Critique of group photo requested

gossamer

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Hi,
I was at a march this past weekend and got some great shots. Some of our governor, many political leaders, and a few candid shots of attendees. This was not one of those shots. I knew taking it that it had problems - I just don't know how to correct it.

This is with my D500 and a 24-70mm f/2.8.

The main problem is with the positioning of the group. It was loud and cramped - my back was to the stage and their backs were against a barricade. Maybe shifting 90-degrees to the right would have provided a little more space, but I'm more interested in the arrangement and camera settings.

What's the general rule for how to position more than a dozen people, most of whom are all the same height? I've asked a similar question in the past, but I don't believe I received any tangible recommendations.

I've also reduced this one so much to fit it here and that seems to have impacted the color, etc.

DSC2150-20.jpg
 
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gossamer

gossamer

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This shot is a little better, taken while standing up on the stage. The perspective and alignment are a little better, but I still don't know how I'd arrange the subjects. Do you think with an aperture of something like f/4 I could blur the background effectively?

DSC2152-20.jpg
 

weepete

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I doubt f4 would have worked here, depth of field doesn't work that way unless you have a tilt shift. With a wide aperture chances are you'd get some faces in the group that would be at best soft, worst out of focus.

Rule of thumb for posing groups? Rows perpendicular to the camera and enough DOF to cover them front to back I'd say.

If you want to get a blurry background as well make the distance from the group to the background large. Or you could set up on a moving platform use some flash and drag the shutter, that'd probably get you some major bokeh! ;)

But the major issue with the background in these shots is it is busy and starts about half way through the group, and that's pretty difficult to deal with. You could always use, *gulp*, software to get background blur but if you know about cameras it would be instantly recognisable as being an after effect.

Ultimatley this is why you don't see many group shots in protest photos, unless marching in a line. It's much easier to isolate and shoot individuals while blurring the background.
 

Designer

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Is that why some of the people were sort of bending low? That kind of spoils it for me. The second shot you were higher, which made more sense. Next time, if you can't get up higher somehow, at least hold your camera up above your head.

As for blurring the background; it can't always happen that way, so just roll with it. Sure, if you had more space behind them, then you might be able to blur the background, but when you're just out there taking record shots, you can't always make it perfect.
 
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gossamer

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Does anyone else have any suggestions on how to best arrange a large ad-hoc crowd to ensure people aren't crouching yet all are visible in the picture? Perhaps two rows somehow? Maybe examples of what you've done?
 

CherylL

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I will let the pros weigh in on posing large groups. My only thought is wondering why you would want a formal pose? In my opinion, a casual group shot seems to fit the scene .
 

texxter

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I was going to ask the same questions as CherylL - what is the intent with this photo? Why do you want to blur the background and lose the context for time and place? Why do you want to pose demonstrators?

Having said that, if you want to pose a group for a more "formal portrait" with control of background and such, I'd recommend finding an official building with steps leading up to it and sitting the demonstrators on the steps to get their faces visible. then you can place the signs at the edges and get a memento of the event in a more controlled setting.

Samples
 
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gossamer

gossamer

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Yes, great points. I think I had abstracted this a bit too far - my real problem is knowing how to stage a group picture where there are more than just a handful of people.

I think the second picture is okay, but just seems haphazard. I feel like there should still be some structure or more precise placement. It's not always going to be the case where I'm able to get above the group.
 

vintagesnaps

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I agree (with the first comment by the OP), stepping to the right might have been better because that might have avoided having some people close to the camera and cut off (it's hard to tell not being able to see what else was there). Think about the vantage point and move yourself - move you - you can't move them. Not all of them anyway, maybe if there was time to take a moment to ask one or two of them to move, you could possibly rearrange them a bit. But at an event you don't have time to rearrange a group, you need to get the shot(s) (not unless you're working the event and doing posed shots and there's time to move them and set up). The best way to 'fix' this would've been to adjust the vantage point and framing at the time the photo was taken.

You've got to work fast. You need to know what to do and be able to do it quickly. Shooting events means working with what's there. And getting what you need in a couple or a few shots then moving on to whatever's next.

I would suggest over the spring/summer try to go to some events like fairs, festivals, etc. where attendees are allowed to bring cameras. Wander around and do looking/observing as well as taking photos. Pick something like a booth/display and 'people watch' a little; notice how people move in and out of the scene, and in and out of your viewfinder. It involves timing too. Take pictures from various vantage points, keep an eye on people getting ready to head into or out of the scene, and get a shot fast or wait til they move on. It takes practice.

Since your profile shows it's OK to edit, I did a few crops and these are what I would find usable. What's important to get? their smiling faces and the signs, to know what the event was.

Here's what I did (and what I would've watched for when framing a shot at an event).

I lopped off a good bit of the woman's navy blue coat to get rid of the half-a-guy and the person's knee to the left (when framing I'd have kept that out of the frame) and to keep her smiling face and the sign (the way she was bent made for a large blue triangular shape of blue fabric that wasn't doing anything for the image). You don't miss anything by not seeing all of her coat because it isn't important to the scene or to what's going on; it works because she's bending as if she's squeezing into the shot so it makes sense for her to be leaning in and almost peeking into the picture.

I cropped the bottom edge a good bit to minimize foreground (it's not ideal because I'd rather not crop someone at the knees). I also cropped just above the top of the woman's boot to the left, and across to the center then cropped just at the bottom edge of the brown boot. Line it up when you're getting ready to crop and check everything along the edge. (Work toward being able to 'see' that and frame it that way.)

I cropped the right side to eliminate the guy's head off to the right, while keeping some of the white edge of the orange sign. I cropped the top two ways, with space above the sign and just to the top of the sign. (I'd usually like a little space above but there's so much grass it's taking up a lot of space in the photo.)

DSC2150-20 copy crop 1.jpg

DSC2150-20 copy crop 2.jpg


It also looks like there's a need to learn and practice getting proper exposures while working fast. I'd probably aim the camera toward the center of the group and meter the scene, then reframe.
 

Dave442

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The best I have found with this situation is to have a helper along that will position people.

In both shots you have the same three people with part of their face obscured by others in front of them. It looks like you were trying to resolve that issue in both images, people slightly squatting in the first and shooting from higher up in the second, but I think that barricade was going to make any solution difficult.
 

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