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Thread: How to take a 200 people group photo? Advices please

  1. #1
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    Default How to take a 200 people group photo? Advices please

    Hi,

    I need some advices / suggestions.

    This coming June I'm going to help shoot a group photo for a volunteer youth group's camp that I'm involved in. The group photo have to squeeze in about 200 people.

    Previous years, I & my other friends have taken group photos but the results aren't very good. When we reprint the photos in 8R size, the group photo looks underexposed & grainy.
    We help to send the photos for re-print & charge back to the camp participants at cost price.
    Although nobody complained about the quality as we're doing volunteer work, I hope to improve on it.

    Shooting location : Indoor - Inside a Multi-purpose Hall (MPH)
    Lighting : ceiling lights only
    Group size : About 200 youths separated into 8 rows
    Camera used : Canon EOS 300 with EX380 Flash
    Lens used : 28-80mm (the one that comes with the kit)
    Film used previuosly : Kodak 200
    N.B. When I zoom to 28mm, I'm about 50m away from the group & my flash don't seem to be powerful enough.

    Budget wise, it's very tight as I need to come out with the money from my own pocket.

    What is the cheapest ways to improve the quality of the photos?

    I thought the cheapest & immediate solution might be to move the photo taking to outdoors, but it might not be possible due to time & location limitations.

    1) Which type & brand of film to use? (Fuji Superia 400???)
    2) What settings to set on my Canon camera?
    3) Anyone / anywhere to loan those wireless flash units at a very low cost?
    4) Other cheap solutions???
    (Buying of 20mm Prime lense is out, unless any kind soul out here can trust & loan me his at a token fee)

    Thanks in advice for any suggestions.


    Best Regards,
    Tony K
    Email : kwaty@singnet.com.sg

  2. #2

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    At 200 persons, you're gonna have to use a pretty wide angle lens to get everyone into the frame. Problem with that is that your flash will not be able to output enough light to correctly expose and color correct the picture.

    As a result, you got yourself underexposed pictures, and heavy grain.

    Given your tight budget, I would advise the following.

    1. Use faster film. While it's no doubt going to be grainy, the grain will look better than the grain from underexposing film (IMHO). Use either the Fuji Superia 800, which can be pushed 1 stop easily.

    2. Borrow the most powerful flash you can find.

    3. Borrow a 2.8 lens or a prime for optimum picture quality.

    4. Use a tripod and timed shutter release.

    I wouldn't bother with complicated flash setups, you may end up with a horribly done picture if you're not sure what to do. Don't think it's a time to experiment.

    If you find that your flash still isn't powerful enough, you could try using digital. This is because you can set the white balance to remove the color cast from indoor lights.

    You could also do the same with your prints. Get them professionally scanned, color correct in photoshop and then print.

  3. #3
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    This is indeed challenging. 20-30 is already very difficult. At such a large group size, it's actually best to use a medium format camera as the 35mm format will be near its limit.

    Your lens can be the limiting factor too. If you can, borrow a 24mm prime lens. Since you are using a Canon system, you might want to borrow a few EX flashes and set them up to light different portions of the group. They can be wirelessly triggered. Most Canon users should have them, I am sure you have a few friends who own Canon systems.

    Use a fast and fine grain film like Fuji NPH 400. Kodak consumer films are generally grainy, especially Max 400. Avoid that at all costs, even if someone gives you 100 rolls for free. Rate it at ISO 250 or 320.

    For such a large group, you probably need to stop down a fair amount to get enough depth of field to show everyone in focus. f/8 should be about right for 24-28mm.

    Finally, try to do a test shot first, before the actual shoot.

    Regards
    CK

  4. #4

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    Originally posted by Ninja
    Base on your described situation, you can try this cheap option:

    Don't use flash as your flash is not strong enough. Instead get a FL-D filter to filter out the green cast of the Multipurpose hall's flouresant light. Take the group photo on tripod and use aperture f-stop at f/16 or f/22 so all 200 pple of 8 rolls in the photo will be in focus.
    IMO, using the FL-D filter is a risk because you don't know the exact strength of the lights, and you may end up under/overcorrecting.

    Also, you may not need to take at f/16 or f/22, since the DOF on a 28mm lens (or any WA lens) is actually quite huge, even at f/4. In this case, it seems you want as much shutter speed as you possibly need. Sharpness on a prime should not be a problem, e.g. 28mm f2.8 at f4.

