Photographing Complex Groups
What I said earlier is that I keep three things in mind when I'm shooting. That dad with the two daughters, I showed you the focal plain, how dramatic it can be. While we were doing that shoot, the light was dropping. Everything I would normally do in a natural light situation is out the window, because it's not gonna work, it's dark. You can still get really interesting looking family portraits with lower light, and I want to show how you can work with changing the light pretty strongly while still eliciting expressions. In this shoot specifically, the light has dropped. I'm working with strobes and we're adding a second light, because now we need backlight. The big reason being that if you just shoot with the front light, after the light has dropped, and there's nothing behind them, there's not a sunset or anything like that, you're gonna have this really front lit looking portrait, and it's just gonna drop off and really be black and dark behind them. So, this is how we shift that. ...
Okay, so what we're doing right now is, the light is pretty much gone in terms of regular shooting. I would not normally shoot at this time, and actually the last time I did Creative Live, I was also shooting at a time I would never normally shoot, but oh well. In this situation, we can still make it work, especially with bringing out the ProPhoto B2. So, we're using strobes, I've got them softly lit with the umbrella in front, Sarah is kicking that light almost to the very top of that large bush that's behind them, and the reason for that is, basically I want to light up the backdrop so that they're not in focus, they're not lit and then it just drops off the light completely behind them and it ends of being one of those super front-lit looks that looks like an on-camera flash pop of light. We want to make it look more like they're bathed in light, even though it's, I don't know, 2:00 in the morning. Something like that. And, all right guys, resume your positions. Does everybody remember what to do? Yes, he remembers to be chill. And ... Oh ... Eva, remember we're in conversation. You love me. Does it feel like a ton of flashes are going off?
Brilliant. Two more shots. I'm gonna kick the light up on your ... With my Nikon air remote, the Nikon air remote, I can kick up the light behind them because I want more of it, right here from the TTL remote. Okay, we're doing like five more shots. Ready? Here we go, this is happening. I'm gonna just do a burst, ready? So you're gonna see a pop of lights go off, it's gonna be like lightening, but you're still safe. You ready? Say yes!
Yes. That was crazy.
That was crazy. In that situation, oh, let me show you the shot we got from that. Pretty cool, huh? Pretty fun. Trying for something, again, that's gonna be different than a natural light shot, but it's got a whole kinda sense of coolness, and if I were selling this to them as a portrait, I would be recommending that they do a black and white metallic foil. I think it would look just so good. Yes?
Well, I think it's super cool for a dad, who's kinda more like the cool guy, who just, maybe that's his personality, is not the light and frilly fun, but is the, I'm the cool guy, I'm kinda reserved. This is more his personality. It's perfect. It's awesome.
And obviously I didn't show the entire video of the entire night, because you guys would be so bored, but in one of the clips when I was posing them, I was asking him to put his arms up and back, like this, and with men specifically, there's a way that you can pose them that is more flattering, and we're pulling the shirt out, and I said, "That looks really good." And he goes, "I work out." (laughter) Clearly, clearly you do. This image, by the way, it was shot at an aperture of F35, because I had fixed that focal plain between the two girls, right, so I could do that. It was also at a shutter speed of 1/250th of a second. In terms of the technical settings, I'm gonna make sure this is gonna be, any sort of movement, I want to make sure I have a little bit more shutter speed there to be safe, a little bit faster. So, with this image, when I said I kicked up the light back there, is because what I was seeing is, they were well lit, but you couldn't really see how that light would transition smoothly, and it looked too harsh, so I was just switching it from my remote powering up the light. Yes, you had a question?
When shooting families, do you ... 'cause I look at this photo, and I look at the one with the mom and the daughters, and the one with the mom and daughters definitely looks more feminine, and this one looks more masculine. Is that something that you should always think about, or is it just something natural that ...
Yeah, that's a great question.
... I was kind of drawn to.
