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10-02-2013, 02:34 PM   #1
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Large family (25+) and Single Family recommendations

My wife's family likes to do a family photo every year, and when they saw me with a camera recently asked if I would be willing to shoot the family portrait as well as single families.

I have been told by friends that my 18-55mm lens would do excellent for small groups (5 or so family members), but what lens is recommended for a group of say 25 (with 15 adults)? I read an article about using fisheye so you can be closer to the group, but I worry about distortion of the people closer to the edge.

Next, what equipment would I need? I have a 43" white (with removable black cover) umbrella and a single speedlite and stand. I also have a 42" 5in1 reflector. Do I need another speedlight and/or umbrella? is it worth the investment to get [a] strobe[s]?

Finally, location? I MIGHT be able to find somewhere nearby for an outdoor shoot, but if not, my living room is more than big enough to fit everyone. Dark wood floors, white walls, cathedral ceiling. Is it best to black out the windows and/or shoot at night, or just darkened windows (via blinds) should suffice?

10-02-2013, 02:46 PM   #2
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I wouldn't use 18mm, you are right about distortion, I would say using around 35mm and backing away would give better results. I usually shoot in scenic locations outdoors in early morning light just before everyone starts getting squinty eyed, so I can't help with strobe advice. If you do this, using a flashgun for fill flash outdoors is great for filling in shadows that be cast on faces. But take LOTS of photos because with 25 people someone will always be blinking!
10-02-2013, 04:00 PM   #3
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I would agree you don't want to go too wide. Here's one I took a few years ago using the DA* 16-50 This was @31mm - The real trick especially with the young ones is getting them all to look. Double tough if you are in the photo. Patience is another issue. I got three attempts at this then they lost interest ha! This was the best of the bunch.

10-02-2013, 04:27 PM   #4
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If you are going to use the 18-55, stay away from the endpoint focal lenghts. Try to use the middle of the range. (~30 ~ 40)
Take a burst of pictures so later in post process you can use uncle Bob's open eyes from pic #1 in pic #2 and so on. A tripod will help on this as well.
As for light, for such a big group I'd try an outside natural light shot.
Important on group pictures, leave plenty of space on the sides. It is very common that you will be asked for 8x10 prints, and that crops a good chunk of the sides.
Good luck!

10-02-2013, 07:42 PM   #5
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I've tried some indoor shots with a group that size and I found that one medium-sized flash (AF 360FGZ) with a shoot-through umbrella didn't allow for very even light distribution with such a large group, and the amount of light was marginal. I got more even results bouncing off the ceiling -- but since it was a cathedral ceiling as you have, the performance was also just enough. I had to aim the flash carefully to get the light to reflect a good way, using the angles of the vaulted ceiling as a giant reflector, so you may need to experiment a bit.

If you have a newer flash that communicates with the camera it helps. I used manual ISO, aperture, and shutter, which was quite easy because I didn't really have to get the exposure right to begin with, just got it somewhere in the right range and the P-TTL took care of the rest. With a cathedral ceiling, you don't want to mix Program mode on the camera with P-TTL because the camera will just make a wild-arsed guess at the aperture, based on focus distance and bounce setting, and it assumes you have a normal ceiling, so in my case everything came out dark. Just manually setting a larger aperture and ISO did the trick. Of course having a faster lens than the kit lens helps. With the kit lens, you might need to bump your ISO a little.

Also, I'm not saying you have to have P-TTL, a manual flash will do fine if that is your thing.

Of course having more flash units and/or more power is always a good thing but I don't have extensive experience setting up multiple lights, so I won't comment further.

If you do shoot indoors, the color temperature of the outdoor light is more likely to be a problem than the actual amount of light that comes in. At dusk, or twilight, the color will never match correctly. You will wind up with some weird colors. So you need to use gels, or just avoid those hours, by shooting during normal daylight or at night as you suggest. Closing the blinds may still let the funny color into your shot. Blacking out the windows seems like a lot of work for a casual situation.
10-04-2013, 10:05 AM   #6
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we did a group photo for my inlaws 50th anniversary. in total there were about 15 people. what we did was to pick a color scheme. In the end, everyone wore black shirts and blue jeans. that does not mean everyone looked the same, there was still the individual patterns shades etc evident, but it really said group

it turned out very well, using the fall colors in our garden as a backdrop.

it was shot with a 28-80 zoom, stopped down, plus fill flash, to get the exposure.

Outdoors the flash was important to mute, just a little the reflected colors from the foliage, otherwise WB and skin tones can be a big issue.

I think I used about -.7 to -1 stop manual exposure for the ambient light and made up the rest with flash. this also darkened down a little the backdrop.

Posing is also important, you would want people to have similar posture and placement of hands, etc. Be careful that people are not blocked by those in front, Kids sitting on the ground, shorter adults kneeling etc can also be a big help in getting it right overall.
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