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Apr 24, 2012
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Sherwood, AR
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Next week I am traveling to the West Coast to a family reunion. My family wants a group shot of about 20 people. I never have shoot a group that large. How do I keep all of the face focused? I plan to pose in 3 rows. Any help is appreciated:)
Keep your rows even (all eyes for each row at equal distance from you).

F8-10 or higher depending on focal length. YMMV. May also need high ISO to comensate of course.

Spot focus on an eye dead center of frame and in middle row. Don't bother with a tele. 35mm would be good, 50mm could work too.

Shoot in burst mode if your camera has it. Otherwise just snap away. 20 chances for someone to blink or anything like that
To amplify the above, ensure that you do the math for the DoF. Typically, with a three-row set-up, I would focus on the eyes of the middle row, and use an aperture sufficient to ensure appropriate DoF to keept he front and rear rows sharp (and probably go 1 stop over just to be safe). For row-type posing then arrange people appropriately, either tallest in the middle and going to the shortest on the ends, or vice-versa, but ensure that no one is blocking anyone's eyes (you may want to have the front row sitting, middle kneeling, etc). Also consider more informal compositions, especially if it's outside; spread out over a larger area and have little groups.
Pick your spot early, and take a little time checking framing. Bring at least one friend to stand here, stand there, see how tall people really are, how wide your field of view really is, where the trees and pipes and radio towers are that are gonna grow out of people's heads. Take some tests to verify actual framing, and then plan to give yourself a little more room around the edge of the frame than that -- not too much, you're gonna have enough trouble maintaining detail in people's faces without cropping like crazy!

It'll take a while to get everyone pulled together for the shot. Have the people who show up first stand in the three rows, and out at the sides, so you can take some test shots as people show up. Then chimp like crazy, zoom in on the LCD and see what's in focus and what's not, and how it all looks.
That helps, too. I guess I never thought about photographing such a large group. I have done wedding groups, but not a groups of 20 in rows.
Wifey's family gets together every year. First the siblings (13) then the "outlaws" (13) then the cousins, (about 30 or 40) then everybody (Oh, who really knows how many for sure?).

You can practice at home with some found objects. (anything that will show focus) Create a grouping (doesn't have to be exactly 20 objects) that is about as wide as you anticipate. Use your flash.

Keep the rows close, try to get the ones in the back row to stand as close as they can (dare?) to the middle row. Avoid asking women in skirts to sit in the front row. If you can, try to get the rows to curve ever so slightly, so as to be as nearly equidistant from the camera. Save one space at the end of a row for yourself, and use the timer or a remote release. (problem with that is that someone will move or look the wrong way while waiting for the shot) Take lots of shots.
You can practice before!!! Get 9 fillintheblanksthatareclosetopeoplesize (like chairs or something) and put them in three rows of three. Get far enough away from the set up that you'd have enough room to add a few more onto each side (to account for the people - width doesn't really matter in terms of focus at this point). Test DOF/aperture settings to see where you need to be to get focus front to back.
The technicalities have been well covered. Your chances of getting everyone looking good and looking at the camera at the same time are far less than 1 in 20 (Murphy's law applies). I'd say take as many as you can get them to stand still for and keep talking to them as you shoot, explain what you're doing and why you're taking so many shots. Try to have them stay in the same basic position. When you subsequently find the one shot where only one or two of the group are looking away or gurning you can go back and find a shot where those miscreants look respectable, cut out their heads and paste them into the best photo. In my experience it's the only way ... except for prayer and miracles. ;)

Good luck! :D
May be too late for this but keep in mind that this is a family shot with emphasis on family. If yours is like mine, most will like it despite any technical flaws and there are going to be a few that hate it no matter what you do. Try to remember everything said above, have fun and get through it.

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