lighting setup for a group photo of over 50 people


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Jan 24, 2016
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I Would love to get your advice on the minimal lighting setup required for taking a group photo of over 50 people.

A beautiful charity group in my hometown are going to use this photo for their advertisements, and when I heard they're going to shoot it using their mobile phone - I volunteered to help, though I'm not a professional photographer.

Some more details:
  • It's going to be an outdoor shot, at noon of all times.
  • The weather is going to be partly cloudy.
  • There are some shady areas around the location, in case the sun comes out.
  • We expect around 50-100 people to show up.
My gear:
  • Nikon D5200
  • One YN568ex flash
  • Reflectors and umbrellas (shoot through / reflective)
Is there any way I can use my one flash to fill-in the lights for a photo of a group at this scale?Any relevant lighting tips you can share?

If it's cloudy I would shoot with the Sun. Try to get a nice uniform back ground and if possible shoot from elevated position.
You don't have the gear for adding light, so you will have to work with ambient. The bonus with large groups is that small details such as eyes are usually too small to matter too much. This is an ambient-light only image I shot on an overcast day. The sun was behind me which helped, but I didn't have any choice on the location. Look carefully at the direction and quality of light and move the people around as necessary. You don't want them squinting, but you don't want them all to have raccoon eyes either. If necessary, have their backs to the sun and over-expose the background.

A few tips. Make sure that your DoF is appropriate. MEASURE the distances and base your aperture on those measurements. If you need to pose the people in straight lines (as in my example) remember too that the people at the end of the lines are much further away than those in the center. Also, you need to get up above them. Even though it doesn't really look like it, I was actually on the third or fourth step of a regular 6' step ladder and shooting from across the street.
A location is your profile can be so helpful for giving you advice.

At noon, how high in the sky is the sun at your location?
Where I am here in central Iowa, this time of year the sun doesn't get higher than 45° above the southern horizon at noon.
So here, if I could, I would have the group face south.

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