  5. #5

    Default Re: How to take a 200 people group photo? Advices please

    Originally posted by Tony K
    Hi,

    I need some advices / suggestions.

    This coming June I'm going to help shoot a group photo for a volunteer youth group's camp that I'm involved in. The group photo have to squeeze in about 200 people.

    Previous years, I & my other friends have taken group photos but the results aren't very good. When we reprint the photos in 8R size, the group photo looks underexposed & grainy.
    We help to send the photos for re-print & charge back to the camp participants at cost price.
    Although nobody complained about the quality as we're doing volunteer work, I hope to improve on it.

    Shooting location : Indoor - Inside a Multi-purpose Hall (MPH)
    Lighting : ceiling lights only
    Group size : About 200 youths separated into 8 rows
    Camera used : Canon EOS 300 with EX380 Flash
    Lens used : 28-80mm (the one that comes with the kit)
    Film used previuosly : Kodak 200
    N.B. When I zoom to 28mm, I'm about 50m away from the group & my flash don't seem to be powerful enough.

    Budget wise, it's very tight as I need to come out with the money from my own pocket.

    What is the cheapest ways to improve the quality of the photos?

    I thought the cheapest & immediate solution might be to move the photo taking to outdoors, but it might not be possible due to time & location limitations.

    1) Which type & brand of film to use? (Fuji Superia 400???)
    2) What settings to set on my Canon camera?
    3) Anyone / anywhere to loan those wireless flash units at a very low cost?
    4) Other cheap solutions???
    (Buying of 20mm Prime lense is out, unless any kind soul out here can trust & loan me his at a token fee)

    Thanks in advice for any suggestions.


    Best Regards,
    Tony K
    Email : kwaty@singnet.com.sg
    PANORAMA ?

  6. #6
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    While and FL-D is a good idea, it entails cost. I suspect the ceiling lights are not flourescent although I might be wrong...

    At any rate, f16-22 is unnecessary and would drop your shutter speeds down to stupid levels, will have motion from your 200 people.

    From what you describe, just use your 28mm lens with Superia 800 and set it at f5 or f5.6. Use the tripod, I suspect you'll get an exposure around 1/4s at f5.6 or thereabouts, depending on how bright your hall is. Which is perfectly serviceable given the circumstances. Flash is not going to cut it. Tell everyone to stay as still as possible. Take multiple shots.

    I wouldn't worry about DOF as at about 50m away, f5 should be enough to get enough DOF to cover an 8R print if you focus about the middle of the group.

    I wouldn't worry about borrowing an f2.8 lens, you can't shoot at f2.8 and image quality isn't going to be thaaat much of a step up... at least not unless you know someone real well and have no qualms borrowing it.

    The real solution to all this is to shoot outdoors in daytime if you can possible help it; in which case use Superia 400 or NPH and off you go.

  7. #7

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    I am not a pro, but I have shot group photos containing nearly 200+ people once for my church. Outdoor though...

    In my case, the distance from my camera to the crowd is about 10~15 meters (50m is too far away...) at around 30mm focal length. The crowd separated into 4 to 5 rows. If yours is 8 rows, then I think you will be closer to your subject, thus need to stop down more to get enough DOF. I suggest f8 at least. Or, try to seperate into just 4 rows maximum, and you can still cover them with 28mm angle. More rows meaning you need more DOF...

    Indoor group photo with one flash for a big group is always hard. If the front row is exposed correctly, then the back row is definitely going to be under. Fast film is definitely needed, but still I don't think your flash can cover that many people. Try borrow a slave triggered flash...SB26 will do.

    Shoot as many as you can, by increasing the flash power from 0 to +1.7, and compensate your photo from 0 to +2.

    You might also want to check out the film spec before getting any fast film. Some films are good to have exposure +- upto 2 stops, some are just 1 stop.

    You don't need a fast lens, but fast lens usually are professional quality lenses, thus might give you more contrast and sharper images. You are going to stop it down to f8 anyway...

    My outdoor group photos are blowable upto 8R only. Beyond...definitely no good. Lab plays a big role too...remember to send the film to good lab for processing.

    Some of my story shooting group photo is at:
    http://www.openlens.com/~khoking/myp...igmaex2870.htm

    I remember hearing this situation many times...and if image quality is important, then the only solution is go for medium format...

