Massive group photo...

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by JTP, Feb 10, 2008.

  1. JTP

    JTP TPF Noob!

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    Hello everyone

    I am a photographer for my high school yearbook and I have been given the task of taking our graduating class (300-350 people!!) group photo this year. Last year they hired a pro to do it but they're being cheap this time.

    I have a Rebel XTi and I know how to use it fairly well, but I have no real experience with big pictures of this type (especially indoors).

    Here's one of the shots taken by the pro from last year:

    http://img211.imageshack.us/img211/8937/dsc0027copygv8.jpg

    As you can see, the space I have to work with is a double-size gym. The difference is, last year that photo made up a 2 page spread in the book on 9x12" pages (e.g. 18x12" image). This year, the book itself is landscape - so I need to have everyone spread out even more because in the book it will end up being a 9x24" image. Half the height, twice the width.

    Last year it was b/w in the book but this year it's going to be in a colour section, so it's going to be even trickier to get right.

    The setup I'm imagining has my camera attached to the top of a 8' or 10' ladder (both are available, I'll see which is best) with a Gorillapod. I have a remote shutter cable so I can get someone else to push the button, becasue I have to be in it. I'm going to rent a EF-S 10-22mm so that I can get everyone in. I'll set up a laptop with EOS utility so I can see the photos and make ajustments without climbing up and down the ladder. I'm planning on using the pull-out benches that you can see at the sides of the above shot to arrange everyone on, with an extra row of regular single benches if needed.

    However, my main question is regarding lighting. The light in the gym is horrible. It's darkish and off-colour. (I shoot a lot of sports for the school and this gym is used for basketball a lot.) I'm planning on renting 2 or 3 (?) Elinchrom 600RX heads with 12.5' stands. The thing is, I have absolutely no experience with lights of this type. I've never even touched one before. Should I use umbrellas? I also own a Speedlite 580ex ii, will it be any use at all?

    I know this is a lot of information to process, but any and all advice is appreciated. Thanks!
     
  2. Socrates

    Socrates TPF Noob!

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    You may have bit off more than you can chew. First, the gorillapod. I have found it to be absolutely horrible - it quivers! You're going to need something really solid.

    Second, the lighting. Forget the flash. Distances will be too great (don't lose sight of the fact that double the distance requires 4X the flash output). You will need massive amounts of full-time umbrella lighting.

    I'm sorry to be so negative but I'd rather you bow out now than be disappointed (and possibly embarrassed) afterwards.
     
  3. MarcusM

    MarcusM TPF Noob!

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    I have absolutely no experience with this sort of thing, but just wanted to point out an observation.

    It looks as though from the shot you posted, that the professional photog might have only used 1 or 2 lights. It looks to me like his lights are coming from the lower right-hand corner. You can tell by the shadows and there is a "swath" of bright, almost washed-out faces going from the right side through the center of the photo. The people in the back, corners, and edges (especially the left-hand side) are all darker. (Also compare the light on the gym floor on the lower right corner compared to the lower left corner)

    I guess I don't see why you wouldn't be able to try to replicate that.
     
  4. JTP

    JTP TPF Noob!

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    Yes, you're right, I should have mentioned that... last year he used 2 lights. On the right, on the wall between the basketball net and the electrical box, you can see photoshop marks where someone did a not-so-great job of cloning over a huge glare spot on the wall. I remember noticing that on the originals but I can't find them now.

    And Socrates: I've used my Gorillapod quite a bit in many different situations and I've never had any problems with it moving... I've been carrying my full-sized tripod around less and less because it's so useful and versatile (wow now it sounds like an advertisement). I have the biggest/heaviest model, the SLR-Zoom. Oh, and I was thinking of using zip ties just for extra safety/peace of mind.

    And I appreciate your advice but it's really a bit late for me to back out now. I did tell the staff member who is in charge that I was apprehensive about something this big and complicated, but she seems to have some strange external source of confidence and she thinks it will be a good "learning experience" for me. I guess she'll get what she pays for...
     
  5. ScottS

    ScottS TPF Noob!

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    This year the photographer for my sr. class picture had a really extensive setup.
    (keep in mind this was for us seniors to buy, not for the yearbook. )

    1. He used a panoramic film camera...
    2. He had 6, 700 watt per second (at least i think that he said they were 700wps) strobes on special 18 foot stands, with color gels to match the gym lighting.

    Oh yea and he didn't use umbrellas, he said they diminish the flash too much. So i wouldn't worry about using umbrellas. I would however rent 3 of the strobes.

    Is your yearbook paying for the rentals? if so they should pay for a higher res. camera because with the crop that you will be doing, the photo has the potential to be pretty gritty.

    Otherwise, good luck!!



    Oh yea one more thing... our Sr. class was about 850 students.
     
  6. JTP

    JTP TPF Noob!

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    Yes they are paying for it, but as I said they're being cheap, and even with just the 3 lights and lens that I mentioned I'm almost using up the entire "budget."
     
  7. Socrates

    Socrates TPF Noob!

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    Well, best of luck to you and don't skimp on the lighting.
     
  8. JTP

    JTP TPF Noob!

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    So would you recommend I supplement the 3 strobes with my Speedlite, or would that not make a noticable difference?
     
  9. ScottS

    ScottS TPF Noob!

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    Well, i dont think that it could hurt. Just make sure you get there early and set up all your lights and stuff, and even pop a few shots to check for the reflections from the walls. that way there wont be as much PP after the shot.
     
  10. Peanuts

    Peanuts TPF Noob!

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    This might sound ridiculous but can you only use the gym? Is there any place outside where everyone could stand and you could be on the roof and shoot down on them? (preferably on a cloudy day)
     
  11. JTP

    JTP TPF Noob!

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    Yes, I'll have lots of time to set up and practice a bit. I've got a group of people helping me so I can stick them around different areas of the space and see what works.

    I already asked that. And one of the yearbook editors, who also dabbles in photography, also already asked that. Unfortunately in downtown Toronto, schools don't have a whole lot of outside space. And then there's the fact that this time of year it's either bright and sunny and wet mud/snow everywhere, or -30C and blowing snow and ice everywhere. No thanks.
     
  12. Peanuts

    Peanuts TPF Noob!

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    Makes sense. Any overhead catwalks in your gym? (crumb, can't remember the real name of those) Does the janitorial staff have one of those lift machines for changing bulbs in the gym? (can't remember the correct name for that one either!)

    I am going to post a photo in a few minutes I did for a grade 9 grad last year with about 65 students (lots lss) but I can at least describe my lighting set up
     

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