get a little perspective here? I have a great deal of respect for both of you, so please don't take this the wrong way. It's just that sometimes the "correct" answer might not be the "right" answer.

She wants to take a group portrait, of her own family, and you're telling her she needs to drag studio strobes and reflectors out to the beach?

Sandra, this can be done. First question, does Mom actually want the sunrise in the picture, or did she pick sunrise because she heard that it's a good time for dramatic lighting? Explain the difference to her. Explain to her that if the sun is rising behind the people in the picture, that you won't be able to see their faces without some strong artifical lighting like Mark & Pete described. It will be much easier to just face the sun.

Second question, will you be on the East coast of FLA or the West coast? If the sun is rising out over the water, then you need to find a nice background like some dunes, or palms or sea oats and arrange your group so they are facing the sun.

If you are not already familiar with shooting in RAW format, this would be a good time to learn about it. It will give you more exposure latitude.

Try to arrange your group tightly, so you don't have much distance between the front people and the back people.

A 50mm lens would probably do well for your group. I had 14 in my group, and wanted to use my 85mm lens. I had to set the tripod back quite a bit. Since I didn't have a remote control yet, this meant I had to hoof it after I hit the shutter on self timer. (This photo shoot prompted me to buy both a 50mm lens and a cordless remote, BTW.)

While we're on that subject, if you don't have a cordless remote, it would be much easier to find someone who won't be in the picture to actually do the shooting. Set up the camera on a tripod, frame the shot the way you want it, and give them specific instructions on what to push.

Chris


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2/19/2006 9:45:11 PM

 
Christopher A. Vedros
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/14/2005
 
 
 
We did this picture a little before sunset, which meant by the time we got everyone situated, I didn't have very long to shoot before the light was just too dim.

It was a bit overcast, so we didn't have anyone squinting from the sun shining directly in their eyes.

Now I know this picture isn't perfect, and the sky isn't breathtaking, but it served its purpose. My Mother-in-law (bless her heart) has a 16x20 hanging in her living room and to her it's a work of art.

This was taken in June, and the picture is even more meaningful to us since the spot where we were standing, the pier in the background, and everything else in the area were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

Chris


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2/19/2006 9:54:23 PM

 
Christopher A. Vedros
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/14/2005
 
 
  Our Family on the Beach
Our Family on the Beach
June 2005, Waveland, MS.

The chubby guy on the left is yours truly.

© Christopher A. Vedros
Canon EOS Digital ...
 
 
We did this picture a little before sunset, which meant by the time we got everyone situated, I didn't have very long to shoot before the light was just too dim.

It was a bit overcast, so we didn't have anyone squinting from the sun shining directly in their eyes.

Now I know this picture isn't perfect, and the sky isn't breathtaking, but it served its purpose. My Mother-in-law (bless her heart) has a 16x20 hanging in her living room and to her it's a work of art.

This was taken in June, and the picture is even more meaningful to us since the spot where we were standing, the pier in the background, and everything else in the area were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

Chris


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2/19/2006 9:54:33 PM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Hey Chris !! You can't fool me. I know you have a beard, blue eyes and you're not chubby.

Ok, ok ok. You're right. Maybe she doesn't need to drag out the full arsenal of portable studio equipment. And that IS a very very nice family photo you created. I think one thing you had working in your favor was the overcast to give you some nice diffused lighting. Yes, it's a work of art (or Chris ;>) Very nice.

I kind of assumed Sandra or her mom (bless her heart) was talking about doing one of those dramatic easter sunrise-type photos with the spectacular sky and sun rising behind the family. But you're right. Maybe just turn the whole clan around and have the sun illuminating them, pop in a bit of fill flash and voila. Not a thing wrong with that either.

And there you have it.
Be well all.
Mark

P.S. Chris, I'd like to swap an e-mail or two with you to see how things are going for you and your family lately.
mfeldstein@sbcglobal.net Let me know if you're so inclined too. Mark


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2/20/2006 1:51:08 PM

 
Kerry L. Walker   For our non-southern folks, saying "Bless her heart" also excuses all kinds of inappropriate behavior. "Where's Aunt Sue? ... She's in prison for murder, bless her heart".


