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The Art of the Group


There might some photogs out there for whom photographing groups is enjoyable, even fun. I would suspect they are in the minority. Doing a group shot usually invokes certain kinds of photographic nightmares about lighting, composition, producing a shot under a ridiculous time gun, difficult people, not to mention people who collectively are a complete zero when it comes to sartorial panache and synchronicity. I’m not referring to the group above. My Creative Live class was fun, and into it, and well, unique in terms of their wardrobe selection on that particular day;-)))

I tried to follow my basic rule of groups: Make it fast, make it fun. I had a wonderful assist right behind me, which was an enormous window of frosted glass. Beautiful main light. But, I was worried about how long that light would stay with me. It was late afternoon, and it was, after all, Seattle, the city where clouds strangle the sun on a routine basis.

Did this small flash, and big flash, mixed with small flash, just to show options. See the small flashes in front of me, bounced into the ground? At first, they were my only lights. Just a pair of tweaky little Speedlights, sparking the wash of soft daylight piling through the gigantic window behind me.

I’m controlling these two SB-5000 units with the radio transceiver ten pinned into my D5, called the WRR-10. I sent them a signal to just produce a blip of light, a splash. It did snap the quality of light to attention a bit, and didn’t create over huge problems with people’s glasses, the way low light can on many occasions. Without lighting, mind you, I wasn’t in the worst of shape.

But the light was a bit blah, and in the process of getting blah-er. So, I introduced the low bounces, minimally tweaking the deal. I then added a very simple main light, off to camera left. It took the form of a five foot Octa wrapped around a Profoto B-1, and also, three SB-5000 units, mounted on a Lastolite tri-flash, and firing through a 4 in 1 umbrella, which is 51″ across. The effect on the group was pretty close in terms of feel, and both the main sources were deadbang easy to control. The Profoto light responded to the air remote, while the Speedlight bounces I controlled with my WRR-10 on the D5. When I went to all Speedlights, everything was under the domain of the WRR-10. In both instances, I could adjust ratios accordingly, seamlessly, without ever leaving the camera.

But the main element was not the light. It was the fun of it. I tried my best to keep to my mantra I mentioned above. Fast and fun. Oddly, one of the most important pieces of equipment that helps the fun factor is a tripod. I’m on a heavy duty Gitzo here, and the camera is stable and my lines remain straight. This enables me to be a bit of a gadabout, and just reach and hit the shutter in mid-conversation or during a laugh. It’s helpful, for sure. I can make pictures without my eye in the camera.

Can’t say enough, by the way, about Tether Tools. We were linked to the computer for the whole class, and it didn’t miss a trick. Tethering is now a much more reliable, stable process, and a lot of that certainty derives from dependable tools such as Tether Tools brings to market.

All in all, it was a blast in Seattle. We ran from location work, and individual portraits out there in the world, to an office scenario to an athletic scenario, to group photography, to business practices, to survival strategies, to picture critiques. Pretty jam packed class, and maybe the best class I’ve ever taught. Certainly up there in terms fun, and completeness. A huge team effort on the part of our studio. Lynn was with me for the first time, on camera, bringing to bear her 25 plus years of production experience and business acumen. Cali was on camera, talking about the joys and terrors of being a first assistant. Annie wrangled the powerpoint into shape, and that gave me, for the first time ever, perhaps, a really serious schedule to keep to and logical segues from topic to topic. Worthwhile effort on everyone’s part. Many thanks to the team at Creative Live.

More tk….

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