    All the best!
    DR KOH KHO KING

  8. #8

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    Oops...upon checking, I have around 7 to 8 rolls in my shot too...I stop down to f/11 if my memory serves me well.
    Photo at:
    http://www.openlens.com/~khoking/myp...grouplarge.jpg
    DR KOH KHO KING

  9. #9
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    Originally posted by Kho King
    In my case, the distance from my camera to the crowd is about 10~15 meters (50m is too far away...) at around 30mm focal length. The crowd separated into 4 to 5 rows.
    Yes, 50m sounds like a bit a lot but I was using what was given to me. Your figures don't sound right either... Taking 5 rows, 15m away, with a 28mm lens you will have about 15m covered at that distance. 200 people in 5 rows is 40 people a row, which is just under 3 people to squeeze into a meter... works for really little kids I suppose, but for teens onwards it will be difficult.

    Shoot as many as you can, by increasing the flash power from 0 to +1.7, and compensate your photo from 0 to +2.

    Personally, if you know what you're doing, this is a waste of time and film. Given your circumstances I would avoid flash at all costs to start with, you won't have enough power and as Kho King says the coverage will be uneven. As you'll want to be shooting several frames for expressions anyway, the last thing you want to do is shoot several frames at 0, several at +1, several at +2... 200 people can get very impatient very fast. If I had to pick one and had the light to spare, shoot at +0.5, all the way through.

    You might also want to check out the film spec before getting any fast film. Some films are good to have exposure +- upto 2 stops, some are just 1 stop.

    This shouldn't come into it at all. Getting the right exposure on a tripod mounted group shot is hardly the difficult thing.

    The cheap zooms are not that good, but I have no issue with their quality to 8R. As you're only going to enlarge to that size, then I wouldn't worry about your lens.

  10. #10

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    Originally posted by Jed


    The cheap zooms are not that good, but I have no issue with their quality to 8R. As you're only going to enlarge to that size, then I wouldn't worry about your lens.
    Not so sure about this bit. I've compared the same shot taken on 2 different cameras side by side, same film, a plastic Nikkor zoom 35-70 and a tokina atx 2.8 28-70 zoom.

    The result from the tokina was VERY VERY much better than the cheap nikkor zoom, which lacked contrast and sharpness, even at 4R size.

    If you can get a solid 2.8 prime, the results will be very very good. And this is even more critical considering the 200 faces you're having, you're gonna need every bit of detail you can ink out of your lens.

  11. #11

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    Well, I'm willing to lend you a 6x9 folder if it's repaired and back by then...

  12. #12
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    Originally posted by YSLee
    Well, I'm willing to lend you a 6x9 folder if it's repaired and back by then...
    hahaha.... turn it horizontally and you can get the whole group in.

    Regards
    CK

  13. #13

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    if I get my medium format by them, you can have my holga
    36frames Wedding Photography - http://www.36frames.com
    rueyloon - http://www.rueyloon.com

  14. #14
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    Hi guys,

    Thanks for your invaluable advices.


    I'll try to see what I can borrow & will try to experiment with it.
    I've checked with my friends owning Canon cameras, neither of them have 24 / 28mm Prime lens nor wireless flash units.
    BTW, I do have a tripod & a shutter release cable.


    With regards to the green cast caused by the flourescent lights,
    Hmmm... I think the hall is lighted by those very high (about 20m) round shape lamps. I can't remember what is the shape, type or color of the bulb used by the lamp.
    But personally I think if there's really a green cast, I can get the shop who's doing the bulk print for me to color correct it.


    Thanks again.


    Best Regards,

    Tony K
    Email : kwaty@singnet.com.sg

  15. #15

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    U don't need a 24mm, will be too much distortion on the edges. 28mm or 35mm will be fine.
    DR KOH KHO KING

  16. #16
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    Originally posted by Tony K
    Hi guys,

    Thanks for your invaluable advices.


    I'll try to see what I can borrow & will try to experiment with it.
    I've checked with my friends owning Canon cameras, neither of them have 24 / 28mm Prime lens nor wireless flash units.
    BTW, I do have a tripod & a shutter release cable.


    With regards to the green cast caused by the flourescent lights,
    Hmmm... I think the hall is lighted by those very high (about 20m) round shape lamps. I can't remember what is the shape, type or color of the bulb used by the lamp.
    But personally I think if there's really a green cast, I can get the shop who's doing the bulk print for me to color correct it.


    Thanks again.


    Best Regards,

    Tony K
    Email : kwaty@singnet.com.sg

    Canon has no wireless flash (only Minolta), but their EX series flashes (420EX, 550EX etc) can be triggered wirelessly by another EX flash. Your friends might just have them.

