Lighting large groups, dealing with black bar

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by sinclairphoto, May 15, 2008.

  1. sinclairphoto

    sinclairphoto TPF Noob!

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    OK - my wife and I have been in the photography biz for a few years now and mainly shoot portraits but get several weddings a year. I have been trying to figure out the lighting setup for large groups for a while now but the photos either look too bright or the subjects in the back are too dark.

    I have two White Lightning x1600s shooting through two 48" umbrellas and we usually have groups anywhere from 10-20 people. I have been hiking up the umbrellas to about 12' pointing down and the two lights are pointing toward each other at about a 45 degree angle. We usually set the camera to f/8 1/250th, and adjust the lights until we get a decent exposure (initially testing with 1 person). This is where it starts to look like crap.

    Lately we have also been having problems with a black bar showing up on the bottom of the frame when shooting horizontally, or the right of the frame when shooting vertically.

    I would love some guidance and welcome criticism and comments alike! How do some of you light large groups? Keep in mind, most of the churches we shoot in have high ceilings, occasionally we'll have lower ones.

    Thanks
     
  2. sinclairphoto

    sinclairphoto TPF Noob!

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    I'm loving all this help!
     
  3. Chris of Arabia

    Chris of Arabia Herding cats since 1988... Supporting Member

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    There's no guarantee that there's anyone around who can help with a given problem when you need it. I personally can't offer any suggestions, though 48" umbrellas sound like they might be too small a light source for the size of group you're describing.
     
  4. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    The black bar is the shutter.

    When you exceed your camera's max sync speed, the shutter won't be fully open when the flash fires, and you will end up with part of the image being black/under exposed. When using studio lights, you sometimes need to use a shutter speed slower than the max sync speed, because of a slight delay in the triggering.

    Keep your shutter speed to 1/200 or slower, and you shouldn't have that problem any more.

    As for lighting the large groups. You may want to move the lights back so that the relative distance from the light to the front and from the light to the back...is closer. Light fall off is at an inverse square to the distance...so the further back the lights, the more even the light will be on the group...but also you will need more light power (or a wider aperture) as you move the lights back.

    Of course, it would help to arrange the group so that there is as little distance from the front to the back as possible.
     
  5. SpeedTrap

    SpeedTrap TPF Noob!

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    Take it easy, Not everyone who reads the thread knows how to fix it.

    Lets take care of the black bar first;
    This is caused by your camera shutter, what you are seeing is your shutter closing before you have a proper exposure, you may want to bring you shutter speed down to 1/125 this will eliminate the problem. If you would like to read more about this you can look up Flash sync Speed and you will get lots of results.

    As for lighting the people in the back I tend to add a light to bounce off the roof. I do this by adding a 3rd light pointing at the ceiling right above the group, this adds a nice soft light on the people in the back.
     
  6. jcolman

    jcolman TPF Noob!

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    One of the things I do in cinematography lighting when I have to light someone in the foreground and someone in a deep background is to use a very soft light for my foreground and hard edge light for the background. This does two things. First, by using a harder edge light for the background people/objects, it helps to define them because of the harsher shadows. Second, by not adding a modifier to the light, I get the full output of the light and don't necessarily have to go to a bigger light. I often find that I can use a smaller light (less powerful) for the background simply because it's easier to control the spill.

    While this technique may not work for your group shots due to the spacing of people, you may want to try adding a couple of speedlights on stands that are unmodified and aimed directly at the people in the rear while the people in the front are lit by your softer lights.
     
  7. sinclairphoto

    sinclairphoto TPF Noob!

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    Sorry for the impatience, guys. I should have given it a little more time.

    Thanks for the info on the black bar. That makes much more sense.

    As far as the group lighting, Big Mike, we usually set up the lights about 10 feet from the group. I am gathering by what you said that we should have them further back and bump up the power, correct? Also, should we have the lights up high and pointing down, or up high and pointing straight?

    Thanks again - this stuff is starting to make more sense. It's just so hard to gather a group of 10-15 people to practice on!
     
  8. Ben-71

    Ben-71 TPF Noob!

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    How about 2 more lights, closer to the front line, pointing above
    the far line.
    Lower them until they balance the light with the front line.
     
  9. JIP

    JIP No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Good call Mike I was thinkng it was a synch issue myself as well. I think if you have more specific questions a few samples might be in order to show some people what you are trying to do.
     
  10. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    That's the idea yes.

    Think of it this way....
    You could have 100 people, all lit by direct sun light....and they would all be the same brightness. That's because the sun is so far away that the distance to each person is practically the same.
    If you have 2 people and one is 2' from a light and the other is 10' from the light...the person farther from the light will be darker because they are 5 times as far from the light.

    The point is that distance plays a factor. So if you move your lights back, you can make the lighting more even over the group...as long as you have enough power.

    I should also mention that moving the lights farther back will also make the light harder...but I think that for a large group, even exposure is more important that the softness of the light.
     

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