Group portrait lighting

Discussion in 'Lighting and Hardware' started by Nwcid, Sep 10, 2018.

  1. Nwcid

    Nwcid No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Apparently this is the week for my questions, and this has nothing to do with my thread on wide angles lenses.

    I got approached to do sports pictures for a small local school. While I am developing my business, this is not something I had sought out as I have no experience here yet. However, their previous person moved, they are not interested in another photographer that has offered (I am not sure why), I am willing to try since I was asked.

    I will be doing team and individual photos. Depending on the sport, some of them will be in the gym and others outdoors on the field. I am pretty confident in the pictures on the field in natural lighting. Most of the groups will be 6-12 kids, the most I think will be about 18, so I am not working with large groups.

    I am concerned about lighting in the gym. I have shot sports in action in this gym before and if using flash, reflections on the floor are harsh. I will be shooting with my D-850 and likely either my 50mm 1.8, 85mm 1.8 or 24-70mm 2.8 depending on the need. For lighting I currently have 2 choices, I have a Nikon SB-700 with a 6x5" soft box or I have 3 SV-Q60 lights with 6.5' stands and umbrellas (which I have never used, I got them NIB from a friend). I am willing to spend some money if needed, but not willing to spend for a full lighting set up.

    I have considered getting a taller stand so I can get the strobe a big higher and a larger soft box.

    Any input would be greatly appreciated. I have about a month before the first shoot.


     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2018
  2. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    A small, 5"x6" mini-softbox does not create much light softening unless it is used at very close ranges, like under 10 feet. At typical basketball or volleyball type distances from the mezzanine or balcony of most gyms, it's fine to use un-diffused speedlight flash units and a radio trigger. I shot a season's worth of prep boys and girls basketball using two, balcony-mounted Vivitar 285HV speedlights mounted on the balcony railing or on light stands, and triggered by a Pocket Wizard system, with pretty good results. At elevated ISO,like 800 to 1600, a little bit of flash goes a LONG ways in terms of getting the lens aperture down to f/5.6, so you can get adequate depth of field,and not have just "one player's face" in-focus.

    This was using two speedlights, set to their Tele zoom head position, and being run by a Quantum Battery that powered both flash units, and which gave pretty good recycling, and with the flashes set to half power for faster recycling and less chance of overheating. As mentioned, you've got a 4,000 square foot court here...two speedlights is better than one.

    Strobist: On Assignment: Prep Basketball

    This article has about all you need to know.
    *****

    David Hobby has a longer article on lighting indoor sports using monobloc type studio flash gear here:Strobist: A Guide to Lighting Indoor Sports

    He has one-light wrestling, one-light volleyball,and one-light basketball setup diagrams. As well as two-light diagrams, for both bounce flash, or for direct flash. Great insight.
    *****
    I have no idea about the three SV-Q60 flash units you got from your friend, and can't find them on the web to look them up. As far as lighting teams or groups...ONE, single flash can do a huge amount. No absolute need whatsoever to have a main + fill lights.

    For large-group, bleacher-seated shots, If you place ONE, single light source high and just slightly off to the left side of the camera, so that the nose shadow falls down and off to the side of the nose, it will create a crisp under-chin shadow as well, which will light the face of the players, and make their head/face literally stand out from their uniform. Since yearbook and team pictures are often seen quite small, this is an actual benefit.

    You do not actually really "need" an umbrella or modifier on team pictures. A single light, up way high on a 13-foot to 20-foot stand, is an old-time banquet photography secret. One, high-up main light throws the shadow down, and behind, each person, so that ranks of people, or people seated close to one another, do not cast shadows on nearby people! This is using ONE, single flash as if it were a high, 1- to 3 o'clock sunlight source! This does NOT require much or any modification of the flash. A bare reflector is fine for this. You're not going to hear this type of information from a lot of people, who will suggest two, 60-inch, power-sucking umbrellas, one main and one fill...with the easy chance of creating ugly,competing dual shadows unless set up correctly.

