Saturday, June 10, 2017

How to take a good group photo (and More)- Part 4 - Lights, Camera, Action!

Indoor lighting test shot at St. Columba church - note the need for risers

In my first post about taking a group photo I told you this :
"We used a small light on the floor behind the group to create an attractive halo of backlight. Room ambient light and a light from above and to the left gave the faces definition."

I didn't tell you how I came to the decision to do it this way.

That's me in the middle - photo from the Society page, Ottawa Citizen

As a Theatre student at Ottawa U, my favourite subject was lighting. I had a lot of fun over the ensuing years as a Drama teacher creating imaginative lighting for shows and productions, so the basics of lighting faces is kind of second nature to me now.

But that may not help you either.

So, here's a crash photography lighting course - for faces.
My bathroom light is just the right height to define my non-existent jawline

1.  Light your subjects, not your setup - their faces are the focus, period. Sadly, sometimes you have no control over your lighting in performance. Make sure you have optimal lighting when you can.
Too much backlight from a window and one center spot leaves faces in the dark

2. Flash photography is only good for snapshots or fill-in light or if you have no other choice. If you want your group photo to look like this so be it.
Flash Photography - need I say more?

3. Avoid lighting with harsh shadows unless you want your subjects to look older or craggy. Use reflected light with a flash aimed into an umbrella or a large sheet of white bristol board (any large flat surface covered with foil works). A fill-in light on a stand is a great tool to wash the shadows out. 

The raw 2017 shot below uses a floodlight on a stand - set up high on a table, left of center. This gives direction to the shadows but clearly illuminates and models each face. An additional floodlight is lying on the floor behind the group to give a back light halo for the back row.

Room lights plus one flood light on a stand, set up on a table for height

4. If you do use a lighting setup for a performance - and everyone is in attendance - use the opportunity to get some group shots with that light. The Stairwell Carollers own a little lighting system with 3 lights from each side, hung on two T-stands. The stands lift the lighting instruments up to a height of about 10 feet. This gives an attractive 45 degree angle to the light on the faces, filling in lines and just enough shadow to define the features and jawlines.

Photo taken with performance lighting setup

5. Be prepared and have everything ready to go before the group gets there for the photo. I've mentioned this before, but you really don't want your subjects unhappy for the shoot. Do practice shots with a couple of volunteers before. If you have to fiddle with the lights, camera batteries, etc. while they stand and wait, the photos may not be the best. Take many shots while they are getting in position, and if you are in the photo too (like me) don't forget your remote clicker. 

Yes, I forgot mine last shoot and had to run back and forth for each shot on a ten second timer. 

At least I made them laugh. 

Happy Snapping! 

 PART 2  - Roll Call
 PART 3 - Here Comes the Sun

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You can also email your questions to me - info (at) stairwellcarollers (dot) com.
Holly :)

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