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2/20/2006 2:03:45 PM

 
Christopher A. Vedros
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/14/2005
  Stated like a true Southern Gentleman, Kerry. ;-)

Chris


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2/20/2006 3:58:27 PM

 
Kerry L. Walker   LOL. Thank you, my friend.


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2/21/2006 6:52:33 AM

 
Sandra Rouse
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/19/2006
  Thank you so much for all the info, it is all valuable.

I am going to at least get an additional flash to make sure it at least helps. Wish I had unlimited funds, bless my own heart.

Chris, your photo ROCKS, and is exactly what I am looking for. It will be on the west coast of Florida, so the sunrise will mean the sun will be coming behind the camera. My mother did call a professional, but it was just too costly for our budget. It is my grandmother's 85th and we are spending money on the festivities as well.

I have two lens, but want to get another to make sure. I really like your idea of a remote...I will get one of those right away. I wish we had someone who could actually snap the shot, but who would get up that early? Bless their hearts.

If I could get one the quality of yours, my family would be happy.

Anything else I need to know?

Sandra


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2/21/2006 9:15:47 AM

 
Christopher A. Vedros
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/14/2005
  Hey Sandra,
If you haven't taken your photo yet, I thought of something else.

After everyone is arranged, take a few test shots and review them on your LCD until you have a pretty good idea that your exposure settings are close.

Then, before you start shooting, tell your group, "Okay, I'm going to take 5 shots (or however many) so don't get up until I say we're done."

The more shots you take, the better chance you will have of getting one where everyone is looking forward, and maybe even smiling, too. ;-)

This is tough to do with a large group, especially with kids.

I have a tiny confession to make. When I took my family portrait above, I took about six shots and didn't get one where EVERYONE looked good at the same time. Not even in the one I posted. In the original of this shot, one person was looking down, so I couldn't see their whole face. Since I had a few shots, I found one where that person looked good and cut their head off and pasted it into the good group. I did some careful blending on the edges, until it looked just right. I think this was one of my most successful photo fixes, since no one has spotted it yet, even looking at the 16x20 print. Can you spot it?

If you have a few shots taken at the same exposure, it makes fixes like this much easier to pull off.

Good luck,
Chris


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2/27/2006 6:32:28 AM

 
Justin G.
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/13/2004
  the cute little girl, bottom center...?


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2/27/2006 6:54:07 AM

 
Christopher A. Vedros
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/14/2005
  Nope. The original is at home, I'll post it tonight if I remember.

Chris


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2/27/2006 8:55:54 AM

 
Robyn Gwilt
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/15/2005
  Chris this is such a lovely shot - I just wish you'd change your Man with the Beard thingee - he creeps me, and you're sooooo much better looking :) Another point Sandra, as Chris says, check your on camera screen, AND check your histogram - if its rolling gently you should be ok! Good luck !!


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2/27/2006 9:24:04 AM

 
Deborah Liperote
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/8/2006
  Hey I agree with Robyn! Chris changed the picture. It doesn't do you justice. Look at my gallery... I love my little italian chubby guy and we've been married for 18 years!!! I'm not dumb they're the sweetest & cutest guys out there.


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2/27/2006 9:38:31 AM

 
Sandra Rouse
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/19/2006
  Well, I couldn't tell and who cares if you did. The end result is GREAT!

I had a little extra "second job" money, so I bought a flash, a wireless remote and a wide angle lens. I think I am ready to go...it is this weekend on Bradenton beach in Florida. It is my grandmother's 85th birthday, so I hope to get all kinds of photos.

Thanks for the suggestion of warning folks that I will be taking a few shots. I will probably have to do what you did, because we will have a few kids in the picture.

I think the thing most daunting is that it will be at sunrise. It is TOO early and limited time, but I think it will work out. Bless our hearts.

If you can think of anything else, please post.


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2/27/2006 10:11:15 AM

 
Christopher A. Vedros
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/14/2005
  Thanks for the ego boost, ladies. Maybe it is time to retire GI Joe and try a new mini-pic.

Since I much prefer to be behind the camera, I hardly have any pictures of myself. Other than family groups like the one above, I haven't taken a self-portrait since college.

Maybe I'll give it a shot.

Chris


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2/27/2006 11:57:50 AM

 
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