The early bird gets the best image
Try for natural light first
Look for the right surface
Forget a single flash
Pack enough power
Events photographers—corporate, weddings, reunions and galas—are often challenged with the task of lighting a large space adequately and correctly for formal group photos. If events are one of your markets for generating assignments, then you can improve these types of photos, which is more likely to result in repeat business, with the following 5 tips.
The right lighting set-up for formal group photos starts with being at the venue very early, so all your lights will be in place long before any guests arrive. You want to have complete access to the space, so you can examine it carefully and find the best location for posed group shots. Not only will your client expect you to have everything ready when the photos are scheduled during the event, but also you don’t want to be encumbered by early guests or other vendors, such as food service personnel, from finding and placing your lights in the very best positions.
Another good reason for being early is that all your lights will be sandbagged or otherwise safely and adequately positioned, so no one will trip over light stands or be burned. You’ll also make sure there is plenty of room for people to enter and exit the “set” without being injured or damaging your equipment.
One of the first questions to ask when you start to examine the venue for the best location for your formal group photos is whether there is enough natural light. Unfortunately, you’ll rarely find a reception hall or church with well-balanced natural light; so don’t expect it.
The natural light must also be quite powerful, as you must shoot at a narrower aperture to create enough depth of field to make sure that multiple rows of people are all in focus. There may be enough natural light for f/2.8, for example, but not f/5.6 or f/8, which means you need artificial light sources.
Of course, the best combination is white walls and ceilings off which you should be able to bounce controlled light. Do a quick test with a mono light and a reflector dish to observe how the light bounces. You can also test dark surfaces if that is all that is available, but, in most cases, light won’t bounce off of them adequately.
It may be appropriate to use an on-camera flash for candid images, but formal poses are the money shots for most clients, so they deserve a much better lighting set-up. Even a single strobe mounted on a light stand off-camera is not much better. It typically doesn’t have the power to light the background, causing it to appear too dark. One half of the group, directly opposite the flash, will be hit with more light than the other half. A single flash source will also create ugly shadows on the wall or even on the rows of people further from the light.
There is no substitute for power when it comes to lighting an area properly for formal group photos at events. You’ll need multiple heads, preferably 1000 watts, and radio receivers to control them. As a professional, you should have conferred with your client in advance about what he or he wants for the formal group shots and the maximum number of people you should anticipate in these images. That will help you determine exactly how many light sources you need to cover the entire space. It doesn’t hurt to have one more light than you think you’ll need just in case someone requests a larger group photo.
Image credit: goodluz / 123RF Stock Photo
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