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Old May 12, 2007, 9:07 AM   #1
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My parents 40th anniversary is coming up this month and my siblings and I have been discussing gifts. We pretty much decided on an extended family portrait which would consist of four generations, eleven adults, and eleven kids from teenagers to infants. I recommended we use a professional studio as I have no studio lighting and the shot would have to be taken outside. However, after calling the different studios it looks like the even the pros would have to do this shot outside and the cost would be $300 for the shot and one print for my parents, plus additional cost for any prints we wanted for ourselves. My siblings have decided they would like to give me a try first.

ANY advice for making this work would be appreciated. Here is what I think I know.

-If possible, use the "golden hours" near sunrise and sunset"
-Find a backdrop that is not distracting.
-All shade or all sunshine, dappled or uneven light will probably be distracting.
-Avoid midday sun.
-A remote would probably be very handy (since i am in the shot as well) but the 12 second timer should work.

Here are the questions I have right now:

Do dark backgrounds work better than light ones? We are debating between using a lake for a background or going to a state park and using trees as the background. Would one work better than the other?

Can anyone recommend an IR remote? What kind of range can I expect with one of these?

Would those reflectors be something handy to buy as well?

My widest angle lens is the kit lens. My F 50mm 1.7 is in the shop but I do have an A version of the same lens. I also have a 28mm f/2.8 prime (M).

Yes, I am probably in over my head. Like I said, if anyone has any advice or thoughts for things I need to consider please let me know. Camera settings, lens settings, composition, or whatever.

Thanks,
(a somewhat desperate) Tim
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Old May 12, 2007, 9:45 AM   #2
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Can't help you that much, but from my poor experience I have drawn these conclusions:

1. The longer the lens, the better the result. Use the longest focal length the site permits. Wide angel distorts the faces of the people in the upper corners.

2.Put the group as far away from the background as possible. This conflicts with 1, so a compromise between the twois necessary.

3. The toughest part are the people involved. To make everyone stand in the right place and look into the camera at the same time and smile is a task that requires the patience of a tortoise. Be prepared. Tell them to squeeze towards the middle. Tell them again. Then convince them that they actually can squeeze a lot more. Short people in front, tall ones at the back. Use or abuse your position as the photographer to command people to shift positions till you are satisfied.A bench or whatever for the back line to stand on helps, or if the front line accepts to kneel.

4. Take as many shots as their patience allows. If the light is right, it's better to start the event with the shot than to wait till the end, when everyone has a train to catch.

Kjell
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Old May 12, 2007, 10:16 AM   #3
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Can anyone recommend an IR remote? What kind of range can I expect with one of these?


I am also interested in a good Remote if anyone can recommend.

Thanks

Fred
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Old May 12, 2007, 8:38 PM   #4
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for the remote something like this is cheap.

http://cgi.ebay.com.au/E5-IR-remote-...QQcmdZViewItem

http://cgi.ebay.com.au/IR-Remote-con...QQcmdZViewItem



I have this one and it works fine, if you use the 12 sec timer too you should have no problems

http://cgi.ebay.com.au/IR-Remote-con...QQcmdZViewItem

Take lots of pics as you can guarantee someone will have their eyes shut, and speaking of that use red eye reduction mode and tell them there will be two flashes so they don't think the shot has been taken and start to talk.

Dark background, i.e. trees, you don;t want a busy distracting background. If you can bum a second flash and go wireless, do so.

I have never done this sort of shoot before but I have been a subject in the exact same shot, large family gathering, pro photographer shooting and these are the things I can remember of his set up.

From a personal perspective onshots I have done....

Set up early, and take some test shots with YOUR family,(wife kids etc) to get your settings right. I suggest if you are some way back, bump your ISO to 200 or even 400, external flash (diffuser if you have one).

I might even suggest going out a few days before and scout a location and try some shots about sunset, give a nice even light.

Hope this helps

Crash
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Old May 13, 2007, 7:42 AM   #5
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Thanks Kjell and Crash, those are some good tips. If anyone has any other thoughts I would sure appreciate it. Yesterday my wife and I stopped by the "Friends of the Library" used book store. Someone had donated a large stack of photography books and I came home with two multivolume "how to" sets (one from Kodak and one from Time Life) as well as another ten single volume books on different photographic topics. They are mostly late 70s to early 80s so they are somewhat dated but a lot of the information is as valid now as it was then. I was busy yesterday reading as much as I could but even amidst all that knowledge, there was still very little on composing large group shots.

Tim

PS: No offense, but you people who were grown ups in the 1970s sure dressed funny! :blah:
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Old May 13, 2007, 8:22 AM   #6
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Tim,

I have this IR remote and it works just fine and is inexpensive.

http://cgi.ebay.com/Remote-for-Penta...QQcmdZViewItem

Wide angle lenses distort people and if nothing else make the fatter, so use as close to a normal lens that your situation will allow. Use the 28mm with digital not the 50mm or the
kit lens wide open, since it clips the corners and distorts how people look.