Yeah, a lot of it is responding to the personality of the individual in front of me, and how I think that pose could best work. I did a shoot last weekend in Napa with a family where the dad was, "I'm good, it's cool, let's just do this." Like he was in it, but he was definitely more in that manner and he was less so ... Like I've definitely done photo shoots with dads who've been like, "I love my little munchkin." And that's a very different feel, and I'm gonna go for different poses. In this case, we did some more masculine, buddy poses with him and his son, and then I said, "I'm gonna try one thing that's different." And then I showed him the pose that I wanted to try, and it was definitely a very affectionate, the little boy's in his lap, and he's got his arms wrapped around and he's got his eyes closed, and the little boy's laughing. It's one of my favorite images that I've shot, and ii showed him that and he goes, "You're killin' me, Smalls." I go get down there and love your little ... Just do it. So he did his variation of it and I really loved it. It wasn't the image I showed him, but we wouldn't have come close to that without it. So it ended up being kinda them, so, it's more responding to the individual in front of me and thinking what works for them. So, in this situation, again, this is now even later and darker and we're gonna up the complexity, because why not, we're shooting in the dark anyway. We want to do a family photo of the entire family together, including their dog. So, we bring that in, and a couple of things I've got to think about. Everything I've said about posing, the organic directive posing. I am not, at night, with a dog, the end of a shoot, I am not gonna say, how put your pinky here. Not at all. So, we're gonna start right there and say, "Throw you together, let's do those little tips we talked about." They're gonna naturally do that by now. That's the best part of teaching your clients in the beginning. You go over it again and again, and then they sit down, the sink into it. It's magic, it's beautiful. So they're already gonna do that, and the only thing left is for me to get the dog's attention, which I'm gonna do in a different way, because, obviously, dogs will respond to you differently. And I think this is where I actually crushed my windpipe, but here we go. Okay, so we switched on the modeling lamp, which was Jess's idea, and a good one. We just switched on the modeling lamp to be able to "a", see what we're filming and "b", be able to have a better ability to select auto focus. And we're gonna see how Gravy's doing in all this. We're not sure how he's doing, but we're gonna find out. Sarah, be there to walk closer. Yep, closer, closer. Now that I have a larger group I need more light, so I need it to be brighter and more wider across. You're still kind of facing the bush, and we're still gonna see what's happening with Gravy. Oh, I'm still in burst mode. Half a step closer, Sarah, but pointed a half step away. There you go. By asking Sarah to step closer and point it a little bit away, what I'm getting is more even light going across them versus just lighting the left side of the portrait and not the right, and by pointing a little bit away, what she's doing is controlling the output of the light in a really nice easy way. I could also dim it, but that actually happened much faster. Okay, you guys ready to try this? Then I'm gonna need, do me a favor, just grab that girl and get closer to Ella. Closer. And then, Virginia, you're much higher than everybody. Is that on purpose?
And just go ahead and lean all the way in. We're, this is like informal done. Go all the way in, Virginia. You're in. Yay, yay. Okay, now you guys, all you have to do is look at me like you're alive and I'll get Gravy. Ready. Okay I'm gonna get Gravy. One, two, three, (squeaking sound) That worked. Real quick. I want to get him a little further back with you guys, that same thing we talked about, focal point. It's a cool shot, but a little farther back. And then I'm also gonna extend my field of focus a little bit, because it doesn't matter as much now that I'm not competing with the show behind me. All right. So, I'm switching back to an F56, and then just because we're gonna have Gravy by a nose extend himself. All right, that's it. Can you grab him around the waste, like the neck, as if you can pretend, and I'll get his attention again. Okay, so if he's gonna stay there, you guys get closer to Virginia. Yep. Okay, here we go. All right, you're in the shot for me, Jas. Okay, ready, here we go. I'm gonna do the same thing, guys, so you stay with me. You cannot ruin this. Do not ruin this. I'm losing my whole ... we've got it. Eva Pandies in the shot, I repeat, Eva Pandies in the shot. This is not good. Okay. (squeaking sound) And that's it. So we end up getting this.
It's fun, it's cute, I already so many that I'm looking at that it's kinda fun that Eva's looking at the puppy. We get the puppy's attention. Again, this is at a 56, 1/200th. You know, you can make things happen, but you see how we're on lighting, we're on posing, we're on expression, we're on lighting, we're on posing, we're on expression, we're on lighting, we're on posing, we're on expression, but that's how you end up pulling the shots out. Let's talk a little bit about that mixing it up. We mentioned about sometimes it depends on the situation, sometimes it is something where you go for those solid shots that you know people want, but I would say nearly every time I'm moving into an image, I've got a few ideas that I want, I've done a little research, and the rest of it is let's see what they're doing, and then we respond. And then let's create new scenarios, and see if they're good, 'cause sometimes they're not. But sometimes they're good. Again, a brand new image I just shot relatively recently. I've done like eight new shoots in the last week, which is not a normal week for me. But I have tons of material for this. So an image I photographed in California, this is putting the whole family together. This is also, I wanted to put this right after that. This is also with a dog, but it's a different configuration. In a vineyard, and we've got everybody together. It's cute, it's sweet, the dog's looking in, it's snugly. I like it. But how do we mix this up and make it something a little different? We change locations, we change the dog from the family, and we get something like that, which is just fun and cool. The poor dog was like, "I don't know what you want from me." Then we try to add some more movement. I'm increasing the shutter speed. I'm making sure my shutter speed is faster. We're changing the spot, I'm changing the lens, and we just have them go, and just play and be silly and run back and forth and run back and forth. Then we do, alone, with the couple, with Mom and Dad. This would be like a nice, well exposed shot. It's correctly, technically exposed. We've got the lens hood, etc., etc. Then take the lens hood off, change the orientation of the image, and get a whole different look. The first one's technically correct in terms of the rules of exposure. I love the second one, the way the light's sweeping across and the feel and all that sort of stuff, that incorrect capture. But that is often what it is. You start with something that's kinda set, and then you play, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, and sometimes it almost works, so you have them do it again and again and again until it does work. And then, next thing you know, you've done an entire shoot and you've got a lot of variety. You've got a lot of looks and feels and color and black and white, action and sitting together.