As a Photographer I want to get my in camera shots as good as they possibly can be however there are times, as was the case here, when I go into a photo shoot knowing that Photoshop will be playing a big part in the final image.
So, the day after getting back to the UK from having been presenting in the Orlando, USA at the Photoshop World Conference and Expo 2018 I was in Southampton to photograph Eight Wealth Management; a company I’ve photographed for what will be now the third consecutive year. The company are clearly doing great things and as a consequence their team is growing bigger and bigger and so required a new group photo for their advertising / promo; this time being a 21 person group shot.
The logistics of getting all the team together in one place and at the same time clearly has it’s challenges, so the photo shoot was arranged to be in a nearby hotel and first thing in morning before the working day started. I’d arranged to meet at the hotel for 8am, everyone should be present by 8.30am and all needed to be finished and packed away by 9am,; however despite this being short amount of time, it was made even shorter due to travel challenges experienced by some.
At the hotel I unpacked with plenty of time to spare. Due to the size of the group shot I decided to attach some grey seamless paper across a wooden room partition and continue it onto the carpet. The furniture the group were to position themselves on and around was then put into place however I couldn’t set up the lighting until a couple of minutes before starting the shoot because of other activity in the room leaving no space. Having worked with the company a couple of times before I’d been hired to create a similar looking group shot where a background and new floor would be added in during the retouching process…hence the use of the grey paper.
Once I was able to set up the lighting (one x 170 cm Octa from camera right) and the group started taking their positions on the furniture it was clear that due to the size of the room we were in, or rather lack of size, I was NOT going to be able to position the light far enough camera right (or left) to allow for Inverse Square Law and achieve a much more even exposure across the group from right to left…
The solution here was to (Quickly) add an additional light, pretty much on camera axis to fill in shadow areas and so add in enough light to give an even exposure across the group.
The lighting diagram here gives you an idea of how the light was positioned on the day:
Here’s an out of camera shot using the main light from camera right and then the on-axis light to fill in shadow areas and giver a more even exposure across the group from right to left. This on-axis light was at a lower power setting than the other so that I didn’t lose the shadow on the subjects’ faces:
To ensure that the group was sharp and in focus from front to back I opted for the following camera settings:
- Sony A7RII
- Sony 35mm f/2.8
- Manual Exposure
- Aperture: f/11
- Shutter Speed: 1/125sec
- ISO: 200
With the inevitable delays I wasn’t able to set up my lighting and get the shots needed until 8.45am but this still meant being finished, cleared up and gone by 9am for the company to start their first meeting of the day, so what could have been a somewhat stressful situation was made manageable, I believe, by using my trust Light Meter. You see the stress I always found used to come in from the technical side of Photography but once you can nail that everything else just slots into place.
Using the Light Meter meant that I could quickly take some readings across the group and make the required changes to the power settings of my lights so that the moment I get behind the camera, all we need to work on is positioning of everyone so that the group looks good together. I can’t rave about the use of a Light Meter enough and the benefits it gives for nailing the exposure, slowing you down and keeping everything calm and controlled; this does you as the Photographer a world of good but also for the client looking on gives them so much confidence in what you are doing. Does that make sense?
- 2 x Elinchrom ELC 1000 Pro HD
- Elinchrom Rotalux 170cm Octa (camera right)
- Elinchrom Rotalux 135cm Octa (camera axis)
As you’d expect when taking group photographs, it’s almost impossible (especially in a group this size) to get everyone smiling, not blinking and so on, so my solution, as always, is to shoot with camera on a tripod with the camera tethered to my laptop so I can see the photographs nice and big as they come through, and take a number of photographs so that later in Photoshop I can blend them together choosing the best expressions from each.
For this group shot I ended up using parts of 5 pictures to create one final group shot which is why it was so INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT that I used a Tripod when taking the shots and also used a remote trigger so that I could continually watch the group and notice much more than I could if stuck behind the camera…
Post Production / Retouching
So with the group shot blended it was then onto cleaning up, adding the background, the floor, colourising and of course matching the colour / look as much as possible between the leather arm chair and the material sofa:
After last year’s photo shoot I recorded a couple of videos showing how I do this kind of stuff, so you can check them out below, but in the mean time I hope this has been in some way useful and as always if you have any questions / comments, then please feel free to make use of the comments section below.