Group photo, challenging conditions, saved in post

Discussion in 'Graphics Programs and Photo Gallery' started by adamhiram, Feb 18, 2018.

  1. adamhiram

    adamhiram No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Some background on this shot… My extended family gets together every year for the holidays, so that’s really the only opportunity we have each year for a family photo. The only room large enough to pose 10 people doesn't have great lighting, and the only angle with enough room to setup a camera without using an ultra-wide lens results in a large window behind the subjects. Closing the curtains makes things worse with the harsh shadows that result, and getting 3 generations to pose and sit still for more than 10 seconds is like herding cats.

    That being said, I took a similar photo 2 years ago with passable results. I bounced a speed light off of the ceiling for fill light and wound up with a lot of glare in the windows. I had no idea how to pose a group, and the way people were arranged looked a bit off. I got one usable shot from that weekend, but I looked forward to doing better next time.

    So here is a re-shoot from this year. Same location, same people, same challenging conditions. I think I did a bit better with posing this time, and I remembered to take an empty frame of just the windows with no people and no flash to composite afterwords. After a lot of postproduction in Lightroom and Photoshop, here is the final product.

    Challenges:
    • I used the timer to take 9-shot bursts with a 3-second delay between shots, but didn’t realize the cycle time of my flash was longer than that when fired at full power. About 1/3 of the shots were exposed properly, 1/3 were underexposed from flashes fired at partial power, and 1/3 the flash didn’t fire at all. Of course the only usable shot was one where the flash fired at half power, so that's what I had to work with.
    • I did not realize until after the fact that there would be a significant difference in exposure between rows of people when bouncing flash off of the ceiling, which was fixed with a gradient filter in Photoshop.
    • With so many shots that did not come out, I had to composite in 2 of the faces. They're probably not the ones you would think...
    • I forgot to ask the grandparents to remove their glasses, which resulted in pretty significant glare from the flash. I was able to composite the eyes in from another shot where the glare was a bit less severe so I could see their eyes again.
    • The view outside was composited from a reference shot with no flash. Even after reducing the highlights and slightly reducing the exposure, it's still pretty bright, but any further edits start to look unrealistic. Interestingly, the bright outlines around some of the subjects are not due to poor masking, but rather strong backlighting from the bright sun and snow outside.
    • Even cropped to 4x5, I still needed to remove a TV stand and patch in carpet and curtains on one side.
    Here is the final edit:
    [​IMG]
    20180106-DSC_5198a
    by adamhiram, on Flickr

    And here is the original to show what I had to work with
    [​IMG]
    DSC_5198
    by adamhiram, on Flickr

    So how'd I do?


     
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  2. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    You did very well. EVERYBODY looks GOOD in the top photo! I might suggest cloning out your gray sock foot and the red sock foot on the left fellow.
     
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  3. Designer

    Designer Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    That's amazing!
     
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  4. zulu42

    zulu42 Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    This is really great work. Lovely, natural result.
     
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  5. vintagesnaps

    vintagesnaps Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    It was the holidays, I'd leave the red sock on/in (whatever). It is a visual distraction that I'd usually not want to see, but he's going to look odd with his pant leg just hanging there.

    I think the exposure might have been off because the camera's meter was reading the light coming in from the background. I usually aim the camera somewhat downward more toward the subject to meter the scene, then reframe (and/or take more than one shot adjusting a stop each way).

    The scene in the background is wonderful with the snow, it just would be nice to see it somewhat better if this wasn't quite centered with maybe a slightly different vantage point so some of the tree trunks might have been positioned in between the windows (although you said something about editing something in or out etc.). I'd think about how much stuff to remove, you don't want to end up looking like the subjects are in one of those model homes with no personal decor.

    Your little boy makes me smile. I think the picture turned out quite nice.
     
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  6. adamhiram

    adamhiram No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Thanks all, appreciate the feedback! The best advice I got on group photos is not to expect them to look like masterpieces, but to just focus on posing and lighting, and take enough shots to get a keeper or at least be able to composite one...

    @vintagesnaps, you're too kind!
     

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