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Photography Question 
Charles K. Tufuor

How to Photograph a Large Group

In shooting a group photo (say 10-15 people), how do you get subjects clearer and bigger?

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4/10/2010 4:13:02 PM

Carlton Ward
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/13/2005
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  Hi Charles,
There are several ways to go about this but I would start with positioning everyone in triangles - meaning that no 2 people's faces/heads are too close to another as this will cut down on shadows and allow the light to hit them all more even. Triangle in this sense is to have equal space (as much as possible) from top to bottom & left to right.
In 2 rows from left to right - the 1st person at eye level with the next person (in bottom row) at chest/belly level positioned between 1 & 3 and the 3rd person (top row) at eye level again, etc. ... The triangle technique will keep space between them to allow the light to hit all the people more evenly. You can also position the back row to lean in a bit to try to get everyone's faces close to the same plane which will help with sharpness.
With 15 people you may consider 3 rows but this creates more space from front to back which will work against shooting them on the same plane. Still very do-able though.
Big Light sources are good if you have Strobes with umbrellas/diffusers for spreading the light or big natural window light source. You may try shooting from overhead or an elevated vantage point (ladder) and have them looking up (still keeping the triangle technique in mind). I would stay away from bright sunlight outside as these images are often quite harsh - diffused (cloudy) outside lighting is more flattering but you need to position everyone that will allow that natural light to work for you. Under a shade tree would most likely require fill flash.
Its all about getting enough light on everyone and using enough DOF (f/9, f/11 or more) to allow for a sharper capture. Staggered will help with lighting and getting them close to the same plane will help with sharpness.
That's my .02 but I bet John S would have even better suggestions :)
Have fun!

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4/13/2010 1:52:20 AM

Charles K. Tufuor   Thanks, Carlton, for your suggestions. I have learned about the triangle method which I will implement in my next group photo shoot. Another question is: Do you always have to use wide-angle lenses for such group photos? Can you use any lens type?
Most group pictures that I take always happen outside in daylight. How do you approach that. If you are indoors and do not have strobe lighting, what is the alternative. If you have only a flash, is that a good source of light for such photographs. I use the Nikon SB-800.
Thank you for your time.

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4/14/2010 8:48:39 AM

Carlton Ward
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/13/2005
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  Thank you Charles,
I don't recommend a wide-angle lens if you can avoid it. From my bag, I would opt for the 24-70mm or even better yet - the 70-200mm. If you are in a tight space, you have to work with what will fit. Wide angles can distort the image while the 70-200mm has a beautiful compression characteristic that would be more flattering. If you have any primes like the 50mm, 85mm or 135mm, these would work well. The light can be set up closer to the group if needed but if you have space to set the camera further back, the longer lenses will work very well and would be preferable.
With one flash you would need to get it positioned carefully as the chances of having shadows are likely & it will be tricky to get enough power & light spread evenly on the group to work but as long as you are aware of this challenge, it is do-able. It is pretty amazing how creative you can get with 1 strobe (if you have experiment/practice time) but 2 strobes would make this much easier IMO.
Window lighting and reflectors could work as well. And don't forget White Balance. WB can be fixed afterward in Photoshop but I try to set my custom WB for these type of shoots.

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4/14/2010 9:19:41 AM

Charles K. Tufuor   Carlton,
When do you recommend a wide angle lens? I use a 18-200mm lens currently, though I have a 12-24mm lens also. I have experienced the distortion in image before using the 12-24mm lens

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4/25/2010 6:06:30 PM

John H. Siskin
BetterPhoto Member
John's Photo Courses:
4-Week Short Course: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
  Hi Charles and Carlton,
Here are a few ideas. It is easier to do this outdoors, because at least some of your light is provided by the sun. I would use at least one strobe outdoors. This will help freeze your subjects, but mostly it will fill shadows. As Carlton has suggested, two strobes would be better. You donít need to make the light sources all that large if you are just using the strobes for fill. Indoors I would use umbrellas, and maybe one light behind the subject. The triangle approach works well, but the important thing is to keep the subjects pretty close together. The more area in the photo the smaller the subjects. I would use a lens of 35mm or longer, if I could, to shoot this with a full frame camera.

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5/2/2010 9:35:35 PM

Nancy    I do many group shots during the year. Team Photos and Pre-school class photos. The team photos are shot usually on the field. I look for the shady area and use fill flash SB-800. I like shooting from 3rd step of a sturdy step ladder. You get more of the grass in the background. Use an 24-200mm lens, 2-3 lines(depends upon the age of the subjects).
Same thing for indoors except I have 2 - SB-600s with umbrellas. The subjects(pre-schoolers) are seated,kneeling and standing around their teachers on a backdrop.I don't need the stepstool here.
Nancy 'Picturelady'

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5/15/2010 12:34:25 PM

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