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Old 02-12-2006, 04:13   #1 (permalink)
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Photographing groups?

I'm sorry if this seem like a simple question for some but I am having a lot of trouble with it.
What is the best camera settings for a group shoot?

I am photographing about 5-6 children in a group shot, They will be sitting at varying distances from me, the thing is I've tried this sort of this before and never get a good shot.

Using a small aperture to get every one in focus, sets a slow shutter and some one moves during the shot
using a large aperture means that the kids at the front or back are out of focus.
HELP...
I've tried using program mode ??? it sets an aperture of about 5.6 some one is out of focus.
I NEED HELP PLEASE.

I have a canon 30D will be using my flash speed lite 550ex as the shoot will be at night? why I don't know thats what time they want it...
my lenses are 50mm f/1.8, 28 - 90mm f/4-5.6 and the 90 - 300mm f/4.5 - 5.6

Cheers
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Old 02-12-2006, 05:34   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Photographing groups?

Bella, sounds like a bit of a challenge. I'm sure someone more experienced than me will come up with something useful but until they do ...

From your post it sounds like the children won't be sat close together is that right? If so you could be on a hiding to nothing. The 550ex is too small to produce a nice, even light over a large area, you could shoot it through an umbrella or bounce it off a reflector but then it's not likely to be powerful enough. Any single light would struggle in that kind of scenario.

Remember you can increase the ISO Speed, this will increase the noise but if it's the only way to get the shot it's worth a try 800 is certainly worth a go and even 1600 can give reasonable results. Image noise reduction tools like Noiseware can then be used to clean things up, or you can convert to monochrome and make a bit of an arty feature of it.

If there's any chance of persuading the children to sit still (very still) then a slower shot on a tripod could work, as you're not doing a closeup blinking and slight movements from breathing are unlikely to cause an issue. Perhaps you could bribe them? Alternatively take several shots (with the camera and light in the same position) and hope that you get a good one of each child at least once, then you could composite them all together at the end.

If the children are close together then using the flash (preferably off camera and/or with a diffuser) would mean that you could set a reasonably small aperture and let the flash provide enough light to give you the required shutter speed. Of course, if they're close together you wouldn't need too small an aperture.


This is not all entirely relevant to your situation but it's worth noting that on Canon cameras the way the dedicated flash is controlled varies between modes, the camera always meters the flash light (for the subject/foreground) seperately to the ambient light (background). In different modes the ambient metering is done differently and this can change the results.

In P mode, where the camera chooses both the aperture and shutter speed it will keep the shutter speed fast enough for hand holding, use the flash to illuminate the subject and if the background's dark so be it.

In TV mode, where you set the shutter speed and allow the camera to set the aperture it will use the flash to light the subject and then try and use a wide enough aperture to expose the background correctly

In AV mode, where you set the aperture and the camera determines the shutter speed it will use the flash to light the subject and then set a shutter speed suitable to correctly expose the background, this can result in long shutter speeds which confuses people who've used the flash in order to avoid long shutter speeds.

In Manual mode, where you set both, your settings will determine how the background is lit and the camera will fire enough light from the flash to correctly expose the subject.

Good luck ...
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Old 02-12-2006, 05:50   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Photographing groups?

Thank you so much, you've given me a lot of very useful information.
I have just brought a light sphere diffuser, I'm hoping this will help.
I will take my tripod with me. I must try to get them all in close and hope for the best, taking as many shots as I can.
I didn't want to do the normal every one sitting in a line type of shot, and I was thinking of siting then in little groups.
I must admit I've had trouble with this photographing just my two children. (they are sick of me asking them to pose so I can practise)
Thanks for the great advice and the info about using the different camera modes with the flash.
Cheers
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Old 02-12-2006, 09:48   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Photographing groups?

Bella, you have discovered how difficult this type of picture can be. Children and adults expect you to take the shot as they are rather than formally pose. As you have found, if you have folks at different distances from the lens you will need an enormous depth of field. Also lighting from a flash will be uneven; the nearest overexposed and the furthest underexposed. Apart from formally lining them up, can you pursuade some of the group to move around and/or behind the rest so that they are largely in the same placebut now the plane of focus is much narrower. The other alternative is to photograph in two's and three's to achieve the same effect. Past experience tells me that, although this approach is a litle artificial, the children or their relatives will always choose the better exposed and focused pictures. Why not try soem of these along with your original approach and see what you think. People (including children) will often be very co-operative for the photographer particularly those with a professional looking camera.

You 28-90mm lens will effectively be 45 - 144mm on your Camera in 35mm terms and should be ideal for the shots you are taking. Ideally you should use your flash gun with a bounce head to diffuse the light and also situated a little to one side. This may not be posible for you; I am not familiar with your flash gun.

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Old 02-12-2006, 09:50   #5 (permalink)
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Re: Photographing groups?

You don't say how old these kids are. If they are the same age as yours, you could try to get them to co-operate by telling them that the shoot is difficult due to the light (or lack of it) and tell them that you are going to have to take several shots on each set-up. If they know that in advance, you just might get some co-operation, especially if you want them to be still for a few seconds. This will give you the opportunity to try different settings.

It might be worth trying to replicate the conditions you are likely to be working in at home, or somewhere else where you can simulate the groups/distance and see what camera settings will give the best results. That way, when you do it live, you can concerntrate on the settings that you know have worked rather than experimenting on the actual shoot.

If you can borrow another flashgun or two, and get some slave triggers (they are quite cheap), you could get some helpers to hold the other flashguns to light the furthest groups. This will need some trials before the event so you can see the sort of results you will get.

Also get some shots of smaller groups during the shoot. These will probably turn out better, and can be used to supplement the larger group photos, and could be used to make a montage if all esle fails!
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Old 04-12-2006, 19:12   #6 (permalink)
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Re: Photographing groups?

Bella,

One thing a lot of people forget: you have three ways to adjust the light levels, not two. People focus on the aperture and shutter speed but forget the ISO setting. Your 30D has excellent noise reduction and there is no reason why you couldn't take the shots at 800ISO quite happily. That will give you 3 stops more light so you can go down to f8 or f11 and still have enough light at 1/125th to work with.

You're using a 550EX which can chuck out a fair whack of light if it needs to so try it with a fast ISO and see what results you get.

Cheers,
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