I was hired by the company I am currently employed by to take a group photo of the executive team for the corporate website. Having never taken a group photo like this, scouting/planning was absolutely necessary.
The shoot was scheduled four weeks in advance at The Westin in Southfield, MI since the executive team would be there all day on December 5, 2014 for the budget meeting. Two weeks before the shoot, I made my way over to the Westin to scout for a couple different locations that I would be able to use for the shoot. After an hour of scouting I found the main location that I wanted to use, as well as a backup location in the event the main location wasn’t able to be used.
The main location was a wide open area just outside of the main ballroom on the first floor. Being that I only have two off-camera strobes to work with, this location would allow me to setup the group as far off the wall as possible so shadows wouldn’t be visible on the wall. It would also give me an extensive amount of room to move forward and backwards as needed.
The backup location was in much smaller area on the second floor just outside of the executive meeting rooms. The maximum distance that I had from wall to wall was about 20 feet. I didn’t do much planning for the backup location, because…well, it was the backup location. Bad idea!
I was informed two days before the shoot that I would not be able to use the main location that I selected because a buffet was going to be set up in that area at the time the shoot was planned. This is where not planning for the backup location comes in as being a bad idea.
Planning out the shot using the backup location started when I arrived at The Westin on December 5, 2014 at 10:00 AM. The shoot was set to start at 12:00 PM, which gave me a solid two hours to figure everything out.
The fact that I had 20 feet of distance from wall to wall to work with required me to set up the group pretty much on top of the wall with my camera being set up on the tripod as close to the other wall as possible. This presented two problems. One being the fact that shadows were going to be cast on the wall behind the group, and the other being the fact that I wasn’t going to be able to get behind the camera to look through the viewfinder due to it being right up against the wall.
I set up the camera to shoot tethered via Lightroom through my Mac Book Air. This allowed the camera to stay up against the wall while allowing me to see each shot on the screen after they were taken.
I snapped a base photo without anyone in the photo so I could use that to remove the shadows cast on the back wall during post processing. Tethered shooting with the camera on the tripod was key in this scenario because any minute movement of the camera after the base photo was taken would make the removal of the shadows in post processing really really hard.
The composite photo below shows the base photo overlaid on top of the group photo. As you can see, the base photo and the group photo are perfectly aligned so the removal of the shadows on the wall in post processing will be easy.
The base photo and the group photo were both shot at 1/80 sec at f/8.0, ISO 400 with the 24-105mm f/4L IS USM at 28mm
The Vivitar 285HV and Yongnuo YN-565 EX II flashes were both fired at 1/2 power and shot through white umbrellas.
After a 30 minute post processing session, the finished product is below.
In my opinion, the photo turned out good. I give it a 7 out of 10 overall.
What did I learn?
I need more than two flashes to shoot a large group like this. Four flashes would be ideal.
I need to make sure I not only select a backup location, but also plan out the shot in the backup location when I am doing the initial scouting/planning.
My forte is not group photos.