    If you can get them outdoors, do so. Will solve quite a bit of problems.

    Regards
    CK

  17. #17

    Talking


    Sorry for side-tracking from the question a little here.

    For me, I worry more about getting the 200 people to listen to your instructions and arrange them the way you want it. You know how tough it is to get people to move. They will not understand that you are trying to compose the picture with a good arrangement and they will think that it will not matter much, but they will point the fingers at you if they see that the arrangement is in the mess in the end-product.

    One way to minimise this problem is to behave and dress as professionally as possible.


    Originally posted by Kho King
    Oops...upon checking, I have around 7 to 8 rolls in my shot too...I stop down to f/11 if my memory serves me well.
    Photo at:
    http://www.openlens.com/~khoking/myp...grouplarge.jpg

    For me, 4 rows are too little and the faces will end up very small with lots of empty spaces at the top and bottom of the frame. You look at the example by Kho King and you will understand what I mean. Try to arrange them such that almost all of them fill up the whole frame, leaving very little empty spaces at the top and bottom of the composition; that way, you will be able to maximise the size of their faces and need not stand too far back plus the power output of the flash will be reduced as well.

    Do choose professional film instead of commerical film as the colour will turn out nicer with finer grains. The extra cost will only cost each one of the 200 people 1 or 2 cents more each! Hee.

    My $0.02 worth...

  18. #18
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    Hi Bean,

    I do agree that trying to get 200 people arrange nicely is the challenging part. As we have been shooting group photos at the end of each camp for the past few years, basically the camp participants know what we want.

    Before the photo shooting session starts, basically we will plan the layout of the 8 rows & get the logistics support to help arrange the tables & chairs. We also check for faulty chairs & tables first.

    We will then spent 1-2 mins to explain to all the camp participants what we are going to do & what we want.

    Then we will appoint 4 male camp leaders to help roughly split the boys into 8 groups in terms of height (below 150cm, 150-155cm, 155-160cm, etc). Then within each group they will then line up 1 long row to adjust their height from shortest to highest.
    Similarly for the girls.

    After that is done we will then get the boys to start filling up the right side row by row.
    Similarly girls will fill up on the left side.
    1st row - sitting on floor
    2nd row- low kneeling
    3rd row - high kneeling
    4th row - sitting on chair
    5th row - standing (shorter guys)
    6th row - standing (taller guys)
    7th row - standing on table (shorter guys)
    8th row - standing on table (taller guys)
    N.B.
    - Within a row, we'll get the taller people to be at the centre while the shorter people with be at the sides.
    There will be a little bit of finetuning here & there.
    - The girls bodies will face about 30 degree to the my right,
    while the boys will be to the left. Therefore everyone's body is pointing towards the centre.


    If the MPH that we used have aircon, not too bad.
    If no aircon, we'll space out all the 8 rows & do the arrangement on the open floor in front of the final setup. Then we ask them to go up the tables & chairs row by row.

    Lastly, we'll then will then take the pictures
    A few formal shots, just sit/stand properly & smile.
    Then we do a series of fun shots
    - girls bring up the right hand to show the thumbs up signal while boys will use their left hand
    - boys cross right arm & put their left hand below the cheeks act like James Bond
    - We purposely say some jokes to make them laugh then we just shoot them with their natural smiles
    etc

    A few years ago when we first started, we took about 30-40 mins for the entire process. The last time we did it within about 20-25 mins.

    Well out of 3 group photos for the 3 camps, the upper Primary students are the most challenging to manage while the secondary & tertiary are comparably much easier.

    For the previous years, we have been printing 8R (8" x 10"), so we purposely leave 10% blank at each side due to the photo ratio.
    But starting from this year, we might print Super 8R (8"x12") so as to maximise it.


    Most probably I'll use the Fuji NPH 400 or 800 & process it at a professional lab for this coming June's Camp group photo.

    Guys, thanks again for your comments.


    Best Regards,
    Tony K
    Email : kwaty@singnet.com.sg

  19. #19

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    You need assistance? Maybe some of the pple here can volunteer to do some community svc.

  20. #20
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    Lennier,

    Thanks, I appreciate it.
    But PaiSeh leh.

    As the group photo taking is on 8th & 15th June (Saturdays) morning at NTU, still quite a long time to go.
    In the mean time, I'll try to contact a few more friends.

    Many Thanks.

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