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Large group shoot, need advice

Discussion in 'Studio Equipment and Lighting' started by PLPhoto, Mar 25, 2007.

  1. I've been asked to shoot a large group of people, roughly 200 in bleachers and outside.

    This is my old Marine MP unit and they'd like it done in front of the headquarters building. The building faces north, I figured a late afternoon shoot would be best when the sun is far to the west behind trees (I think) and out of the lens. They'll most likely be in cammies with covers.

    I have one White lightning 800 and 2 SB-800s, stands, PW for the White Lighting and Su-800 for SB-800s. I can get two more White Lightnings (800 or 1600) if needed.

    My biggest question is; will my Nikon 17-55mm handle this? Would I be able to fit them all in the frame or would I need to take two shots and attach the, later in PS? I will be using the D200 also.
  2. Ray C.

    Ray C.

    Nov 7, 2005

    A tack-sharp--edge to edge prime would be ideal, but the 17-55 should be fine. But there's a few things you need to consider when shooting a group this large. First, if at all possible you need to scope out the area in advance and see exactly where the sun will be at the time of the shoot. If it is behind the trees, you should be okay. If not I would have the additional WL's on hand just in case. In a perfect world, you'll have an overcast day, but if you're in sunny SD, that probably won't happen. The hats could wreak shadow havoc also, so I'd try to lose them if possible.

    Another important thing to think about is the size of the prints you'll be making, normally 8x10 and above for this size group. 8x12's will give you close to the full frame on your D200, but it's an awkward size photo. If you're printing 8x10's, remember you are going to lose about 1/6 of your frame to the crop...so be really carfeul when framing the shot.

    Camera on tripod, stopped down for good depth of field, edge sharpness, etc and shoot LOTS of frames and you should be good to go. Let us know how it works out.
  3. bob swanson

    bob swanson Guest

    :cool:  Check out my bsvirginian.smugmug account. I just photographed a F/18 squadron with all hands. Maybe 250 sailors in front of their 12 F-18's. With that many you can just about kiss off on much face recognition. I discovered (after an on-sight) that external lighting was just an un-necessary hassle. We agreed that the best time (and remember that the troops will be antsy) to photograph the event was when the sun was close to being in their faces, in my case about 3:00pm. For face recognition I did smaller groups (that cared) as in the pilots in front of one of their planes, and the chiefs in front of another plane. They were happy. As far as the size I settled on 16x20 that would be trimmed down to the 20 width for a pano. The image will more than likely be matted and framed anyway.
    I actually shot a few frames with 3 different cameras. D-70 in RAW, Fuji S-2 in fine jpg. and a Nikon 9100 adapted for IR. All of my lenses were below 20mm and I still had to be about 40 feet from the group. I also insisted on being elevated (they got me up about 12 feet). I also announced that if they couldn't see me then the camera wouldn't see them. A couple of additional notes, I polarized and shot on aperature preferred. If you have any questions you can contact me here or my e-mail bob@bob-swanson.com
  4. Ray, recon of the area before I agree to the job was my first plan of attack! I remember the area, but I won't know for sure until I take some test shots at the time of day I think is best. Thanks for all the info, especially about the cropping. I know they want at least an 18x24 print.

    Bob, thanks a ton, that was very helpful. I was worried about face recognition and assumed there wouldn't be much if any. I already planned to advertise for platoon and section photos after.
  5. Ray C.

    Ray C.

    Nov 7, 2005
    Bob, if you line up the group 70, 80 or more folks across, you will definitely have a problem seeing faces. The trick is to stack the group deeper, say seven or so rows and move them closer to the camera. And you're right, from a high camera position....i.e. Have the CO get the civil engineers to bring out a "cherry picker."

    Phil will have bleachers, (hopefully LARGE bleachers) so it won't be as difficult.

    The problem with your photos, Bob, is that the groups are WAY too far from the camera. If you would have moved them closer and used more rows, you would have seen more faces. Especially in the small groups...you ended up with a picture of F/A-18's with little, tiny people around them. If you had moved them 40 or so yards away from the jet, you'd then have the people as the main subject and the a/c as the background. I'm guessing they wanted the squadron patch included in the photo as well, in which case they should have parked the jets farther away, enabling you to position the groups around the logo and the jets would have become less dominant in the background.

    Groups this large are never easy, but with lots of planning, coordination, etc, great photos with recognizable faces can be had.

    Just my 2¢...
  6. bob swanson

    bob swanson Guest

    :cool:  Hi Ray

    Thanks for the comments. This was a second try at the shoot. The first one was cancelled because the CO wasn't pleased at how his planes were aligned and the proximatey of the troops to the planes. The other factors were time line. This is an operating base and we didn't have a lot of time to do this shot. Plus they called in sailors from all of the watches so they were anxious to get them back in their racks. Also our window was limited because we were impeding the other wings that were waiting for us to finish so they could get back to their job of flying.
    I really tried to think this thru and maybe should have been a bit more demanding but I did have my limitations.
  7. Ray C.

    Ray C.

    Nov 7, 2005
    You'd think I would know better and should have factored in the typical military "SNAFU"... :wink: :biggrin: Sounds like you were really under the gun.
  8. bob swanson

    bob swanson Guest

    :wink: I know you feel my pain. BS
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