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      04-19-2011, 06:36 PM   #1
M_Six
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Got a group portrait assignment. Need advice.

So tomorrow is the annual class picture at our place. We'll have approx. 125 students gaggled out in front of the school and the responsibility for the picture has fallen on me since I "own all that nice camera stuff."

I've taken them before, along with other photogs, and they even ended up using one of my images for the final product one year, but this will be the first year I'll be the only lens there. I can't screw this up. I'm thinking the 35mm f2 would work. Wide enough and it produces nice crisp shots. Usually they line up with about 25-30 students across and then four rows up the steps of the school. Tomorrow is supposed to be a nice day, but there won't be direct sunlight (sun is behind the building). Maybe f8 or so? Or should I go smaller? Obviously ISO100. I have my nifty new/old tripod and head, so stability won't be an issue. I'll use my remote for firing the shutter.

Any other advice? Anyone done large group photos before?
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      04-19-2011, 06:50 PM   #2
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first thing i'd do is go the location and take some test shots.

last thing you wanna do is show up with a 35MM when you need a 24 HAHA !!!!

are you going to be standing on some bleachers or on top of the building or something like that !?!?
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      04-19-2011, 07:04 PM   #3
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I do some pro bono work for the hockey organization I used to coach with. With all the teams the total count ends up being about 80 subjects. I shoot indoors, some years with strobe, other years I just use the ambient. I have 4-5 rows and I find that f11 works best, and keeps everyone pretty sharp.

I for see two challenges for you:

1) Getting control of the group, and maintaining their attention for however many shots you take. Assuming you take all the shots from a tripod, take as many as time will allow, that way you can layer and mask your files together, and paint in where people are blinking or screwing off. With a group that big you will have lots!

2) Choosing the correct lens and setting. For the hockey team, I wanted clean crisp lines, and I didn't want any distortion. I usually shot between 50mm-70mm, like a portrait (this means I'm probably 50 feet away from them, not very intimate). What I lose since the organization prints them on 8.5x11, is good face recognition (they are too small printed that size). If you shoot wider, you could get better face recognition, and longer depth of field, you could also get away with f8 or even f5.6; depending on the final purpose or output. You also run into issues shooting that wide with soft edges and distortion.

Hope this helps, post your results!
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      04-19-2011, 07:04 PM   #4
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Quote:
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last thing you wanna do is show up with a 35MM when you need a 24 HAHA !!!!

are you going to be standing on some bleachers or on top of the building or something like that !?!?
I'm of the same train of thought.

find somewhere you can stand up higher, at the very least get a 10' A frame ladder, and as mentioned, get a few testers if you can.



otherwise, it sounds like you've planned out pretty well. if you're behind the building, you may have to sacrifice for 200ISO or something, but it won't be noticeable in a print.

also, don't forget, RAW is your best friend to get the most out of the shots. But i know you already know that.
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      04-19-2011, 07:07 PM   #5
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bring a squeeky toy or some candy or something, so when nobody is paying attention, just whip that out and people will pay attention.

might also make for a fun shot if you're on a ladder and you throw candy in the air, you'll get 125 people reaching for it in a picture.
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      04-19-2011, 08:31 PM   #6
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Thanks, guys. I'll be standing on the sidewalk in front of the building with no option to backup (unless I risk getting nailed by a car). Distance between me and the first row might be 20ft tops. And now I see I was overestimating the width of the rows. Looks more like 12 people across. The pic time isn't until 10:30, so I'll get out there beforehand and take some tests. Depth of field will be important, obviously. And these prints have always been printed at a fairly large size. I'm guessing 11x14 or bigger. They get framed and hung on the walls of public areas of the building.

The trouble with ladders is it rules out a tripod. Plus it would make this image looked decidedly different than all previous images. So I'll be on the ground right in front of everyone.

I plan on using continuous shooting to get as maybe shots as possible. I've done this in the past and it's paid off by getting as close to a perfect shot as possible. I may try some bracketing, too, although that can be adjusted in PS.

Here's the pic I took in 2009 that they used. I made one big mistake, and that was allowing people to stand behind the trash can instead of in front of it. Didn't even notice until afterward. Neither did anyone of the other folks taking pics. Oops. Won't make that mistake again. I'll also make sure the windows are closed. That open one looks hideous. In the final printed image, the pic was straightened and the trash can was partially hidden by a graphic with the school logo, so the print looks much better.

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      04-19-2011, 08:35 PM   #7
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you'll have no problem on 15 megapixels and under 400 ISO printing to 11x14, just turn the DPI up on the image to around 300, and you'll get an awesome shot.

any noise you get, will be taken care of in post processing anyhow, so as long as you're lower ISO, you'll be fine. I'd personally take a few shots at multiple ISO settings just to rule out any movement and ability to close the aperture and just figure out what worked best after printing some test shots.

remember, what you see on the computer screen is nothing like what comes out of the printer.
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      04-20-2011, 11:02 AM   #8
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I swear I could screw up a wet dream.....

