A couple of weeks back, I had the opportunity to shoot a number of group shots for my church’s Pictorial Directory. I volunteered and got to spend about 4 hours shooting 20 different group pictures. It was an interesting experience, and I had fun, and learned some things as well (Bonus!). Here are some tips if you find yourself doing these kinds of settings.
- Pick up a small dry erase board (your local Dollar Store is likely to have them) and bring it with you. Find out what each group calls itself or what their function is. Write that on the board, and have someone in the front row – center of the group hold it for a test shot. This way, when you get back to the studio/office and start downloading pictures, you’ll know which group is which, and you can name the files accordingly.
- Often these kind of shots have to be a specific size to fit in the printed material. For these groups, the finished images needed to be 1600 x 1200 pixels. In order to get everyone in larger groups to be in the shot, you have to get them in tight, or you have to move back and include some of the background. Generally, tighter is better, because your subject is the people, not the environment, but some folks are uncomfortable getting in to someone else’s personal space.
- A tip I picked up a long time ago for taking portraits, is very appropriate for larger groups. Inadvertently, you will get what you think is a great shot, but when you zoom in, you will notice someone’s eyes are closed. This happens more times than you can imagine. So to work around it, have everyone close their eyes before you take the shot, and tell them to keep them closed until you tell them to open. Once you give them the signal to open, WAIT for a second, before you shoot. Count 1-1000, 2-1000. Then fire the shutter. You may still get someone with their eyes closed, but its less likely.
- And related to the above tip, when you are lining up for your shot, take a look around the outside of the frame in your viewfinder. Look for environmental elements that appear to be growing out of someone’s head. For these shots, we were shooting on the steps of a church altar, and we had to adjust people several times to avoid having the crucifix or other elements appear like that.
- Bring a gray card or a color checker card with you. The light in the church was a mixture of various types, and without a gray card and a color checker, it would have been difficult to get the white balance correct when I was processing the images.
- Finally, bring extra batteries! For the shots I did, I was using two wireless flash units, and a commander unit on my camera. I had to replace the batteries on both flash units during the afternoon, since I was firing them off multiple times, even at 1/4 or 1/8 power.