BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: New Questions

Photography Question 
Amber Mizer

Lighting: Umbrella for Group Shots?

I'm finally expanding my lighting supply after several years of just bracketing my main flash. I'm still moving slowly and economically, but I have my old SB 28 mounted with the Nikon SU4 bounced into an umbrella. I'm shooting with a Nikon D100 with an SB80 mounted on a bracket.
I am only planning to use the extra flash for my larger group portraits for my weddings, as I always have problems with dingy prints from not enough light with those shots. Can anyone give me advice as to where to place this extra lighting to encompass the best even lighting and still maintain the sensor from camera to flash? Thanks!!!!

To love this question, log in above
4/14/2005 7:10:25 PM

  Hi Amber,
I have shot plenty of groups, although not weddings - mostly groups for business, and I use strobes and umbrellas. Sounds like your approach is probably correct, but by the time those Nikon flashes are bounced out of an umbrella, there is not much output left to light a group. I would do this with strobes, but then it is a wedding and you may not have time to set up.
One point I emphasize in my lighting course is that "big highlights require big light sources". This means that if you are shooting a large group, one small umbrella does not have the ability to spread the light far and wide and evenly. You would need several umbrellas side by side, as this makes your light bigger overall.
I also always put lights to one side or another at about 45 degrees from the camera, give or take. Then the fill light is next to the camera.
Now one approach that might work for you would be to buy a monolight and a huge umbrella, like 48", and put that to the side. Then use your on camera Nikon flash, set at -1, as the fill light. This flash would also fire the monolight at the same time. You would need to adjust that umbrellas power by a couple of quick tests shots. Of course, work this all out by testing before you get to the wedding.
Well, I hope this is useful.

To love this comment, log in above
4/14/2005 7:59:30 PM

Amber Mizer   Thanks, Charlie-
Unfortunately, all I have to work with right now is the flash bounced into the umbrella. The wedding is tomorrow, by the way. :)

I guess I'll try to position the other flash near my camera (wish I had known that before I spent $80 on the remote transmitter! :) Oh well, I guess it's still nice to not have cords.

I'm not needing huge lighting, just enough to reduce drop off from my one flash bracketed above the lens.

Thanks for your input!!!


To love this comment, log in above
4/15/2005 12:41:04 PM

Gregg    Forget umbrellas and softboxes for a large group. You need light power. Make sure the f stop is 8, 11, or 16 for film and at least 8 for digital. Try to pose the group in a 8x10 format if possible and not long from side to side. Light doesn't spread evenly from center to the side edge.

To love this comment, log in above
4/19/2005 6:30:53 PM

Log in to respond or ask your own question.