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05-01-2012, 11:08 AM   #1

Taking group photo in mid afternoon

I've been asked to take some prom pictures for my son's friends in a couple of weeks. We're doing it at a local historical site which has gardens, trees, and old historic buildings. I've scouted out the area and taken my son and daughter out there for some test shots. But I'm going to be doing a group of about 16 kids and I just need some advice about settings, etc. I have a Pentax K-r and a Mecablitz 50 Af-1. I have the two kit lenses and an old 50mm manual prime. That's it as far as equipment. The shoot is going to be at 3:30-4:40 (can't change it) and the sun is pretty harsh and high. I've looked at shady areas. Most are dappled and the ones that aren't are really deep and dark. I wanted to use f8 for depth but it's giving me a really slow shutter speed. I am not sure using my flash will work for that many people although it seems to help with just the one or two people that I've done test shots with. I am a beginner and I'm not getting paid, and it's only a prom, but I would like to do a good job and gain some experience. If anyone has any helpful advice, I would be most appreciative.

05-01-2012, 06:28 PM   #2
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Hi Kim,
you don't have an easy task to be honest. Depending on wether or not you have someone to assist you and are willing to spend some money you have several options. In the case you don't want to spend a dime, I would most likely be tempted for the deep and dark shadow areas and would use the flash off camera at full power, slightly off axis and bump the ISO (the K-r is a solid high ISO performer), unfortunately this method would most likely make you miss out on all the lovely trees, buildings and gardens.

You could always pray for some cloud cover to diffuse the sun.

Another option without spending extra is to shoot RAW, expose for the highlights and then push the shadows in ACR or Lightroom. This will create more noise in the shadows but as long as you don't over do it (and you don't have some insane dynamic range in the scene) it should be manageable.

Alternatively you could spring for some big reflectors (even a DIY PVC frame with some white fabric would do wonders) to bounce some of that harsh light into your group as a fill light. Get some friends or family members to help you out by holding the diffusers.
Lastly, you could also get an extra flash or 2 and mount them with umbrellas and radio triggers as fill, but unless you can borrow some from a fellow photographer (with radio triggers it doesn't matter what brand or camera dedication the flash is) this would mean spending a few hundred dollars.

If you have the room to get the whole group in with the 50mm prime, it will give you better sharpness and IQ than your kit lenses, but since you'll be working with a group, make sure you have enough depth of field so that everyone comes out sharp (don't go shooting the group at f/1.4 or something like that). So if you are shooting in the dark shadow areas and think you can get more light (and shutter speed) by shooting wide open, remember the depth of field.
If you need something like f/8 for the proper depth of field and you don't want to raise your ISO any higher and you are getting too slow shutter speed, use a tripod and tell the group to be as still as possible and make sure you take several shots together (burst) to make sure if anyone moves in any frame you can simply use another from the burst or you can merge several frames in Photoshop and mask out the movement. If you don't own a tripod then you should really consider getting one, a good one, not for this shoot only, but because it is an essential piece of kit.

Let me know if you need me to further explain anything I mentioned here or anything I overlooked and happy shooting!
05-04-2012, 06:29 AM   #3
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Hi Kim
Do you own or can you borrow a good tripod? That would help a lot. Set the K-r to 2 second delay and use a remote shutter control or cable release. If you don't have either of those last two items, just be very gentle when pressing the shutter.

NaCl(then you don't have to worry about shutter speed so much)H2O
05-04-2012, 08:54 AM   #4
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Tripod, f/6.3, and lowest ISO is what I would do. Of course if you have a really steady hand no tripod is needed! I've got some cool stuff in those type of conditions.

05-04-2012, 09:34 PM   #5
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Tripod would be my first thought; the K-r does not have a connection for cable release so IR remote is the option and 3 second delay. I don't have much experience with outdoor lighting but you might have to use a higher ISO to increase reach of the flash when you use it, specially at wider angles. And use a diffuser (check the web for DIY diffuser).

Great idea, by the way, of scouting the area.

Good luck.

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