I get out there after taking some test shots, get one shot of the group, and my camera tells me my card is full. ARRRRGGGHHH!!! I had no choice but to delete everything on the card (which I have elsewhere) and reshoot.

I was also disappointed with the speed of the card. It's a 16GB Class 10 card, yet when I tried to shoot continuous, it grabbed 3 or 4 shots and then froze while it transferred to the card. Not exactly useful for continuous shooting if you can only grab a few shots at a time.

Still, the pics came out ok.
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      04-20-2011, 11:17 AM   #9
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were you shooting raw and jpeg at the same time? or have major noise reduction settings turned to strong? I find those take a lot more time to process and strongly decrease the buffer on the camera.

my 7D if i have full noise supression, i can get 6 shots, then it slows down. when i first bought the camera i was thinking... "how do you figure 8 frames per second if you can't shoot between 4-6 before running out of buffer?"

then i fiddled about in the settings and now i can shoot like 200 in a row at 8fps.
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      04-20-2011, 12:28 PM   #10
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Quote:
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were you shooting raw and jpeg at the same time? or have major noise reduction settings turned to strong? I find those take a lot more time to process and strongly decrease the buffer on the camera.

my 7D if i have full noise supression, i can get 6 shots, then it slows down. when i first bought the camera i was thinking... "how do you figure 8 frames per second if you can't shoot between 4-6 before running out of buffer?"

then i fiddled about in the settings and now i can shoot like 200 in a row at 8fps.
I was shooting RAW and JPG. I wish this camera would let me shoot RAW and small/low res JPG because I only use the JPGs to browse the pictures. I'm not using any specific noise supression.
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      04-20-2011, 12:46 PM   #11
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I was shooting RAW and JPG. I wish this camera would let me shoot RAW and small/low res JPG because I only use the JPGs to browse the pictures. I'm not using any specific noise supression.
what are you using for image downloading programs?

I've only just started to shoot raw only because i've realized how easy it is (with the right software) to make a tiny jpeg after to help with the browsing.

I'm using DxO and if i just convert all my CR2 files to 600 pixel jpegs that fit beside the CR2, they take no room on the camera, and next to no space on my computer.

only problem with doing this method is that if you go to someone elses house and upload your photos to their computer, you're just going to upload CR2 files and they likely won't have a program to deal with them.

I tend to carry around one of those 11" laptops with me and DxO requires very little ram to run, so i can do this on the go. The benefit to this is i also always have extra hard drive space at hand, so if i fill a memory card, i just empty it onto my mini laptop and continue shooting.

It's also nice because when i end up shooting at the horse events i go to, the girls all like to sift through the pictures, so i just hand the laptop to them and i can keep taking pictures instead of them hanging onto the camera and wasting valuable time.
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      04-20-2011, 01:08 PM   #12
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I have a 10" netbook I could use for that. Wifey sort of assumed ownership of it, but she's making eyes at a 12" version with more horsepower, so maybe I'll get her that one and grab the small one for my camera backpack. I played around with DxO for a bit to see if I could do anything with it that I can't do with Adobe, but I didn't see much. Sort of duplicates the workflow. Adobe Bridge will open RAW files in a nice browser setup, but it takes a bit of horsepower to run.
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      04-20-2011, 01:17 PM   #13
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I have a 10" netbook I could use for that. Wifey sort of assumed ownership of it, but she's making eyes at a 12" version with more horsepower, so maybe I'll get her that one and grab the small one for my camera backpack. I played around with DxO for a bit to see if I could do anything with it that I can't do with Adobe, but I didn't see much. Sort of duplicates the workflow. Adobe Bridge will open RAW files in a nice browser setup, but it takes a bit of horsepower to run.
I'll have to check it out, but if i can't run it on my mini laptop, it probably won't stick around too long.

But for sure, depending on the specs of the little 10", they are so light and mobile, it follows me around, and they are cheaper then those photography specific stoage devices, and yet have better screens, you just have to charge them more often

my 10 or 11 inch acer (forget it's size) has followed me around on 2 huge road trips, it's been across North America from east canada to west, and eastern US to west and as far south as Key west all since march of last year.

I run low quality tv shows on it when i'm sitting in hotel rooms, and edit pictures on it.

but i usually carry a portable hard drive too just to keep the computer running faster and for extra safe backing up of files.

that little bugger has seen a lot. only thing it needs is more ram.
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      04-20-2011, 01:41 PM   #14
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Some of the new ASUS netbooks have decent specs. This one has an AMD processor and will take 4GB of RAM, which is enough to run Windows 7 and PS/Bridge. There is an Intel dual core version for about $100 more. That one would probably run cooler and quieter. This is what I want to get for Wifey so I can have the smaller one back.

EDIT: The price of the one linked above just went from $359 to $390 while I was writing out this post. Weird.
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