Early 2016 I was hired by Eight Wealth Management, a financial advisory and investment company based in Portsmouth, to take head shots and also a group photo.
The work was to take place over 2 days with the head shots being photographed on day 1 at the company offices and then day 2 in a nearby studio for the group shot. CLICK HERE to see and read about the original group shot which came with it’s own challenges as you’ll see.
So, fast forward into 2017 and Eight Wealth Management contacted me again asking if they could hire me to photograph another group photo as some of the Advisors had changed with some moving on and others joining the team.
Remembering the challenges we encountered (but overcome) last time with the group shot when we initially spoke I asked that we look to photograph in a Stately Home, Country House / Hotel with a large lounge / drawing room that we could photograph in. However despite every effort there simply wasn’t one local enough that would be easy for all the Advisors to make their way too and so this time we opted to change the upper level office area into a makeshift studio.
My only concerns with doing this was the ceiling height as to light what was going to be 13 or maybe even 14 people group shot I knew I’d need to get my lights far enough away from them to ensure they were evenly lit (Inverse Square Law) but also get the light source high enough to give the right light pattern of highlight and shadows that I was after.
Here you can see the make-shift studio area and to enable a large enough grey background that I would then work on during post production we ended up combining 3 separate rolls of seamless paper…
For the lighting set up I used two Octas; my Elinchrom Rotalux 175cm and 135cm both with ELC Pro HD 1000 heads.
Both of these lights were place as close to each other side by side as I could make them so that in effect they were producing one big light source and this was positioned off to the side (camera left) and what was to be further forward of the subjects I was photographing; oh and as high up as I could get them. This then would give me my Cross Lighting (Rembrandt Lighting as near as damn it)…
Unlike the first group shot that I photographed in 2016, this time we didn’t have the Chesterfield Leather Sofa and instead had this yellow material sofa which on request of the client was to colour match with the Chesterfield Arm Chair…
With regards to camera equipment, for this shoot I was using my Canon 5D MK III with the 70-200mm IS II f/2.8 lens at 70mm which was just enough to get everyone in. Of course shooting tethered into my MacBook Pro using the Canon EOS Utility Software which I find works flawlessly.
So, here’s one of the ‘out of camera’ shots that gives you an idea of the amount of work that was then needed to be done in Post Production before delivery to the client. Most importantly though is that the lighting is exactly how I wanted it; the rest I can work on but the lighting is so vitally important to get right.
All 13 people are pretty much evenly lit and you can see because of the position of the light that they all have light on one side of the face (camera left) and shadow camera right albeit for the little pattern of light on the cheek area…
Below is the cleaned up version where you can see that I have had to change things such as some of the ties being worn and making them darker, darkening down soles of shoes, changing shoe colour (gentleman on far right) plus changing his pose as I didn’t like how his hand was positioned on his knee plus most noticeably changing the colour of the sofa so that it matches closer to the Chesterfield armchair, oh and matching the sofa legs with the armchair too…
Of course in an ideal world none of these edits would have been necessary however there is no such thing as ‘an ideal world’ or situation. Despite a brief, there will always be a curve ball thrown in to make things … interesting, and that’s just the way it is. Most importantly though as I mentioned above is that the lighting was right. The rest can be worked on but without the lighting being right we’d be fighting a losing battle.
Finally, below you can see the final client ready image…
I think it’s fair to say that for most photographers, group shots are always a little tricky. Inevitably there’s always at least one that doesn’t want to be photographed and then there’s posing / positioning. For me I’ve found over time that not posing people works best. That might sound weird because clearly they are posed however what I mean here is that no-one has been told to be a certain way. At the start of the shoot, I’d metered the lights before they all turned up and when they did asked them to go over to the seats and just relax ‘whilst’ I get ready. Now, truth is I was ready so when I start taking what I tell them are test shots we’re actually getting what we need. Of course the first couple of test shots are needed to make sure that how they are standing / sitting is causing the light to throw shadow onto the person next to them and if it was then just a slight position change was needed; but not a change in ‘how they stand / sit. Does that make sense?
So this combined with shooting tethered, having the camera on a tripod and using a cable release so that I don’t have to hide behind the camera which can make folks go tense for me works a treat. I simply take shots by pressing the release whilst I’m sat up and they can all see my face whilst I continue to talk and avoid any awkward, tense silence.
Hope you found this useful but as always if you have any questions or comments, feel free to make use of the comments section below and I’ll be sure to get back to you.
Here’s a video [LINK] I recorded a while back for my YouTube Channel showing how I added in the texture to the background in this group photo. The same technique was used to add the flooring in too; the only difference is that the files were on my computer as opposed to elsewhere (all will make sense in the video)
Lastly, if you came along to my presentations at The Professional Imaging Show in The Netherlands, and The Photography Show in Birmingham last week I’ll be sending out the promised information in the next day or two; I just have a few things to put together before sending it.