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12-22-2009, 02:25 PM   #1
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Help Needed - Lighting suggestions for A Large Group Photo??

I need some help. I have some experience at photography but I have very little with flash photography. I have only done a little daylight fill flash using both the on-camera flash and an AF-280-T, so I am a newbie at this type of photography. I have tried to lay the problem out in such a way that there is adequate information for someone out there to provide some help. I have even attached the group photo that was taken two years ago. I have quite a bit of equipment and this has to be accomplished with the equipment at hand. There is very little chance that I will be able to get my hands on more equipment this late in the game. If I haven't provided adequate information please let me know and I'll try to provide the requested info. I also hope I have this request in the right forum, if not please move it to the right location. Finally, there may already be a detailed post that I haven't found that answers a lot of my questions, or another site with the information I need. If so, please send me in the right direction. I have checked some sites but the info provided is very general and not a lot of help.

I need to take a number of family photos this Christmas and I need some help with my lighting setup. I am not too concerned with the individual family shots as these are reasonably straight forward using a single off camera flash, or even using the flash on-camera with a bit of bounce or swivel dialed in.

The problem is with setting up my camera and my flash units to get adequate lighting for the large group photo. This is the scenario:

Location -
• Living room in front of Christmas Tree
• Approximate Living Room dimensions are: 15 feet (4.6 meters) by 17 feet (5.2 meters).
• See attached photo.

Group -
Group arranged in front of the Christmas Tree which is located in the picture window approximately midway in the 17 feet (5.2m) length. Camera on opposite side aimed at group in front of tree. Front to back of group approximately 3 feet (1m) in front of lens to 7 feet (2.3m). Group size is 13 adult sized individuals and 6 children (ranging in age from 5 to 9 years old.)

Equipment Available -
• Pentax K200d with built-in flash (P-TTL)
• Remote F
• Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 lens
• SMC Pentax F 28 f/2.8
• SMC Pentax FA 35mm f/2
• Pentax AF-540-FGZ flash (P-TTL) (GN=32@24mm) (Digital AF Interface) (Bounce & Swivel)
• Pentax AF-400-FTZ flash (TTL) (GN=20@24mm) (Digital AF Interface) (Bounce & Swivel)
• Pentax AF-330-FTZ flash (TTL) (GN=20@28mm) (Digital AF Interface) (No Bounce or Swivel)
• Pentax AF-280-T (TTL) (GN=28) (No Digital AF Interface) (Tilt & Swivel) (Bounce & Swivel)
• Pentax F Hot Shoe Adaptor
• Pentax F Off Camera Adaptor
• Pentax F Extension Cord
• 2 Tripods
• 1 Flash Stand (from AF-540-FGZ)

I know very little about setting up the lighting for this kind of thing, nor am I certain which of my flash units will even work together for this type of shot, therefore I would appreciate some help.
1. Which of my flash units do I use? Right now I am leaning toward the AF-540-FGZ at one side and the AF-400-FTZ on the other side, both set to bounce from the ceiling (which is off-white.) I planned on some test shots in advance.
2. Will I need to use the on-camera flash? I am trying to avoid that as I would prefer not to mess with a lot of red eye. I'm not even sure I can do that if I'm using the flash shoe accessories. Maybe I can attach the AF-280-T to the F Hot Shoe Adaptor in place of the on-camera flash and dial in some bounce, but then I'm not clear whether the AF-540-FGZ will fire wirelessly. Additionally, the AF-280-T is an old unit and , although it does support TTL, it does not have a digital interface that will transmit auto-focus information from the camera.
3. Can I use the hot flash adaptors (cable, etc.) to power the AF-400-FTZ while using wireless to fire the AF-540-FGZ? If so, is there something special that needs to be set up in the menus?
4. Which of these flash units will function as a slave and which the master and how do I set that up on the flash?
5. Since I will be in front of the camera myself, as part of the group photo, I planned on using the Remote F to fire the camera. Can the 2 second timer function be activated and then fired with the Remote F?

I realize that this type of thing is not something where specific directions can be given, and I also realize that I will have to take some test shots in advance. But, advice on the initial setup, which units can be expected to work together, the best focal length to start with, suggested shutter speeds, etc. will make this go a lot faster. I don't have a week to work out all the details so the further down the road I get with your suggestions and advice the better.

Here is the shot from 2007. Obviously the family is even bigger now.

Last edited by Pioneer; 12-22-2009 at 02:29 PM. Reason: Add Picture
12-22-2009, 02:54 PM   #2
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I just went through a similar situation. Here are my thoughts/setup:

- With a large group of people, don't use p-TTL (I tend to distrust p-TTL in general). There will likely be closed eyes. For consistent results, use flashes in fully manual mode (flashes with variable manual output help). Take a lot of test shots, and take a lot of notes.

- K10D does not allow wireless setup (using the built-in flash as the controller) and 2-second delay remote control. I think your K200D is similar. So I use el cheapo RF remote flash control.

- My house happens to have a fairly wide staircase, so I use that for the photo setting. The ceiling is high, that eases the setup quite a bit.

- Small aperture is needed for great DOF.

- Shoot RAW.

- I use two Metz CT45-1 units, each on either side and at 1/2 power setting, pointing straight up to create a bare-bulb effect. A third Metz CT45 unit is attached to the camera, at 1/8 power setting to lighten the shadows. The K10D is set at ISO 200, F/16. The focus point is about 1/3 into the crowd.

I don't have any photo here, but they look pretty good.

Last edited by SOldBear; 12-22-2009 at 03:02 PM.
12-22-2009, 03:41 PM   #3
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Original Poster
Thanks SOldbear. This is the type of information I need. Experience is a great teacher and I'm trying to pick your brains for your experiences.

I have been reviewing Understanding Exposure and Light and Lens again (great books btw) but the information provided is generic in nature, not specific to the equipment I have available. The websites that I go to are similar as they provide great generic advice but don't give me the specifics I am looking for. BDimitrov's site has been a great resource for specifications for my equipment and I'm trying to sort through that information right now and make some sense of it. The web is a great source of information but it is quite interesting that the bulk of it is very generic, and quite honestly, not a lot of help when you need specific detail.

I have figured out that I will probably need at least 28mm to get the DOF I need for this shot. This also seems to be about the limit of most of my flash units as they appear to provide adequate light for lenses starting around 28mm.

I appreciate you advice regarding P-TTL. I wasn't aware of those issues so I'll spend more of my time working with the manual settings.
12-22-2009, 05:17 PM   #4
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I would bounce two flashguns set apart evenly, either on manual or 'auto'. How you actually fire them is up to what gear you have to do it, I'm not sure what in your arsenal accomplishes that. When I want to trigger two flashguns, I use a cord to trigger one flash and a slave cell to fire the other... 1970's style

The other thing I'd mention is to use the longest lens you can and arrange everyone with the least front-to-back distance as possible. In your attached pic the people up the front have much larger heads than those up the back... I'm sure that's not reality In that pic you'd also want to get the camera a bit higher. And finally, make sure everyone gets there whole head in clear view, not just their eyes (they can see the camera so assume it can see them!).


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