Hi, this is Jay P. Today on The Slanted Lens we’re going to take a look at how to do a quick group portrait. We just finished up some individual portraits. We only have about 30 minutes to turn things around and to be able to photograph this entire group together. So let’s take a look at exactly how we’re going to do that. Let’s get this going.
So I love the Tamron 35-150mm f/2-2.8 that’s on the Sony mount. It’s a beautiful lens. It allows me to get longer to make my background fall out of focus. And even in this group shot I’m going to try to stay between 100mm and 135mm which will allow the background to fall more out of focus. I’m going to want to be though more like at f/5.6. Maybe a little more. I may go to f/6.3 just to give myself enough depth of the field depending on how much I stack the people. It’s really always a kind of a balancing act between letting the background fall out of focus and allowing the entire group of people to be in focus. So for this situation that Tamron f/2-2.8 is a beautiful lens. It gives me a great range. If I have to go wider, and sometimes I’ve had to, I can go all the way as wide as 35mm. So it gives me great range.
So I’m looking for a background that has depth. So I’m on the sidewalk here. I’m looking way down that sidewalk. There’s green all the way which just gives me beautiful depth. It’s going to fall more and more out of focus the further we look down there. I’m going to line my people up here in the foreground so I’ll see the depth of the background on one side. And then it’ll come to the side here that is a little closer to me. My biggest challenge is I can’t get rid of that street sign there. I’m going to have to retouch that out. I’ll cover it up mostly with the people we have. But this just gives me a great, a little bit of depth and some interest. It’s all green and kind of organic and helps my group look a little nicer.
So when I’m lighting in this kind of situation I really go for a butterfly. I want it above the camera up high. It’s going to just open up my entire group. If I had a large group like more like 15, 20, 30 people or more I would put two lights up, right and left. But in this situation I’m going to be high. It allows me to get underneath this and I’m going to shoot right alongside my stand. So I get my stand in close and high to give me a little bit of shadow on the person. And then I’m going to just shorten my shutter so that I really kill a lot of the ambient light and give myself a little bit of drawing on the faces. But that butterfly is key to making this work.
In the background I’ve got a rim light that’s going to allow me to put a little rim light on their heads and that’s going to help kind of separate them from that background. Two lights, quick and off we go.
So I’m going to come down a little low. I’m going to sit on my stool that I usually stand on, because I want that green to come up in the frame and to be able to be behind. It makes a beautiful background for our people. So if I get low it brings that green up into the background and it is a balance. Old guy like me doesn’t want somebody looking low. So we may have to have a little bit of retouching to make it work. But we’ll get down low and we can see into that greenery and it just makes for a nice background. So when we’re posing everyone here I don’t want to put them just in a line where they all go shoulder to shoulder to shoulder. So I push one back, one forward, one back, one forward, one back so it kind of gives us an in and out movement in the image. Which makes it look a little nicer. The challenge is you don’t want the ones up front to look like they’re really coming out of the image. You got to keep them back on a line, but it looks nice. It looks nicer than just in a straight line shoulder to shoulder with each other.
So this setup is what I call a quick turnaround lighting because I just get the light up above the camera. It gives me a butterfly on everyone. It doesn’t matter how big the group is, as long as it doesn’t get really big. It really is a quick turnaround, easy light to set up. It gives you a beautiful light on the face. Then a little rim light in the back looks really nice. We’ll have to retouch out the sign back there. But otherwise it looks very good. All right, we going to shoot a few more before we finish.
So one thing I have learned over the years is I do love a tripod. Being able to set my camera and have it in a place. But it’s really hard with a group as you’re posing them and moving them a little bit. It’s just a lot easier to handhold the camera. That allows me to make slight adjustments right and left, up and down. And is much quicker. With the tripod it’s really hard for me to make that happen fast enough, even though I’m pretty quick with that tripod. It’s just a lot faster handheld. So I’ve kind of gone to hand holding the camera.
Your shutter speed though is really determined by the ambient light. You can’t shoot at 1/1000th of a second or 1/500th of a second. I shot 1/125th of a second. You got to tuck those elbows in and relax that camera and really hold it tight so you can get a nice steady shot. But hand holding is definitely the way to go.
So this is the beauty of the FJ400 and FJ200 from Westcott, is that you can take them on location. It’s battery, lithium ion battery, is portable to take it wherever you need it to be. Even if I could plug them in I don’t want to anymore. It’s just too easy to move them exactly where I need them and be able to take them outside if I need to really quickly. So I love that platform for that reason.
So there’s a look at a quick way to set up a group portrait. It makes it easy to flip your lighting around. I found at times that I’ll go in and I’ll shoot a bunch of head shots and all of a sudden out of nowhere they’ll say can you shoot the three of us together, the five of us together and you got to do a quick change up. So you’ll be able to get that group shot up quickly. Because everyone’s waiting, they want to go. So I found this is the easiest way to set that up. Bringing that light overhead and just posing them. Trying to get a longer lens so you can let the background fall out to focus a little bit. It makes a very nice quick way to set this thing up. I have had this happen to me many, many times. I just found this is a fast way to make that happen so you get a great portrait.
So I hope you learned something in this. I shot this at about f/5.6 which was giving me enough depth of field. Because I was back far enough it gave me enough depth of field to hold both lines. And I was getting the background I want to let that fall out of focus. And I had that rim light from behind to look really good. So there you go. How to shoot a quick group portrait setting that light in that butterfly position. So keep those cameras rollin’ and keep on clickin’!
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