Use availabel light instead of flash for large groups since the flash light will fall off at the edges and make the shot darker than the center of the photo is.

Reflectors are great but a pain to get adjusted correctly and I would avoid them if possible.

Morning color and evening color is the best since mid-day washes color out.

Use a tripod even if you are not using the remote.

Tom
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Old May 14, 2007, 1:47 AM   #7
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Since your going to be in the shot, as others have pointed out - use a remote. This way even with the 12 second delay, you will not need to be running back and forth. Once in the shot just keep pushing the remote and snapping off images every 15 seconds - and take a BIG SD card.

However, I would suggest that you also put the camera in burst mode and take a series of 3 images each time. This way if something goes wrong on one, there are a couple of additional opportunities.

Go out to the site and scout possible sites, take a couple of people or recruit a couple of people to act as models to stand at either end of where you think that the group will be, and take some test photos.

Check out the background, foreground and the sun angles, also how you might arrange people in terms of the spot/area etc.
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Old May 14, 2007, 3:08 PM   #8
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Here are my thoughts. I do large group shots of Boy Scouts every summer and have a some experience in shooting my family and others as well.

Background: You said you are trying to decide between trees and a lake... Use the trees. The lake will most likely be too reflective and confuse your meter. The trees will allow you to have a nice background that won't reflect light that will distract from the subject. Plus if you do plan to shoot when the light isn't just right then hopefully you can balance the light with a polarizing filter and use some shade to help diffuse the light. Place your group a good distance from the background so that when you focus on your group the back ground will be a little fuzzy so that it doesn't distract from the subject.

Metering: Simple. Meter on the middle take a shot, meter on the back row edges and take a shot. Then split the two. Once you get your settings. Switch to manual and focus on the group.

Arrangement: For group shots, making sure that everyones face is visible and no one looks like they are looking over another's shoulder. Milk crates serve as a great way to make sure your back row is higher than the standing crowd, they can be borrowed from a local grocery store for the day with a promise to return them the next... I find that in family shots, symmetry may not be the look you're going after. I tend to keep individual families together in those shots sacrificing symmetry for the sake of family identity. You may also want to put all the siblings together and all the kids together.. Kids look nice in front of the older seated folks in a group which also helps to protect the modesty of the older folks in seats. In group shots that are not family oriented. Tall people in back, short in front, arrange in rows of standing sitting (kneeling), in the symmetric triangle form.. the choice is yours....

Shooting: You asked about a remote... that is the way I go most of the time when I'm in the shot. I still set the camera to the 2 second timer and hit the remote to give time to hide the remote for the picture. Another way and probably your best way to get a good shot regardless of how many people blink.... Get a 1 or 2 gig empty card (they are so cheap anymore).. get your metering, settings, and focus set up. Set to manual... Take a few test shots while behind the camera. Set your camera to continuous shooting. Then using a cable release, trip the shutter and lock it so that it continuously takes pictures until the card is full or until quite a few shots spill off while you are in the pictures. You will end up with 100 shots to choose from and chances are that you will get a good shot in there, and the bonus, you can do a stop motion (time-lapse) video of your experience that may yield some funny scenes too... Or you can take a couple of pictures and hope they turn out...

You don't need to buy any special equipment to produce quality pictures. However some lighting can produce better pictures, borrow or rent them instead of buying, especially if you don't plan to do this anymore than a couple of times. Reflectors don't work for large groups. You just can't get the light spread out enough to use them effectively.

Here is another trick... Elevate your tripod above your eye level, to keep shadows to a minimum under the chins, and to keep people's faces from being blocked.

Good luck and have fun with your shoot....
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Old May 14, 2007, 3:47 PM   #9
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Thank you Tom, Interested Observer, and Dave, this is exactly the type of advice and information I am looking for.

Fred, If you have not purchased a remote yet, I found genuine Pentax brand remotes for $10 at this site:

http://www.freestylephoto.biz/sc_pro...pid=1000000238

The minimum ordersi $25, soI added a better neck strap to support all these old MF lenses I have been using (which I had been wanting anyhow), so it worked out perfectly for me. Oh, and shipping was a reasonable $5.

Tim
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Old May 27, 2007, 8:15 AM   #10
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Well, everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. The parents with little kids did not want to take the pictureat the state park location that I had scouted as it was outside easy walking distance to a bathroom. We settled on an alternative spot but then a niece and nephew got sick that evening. So finally the pictures happened at high noon, in dappled shade, with completely blown out background. I am going to try some post processing to improve these but I think in the end these will be called a practice run and we will try again the next time the entire family gathers together.

Thanks again for the help and advice,
Tim
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