Group Shoot on Location

I recently had a repeat customer contact me about a group type shoot involving some bikes, girls & maybe a little graphic work for some promotional material for his band. I was more than willing to take on the task as this was pretty much right up alley. 


The photo job details included around 10 girls, 3 outfit changes, 3 in-building locations – one in the main store area, one in the service area & another in wet bike area. Individual shots were also planned but I really didn’t have a set idea on what to go for as I thought I’d just wing it and see how everything unfolded as the time permitted.


The Showroom

Of course one of the main things that I had thought about getting ready for the shoot was equipment selection, specifically lighting modifiers. Knowing that I needed enough light to cover a group of 10 I knew I would be using some 86” parabolic umbrellas to really get that spread that I needed. Space was fairly limited on the bike floor so I just went with one giant Soft Silver PLM without diffusion varying from chest level to 6’-0” high powered by a 320 Ws flash unit. After a few test shots I realized two things – I had almost insufficient flash power for f/8-f/9 apertures & barely enough light spread. Couldn’t do much with either of those two issues so I just pressed on. Roughly 20’ from the group and around 30 degrees I had two more flash heads at 10’-0 high with simple reflectors for some rim lighting to create a little prominence in the models. My shooting position was primary low, shooting up at around 24mm, ISO 200. My camera & lens selection for this group was the venerable Canon 5dmkII equipped with the 24-70L f/2.8.

A word about assistants –

Are easily worth their weight in gold. You thrash them so hard not because you’re mean but because you need them so much in order to accomplish what is needed. From running cables, taking bts shots, watching your time, hauling and keeping track of gear, taking care of release papers, bouncing light, etc. Without them in larger shoots (even small ones), you are less of a photographer.

While at this same location and in between some outfit changes I managed to fire off a few individual flashless shots as the natural light was setting with the golden glow still coming in through the showroom windows. Aperture wide open at f/2.8 and dragging the shutter a bit varying from 1/50 – 1/125, ISO 400.

Midway through this set of individual shots still using the contrasty silver umbrella and narrow apertures I was wanting something a little softer so grabbed up the 47” octobox & set it up at around 5’-0” high, angled down and 5’-0” away from the model. I opened up the apertures to f/4.0 – f/5.6 and immediately got that soft, rounding light. Shooting at around 70mm on the 24-70 resulted in creamy out of focus areas. My assistant was picking up some fill and rim lighting with a 50” bounce, silver side. A live bounce versus setting up a fixture proved to be much faster for quickly changing scenarios.

The Service Area

Moving on back to the warehouse for another group scene I maintained using 86” Soft Silver PLM. The umbrella here I first setup for a more frontal broad light to see if I liked the flat light look. Again pretty narrow apertures at f/9 to keep everyone well in focus. I later raised the umbrella pretty high and perched myself on a tall ladder for a different POV. Things were rolling pretty fast so I didn’t set up any rim lighting. What was nice about shooting high and with such a big modifier is that everyone will get that nice eye light capture.

A cloth covered workbench in the service area proved to be the next location for individual captures. A perfect place for various poses as well as great props all within reach. Overhead were a string of 8’ fluorescent task lights that created a nice even soft glow as well as a catching perceptivity of lights & motorcycles. I wanted to try shooting this with these existing continuous light only. This was a perfect scenario for my 85mm f/1.8 lens. I set up the camera to ISO 400-500, 1/160, f/2.2. Right off the bat I ran into some flare issues that occurred depending on where the model was positioned in relationship to the overhead lights, so I just did what I could and sometimes used a stool to get up above the problem. Bouncing the super soft fluorescent light far enough without being in the picture proved to be pretty tough but my assistant stormed on like a trooper. For a couple of models I tilted in the 86” umbrella and just used its tungsten modeling lamps as a slight skin color warming fill.

The Bench

The final scene was a bike washing group shot. I tried using the existing overhead shop fluorescent fixtures primarily but it was nowhere near enough light, it didn’t work. I went back to the 86” Soft Silver PLM without diffuser at 5’-0” high and around 6’-0” away from the action. Setup the camera to ISO640, f/9.0, 1/160. The majority of these shots were taken at 28mm with the 24-70L from knee height and some were shot from belly laying position. I was glad to see that the fluorescent fixtures exposed pleasingly. The models all worked fabulously despite being in a cold warehouse drenched in water in late winter. They were dynamite.

In the end, it was a great shoot with a bunch of fun, professional girls and an exceptionally gracious venue. Nailed down a bunch of nice images, tried a few new things and learned a few new things and that’s what I like.


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