    There used to be a fantastic website from a custom electronic flash head modification company that sold "pencil light" flash heads for various systems: DynaLite,Speedotron,Norman, etc.. The six inch long, 1-inch diameter flash tube was held in place in front of a matt-white 4 x 9 inch flat steel plate, which directed the light forward. FANTASTIC team pictures, using one light, on a 13- to 20-foot light stand. No fill light, just one 400- to 1200-Watt-second flash pop. The site is no longer up. The team pictures were amazingly good. Crisp light that looked like California sunlight. Great facial definition, each person's face lighted cleanly, and NO shadow problems. All from ONE, bare,simple flash pop. No umbrella. No octabox. No softbox.. Just one, bright, un-modified flash light!
    *****

    For small groups and individual in-gym portraits of people not on bleachers but on the ground, a 40-inch umbrella and an 11 foot stand is plenty. You do not "need" a big wash of soft light. You need decent light, from at least 15 to 20 feet away, so that it is EVEN light, across a group of three to five players, like say the starting five basketball players. Light that comes from 20 feet or farther away is almost perfectly even and free of fall-off. There's way,way too much emphasis on "soft" light and 60-inch umbrellas. At 20 feet, a 40- to 45-inch reflecting umbrella is FINE. There's a lot of nonsense about umbrellas passed around. Look at the slanted lens.com for his umbrella primer and see for yourself how even a 40-inch umbrella lights a big area, evenly. You do not "need soft light"...you need light that REVEALS the players' faces, and which allows you to stop the lens down to f/7.1 or f/8 to get crisp focus, and which will also mean that you can darken the backgrounds, since indoors at f/8 at 1/200 second, the gym lights will not even register! Only the flash-lighted area will be exposed.
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2018
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  3. Nwcid

    Nwcid No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Thank you for the lengthy response. I will look at the links in a little bit.

    I was thinking the single strobe up high was the best option, was just not sure if the SB-700 had enough power.

    Since I have the continuous lights, Smith-Victor Q60-SG 600 Watt Quartz Light with 2 Leaf 401131 B&H I was not sure if that was a good option or not.

    I have updated the original post a bit. When I said on the field, I meant the outdoor sports. This will all be portrait work, not action shots.
     
  4. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    You're welcome. I think the 600 Watt quartz light will not be all "that" useful for still photos. I was describing using flash (speedlights or monolight flash unit(s)) for gymnasium-based sports like wrestling,basketball,volleyball.

    Continuous light portraiture requires the lights to be bright, and fairly close, unless you have VERY expensive,super-bright lights, and even then the shutter speeds are slow,and the ISO levels are somewhat high, and subject movement and motion has to be kept to a bare minimum; not really good for fun,fast-paced shooting with kids...really tough to work with continuous lights too. Blinding on the eyes, hot, need modifiers,generally a PITA to work with in my experience. Okay for video though. In fact, what you want for video is continuously-on lights.

    I dunno...SB-700...not quite a full-powered speedlight, but still, at elevated ISO levels it can provide light. ISO 1,000 or 1,250 is pretty good nowadays, and with flash, that ISO level can be "leveraged".

    Still...there's _nothing_ like having 400 Watt-seconds of flash running off of 110 volt AC power...it can solve a lot of problems. I'd rather have a $99 to $129 Flashpoint AC monolight than almost any standard speedlight like an SB-700 or SB-800 or SB-910, if the goal is doing a team session with 50 full-power flashes or more.

    The thing with speedlights is recycle time and batteries and lack of sheer, raw power. If you have a Quantum battery, you get fast recycle times.
     
  5. Nwcid

    Nwcid No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I could not find a $129 400 watt unit. I would need a higher stand as mine are only 6' high, and being cordless would be nice.

    Is this a reasonable set up, Flashpoint M Series ? Do I want to use a direct flash like that on a group or should it be defused somehow?

    I am reading up on it now, but how does my camera fire it? Do I need a wireless trigger of some kind? It says it comes with a sync cord. My camera does have a PC sync port, or it looks like I can remote fire the strobe with my SB-700.

    I realize that some of these are basic questions, but I am just starting into this style of photography. If you never start you will never learn. I live in a very rural area, and there is a lack of knowledgeable mentors.
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2018
  6. Christie Photo

    Christie Photo No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I'm thinking that's more than enough. It sounds like all the groups can be posed in two rows, so not a really deep composition.

    If I had to shoot that today, I would put the camera on a tripod, use one of my old potato masher sort of strobes and drag the shutter a bit to bring up the tones in the background. I'd want to shoot at f8 or smaller, I'd bump up the ISO as necessary. Personally... if you watch carefully... you can shoot as slow as 1/15 if necessary (I'd rather shoot at 1/60).

    Of course, make plenty of exposures of each group.

    Good luck!
    -Pete
     
  7. Nwcid

    Nwcid No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    My thought with the linked unit is that it is within a budget I am wiling to spend and I can always turn a bigger one down, but not a smaller one up. If I was not doing this as a business, I would probably just try with my SB-700 on high stand. I do a lot of underwater, mostly macro, photography using 2 high power strobes and high F stops. Now I just need to translate it onto land.

    I will defiantly be using my tripod. I am also considering shooting tethered that way I can be 100% sure I got the shot. This school is about 50 miles away and I would prefer not to have to re-shoot anything. I will be taking plenty of each shot though.
     
  8. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    Here you go, Flashpoint Studio 400, 400 Watt-second studio monolight, $139.Flashpoint Studio R2
    Has a built-in radio remote receiver.

    You could get a similar, but lower-powered studio flash, but with a DC portable battery pack,and a light stand, for $199.Flashpoint M Series

    A six-foot tall light stand is not tall enough for standing people. It's just not. The bare minimum would be a 9-foot stand, in my opinion.

    The Flashpoint kit you linked to has a 600 Watt-second flash and a DC battery and a stand for $299...a pretty potent flash.

    Flashpoint M Series
     
  9. Jamesaz

    Jamesaz No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Sand bags for light stands and gaff tape for securing cable to the floor. It will be a good learning experience. Good luck
     
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  10. Nwcid

    Nwcid No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Somehow I had missed that one. Still at minimum need a stand, which is not a big deal, but I would need a trigger, or a sync cable. It says this unit is AC only, so does that mean I would not be able to use it with a battery pack? I think that portability is something I would like to have.

    I did see this one, but is is only 150 watts, and you had recommended 400.

    I found this unit while looking at the 150 watt unit. Am I thinking wrong about being able to turn it down vs the 150 potentially not being able to put out enough light for future work?
     
  11. Nwcid

    Nwcid No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    As I was driving to work tonight I had another thought. I do have the 2 strobes I use for my underwater photography. They are able to be slave fired by flash.

    They have a guide number of 32m (approximately 105 feet), and if I am understanding guide numbers correctly, that makes them just a little more powerful then my SB-700 with a GN of 92 feet. This puts the in a similar range of the 150 watt unit with a GN of 36m/118 feet.

    My strobes are already battery powered and good for 200 full power shots, plus I have spares. I could not fire as continuous with these as I could with others, but they are rated for above water use. Using the 6' stands I have, and creating a small extension I could safely get these up to 8-9' high. With the 2 strobes and the on camera, or up to 5' off camera, flash would this potentially be enough light?
     
  12. Nwcid

    Nwcid No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I made a decision yesterday and purchased an AD 600 pro, Flashpoint Godox AD600Pro OPEN BOX

    It is more then I had planned on spending, but for what you get it seems like a better deal. It also seems easier to set up and use, which will lead to it getting used more. With it being a current and popular choice, if I find I don't use it I have a better chance of resale.

    Now I just need to find a good stand and a good modifier for it.
     

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