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Large Group Posing Q&A

Lesson 15 from: Professional Portraits: Moving Beyond Headshots

Gary Hughes

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Lesson Info

15. Large Group Posing Q&A

Lesson Info

Large Group Posing Q&A

{Cliff} I got a question. {Teacher} Hit it up Cliff. {Cliff} Well, like on this one, how did you set up your lighting for this, this shot? {teacher} Okay, you see the general direction of the lighting is kind of from camera left. This is one of those situations that I'm going to actually demonstrate in the next segment, in tomorrow, one of the shooting segments, is that you are often times walking into very small spaces. This is actually, believe it or not, shot with on camera flash, I was backed up against the wall and I zoomed the flash in, turn it around behind me, and bounce it into the corner and there and I actually added a second flash because I wanted to balance the exposure that probably about 11 a.m. sunshine that was outside, so I actually did get this about F13, in order to get all that outside and focus and just used two flashes bounced off the wall to my left. So sometimes you are all able to bring in lights and manage it, and sometime you just bouncing the flash ar...

ound, you know? But the cool thing is, is you can balance any technique, you have to be able to do all those things, sometimes you don't feel very much like a big fancy photographer, bringing a whole set in, because it's amazing how much in small spaces you can accomplish with just bouncing a flash around. We'll talk about that a little more when we shoot. Sharon. {Sharon} What percentage of the business portraits that you do, are done in the office and stuff, and what percentage is on seamless, or on the background? {teacher} That's a great question, I would say any time that I'm shooting more than one or two people, I'm probably on location in an office somewhere. Whether that's because that's how we have our prices built, or because it really depends on the industry. When I'm shooting attorneys, or when I'm shooting financial advisors, or when I'm shooting accounting firms, I typically end up shooting a team, and I don't do a lot of team photography in the studio. Most of the time, it's more convenient to go on location to them. For example, if I have all these people in this photograph, are high level executives in this company, and they aren't necessarily going to want to drive over to my side of town, lump it to my studio, they appreciate the concierge service, the nature of my business, I can come over and do all their photos in the lunch break, and then they can go about their day, otherwise, they've got to take half a day off, of productivity, leave their office, drive to me, so I offer both of those things, but I would say for groups, I'm typically on location more than I'm in the studio. In studio, I largely shoot individuals or teams, like just two people. {Sharon} Do you ever bring a studio to them? {teacher} Yes, I do, as a matter of fact, it also depends on one of the things that you want to find out as much as you can before you go on location, is how much space you're going to have. You could say, "We have some guidelines." They say, "What is the biggest room that you have, what's in there, do you want to shoot inside and is there a view that you want to incorporate?" All that information gathering that you want to do ahead of time, sometimes, all these office buildings are modular, so sometimes you'll have a 5,000 square foot room with nothin in it, and sometimes you'll be shooting through two different doorways to get a picture of a guy at a desk. So it really just depends, I definitely shoot almost everything with speed lights when I go on location, I don't drag studio strobes and big soft boxes around, because the times that I'm in a small space is way more often than when I have a ton of room to work in, so having to learn to work in small spaces is the skill that's really important to develop when doing this work, because here's the funny thing, you ever sell portraits to a client and they're like, "Oh, I want something really big, like an 11 by 14." And like, "Huh?" And you're like, "Oh I thought you were thinking like 40 by 60, that's really big to a photographer." But to a person, they think a 16 by 20 is huge, you know? It's kind of reverse with corporate jobs and how much space you have to shoot in, like, "Oh yeah, we have a gigantic conference room." And you get there and it's like nine by eight, with a big table taking up 75% of the room. It is, when possible, to get measurements, and when not, make sure you get there plenty early and just have the right gear with you so you can work at any situation. But I would say you need to be ready to work in tiny, cramped spaces, I use a lot of wide lenses and a lot of speed lights and different modifiers bouncing off the walls, but you can do it as simply as, you get an old Vivitar and shoot through an umbrella, you can get a lot done, it's just, it's all what the photographer can think of to do. One of the reasons I like this type of work is because it's a lot of problem solving, I'm having to come up with solutions like, "How am I going to shoot in this room?" This is where they store all the old Commador 64's from the 80's, you know, like what'll I do in here, you know? So that's part of the job. {student} My question is kind of more about delivery of the images to them, I seem to bottleneck. I take the pictures and then I have them, I want to show the clients and let them choose their finished images, what's the best way to streamline that process, do you let everyone choose out their final images from the good ones that you say you would take? {teacher} Absolutely, the way that we deliver is really going to depend on the session. I have some individual portrait sessions where clients will come into the studio and they don't really get anything finished or retouched, they'll get process and they'll be great images, after raw processing, but we do charge extra for retouching, so we use Pixieset and what it is, it's a combination of a gallery system, where you can just show the images and they can't download them, it will watermark'em, the whole nine yards, or you can just make it so you can download all of them with one touch, and so they can get through them, they can look through them on their own computer, they can look at them on the website, whatever that they want to do, and so I give them the option to be able to download individually, download the whole batch together, or and they can also pick favorites and let me know which ones they like the best, and sort and separate by those. I've found that it really depends on you, your work flow, and your business. Some people will say, "Okay, we're going to get one retouched image per person." And then you put up a gallery and then they send you the numbers they want retouched. Me, for most of my work, I'm just giving them all the images, unless, ahead of time, they will upgrade to the onsite viewing and selection. So if I shoot 20 people, they'll come in one at a time, and I'll show them, they'll see the image on a laptop, and go, "That's the one I want." And then I send those directly to Retouchup or to my editor who does stuff for me too and then I'll only deliver the finished ones to the client, cause what are they going to want all these images of the people they didn't select, they're not gonna do anything with them, so it really just depends on the job and what the client orders. What I would recommend is find out what works the absolute best for you, what's going to streamline it, you'll find that a lot of the time, that waiting on the client is the bottleneck, waiting for them to make a decision and so I would very much like to push and sell on site viewing selection to my clients, I really encourage them to do that, because it will be done a lot faster and a lot of cases, I've already uploaded the images to be edited before I've even walked off the job and so usually within a day or so all their images are done and I can deliver, I hate having jobs flapping out in the breeze, but if they buy retouched images, they do onsite selection, if they don't, they just get the whole gallery and I'm done, they've already got all the images, until they send me an email telling me which ones they want retouched. So it really depends on the session, but I hate sitting in front of the computer, and so the editing process, I love to streamline it as much as possible. Any other questions from the audience? Okay, we have questions from the interwebs. Lets move on with that, okay. I'm sorry, I'm not gonna, Mona, we'll call you Mona. Do you have a lens preference for groups shots? My go to is typically, unless it's a real, again, it depends on intent. I'll default to a 24 to 70 for small and midsize groups and that's the Canon 24 to 72.8, however if I'm trying to create a slightly different perspective, if you use a real wide lens, you can get kind of a cool, make everyone look a little larger than life, like I kind of really like that look. I shoot a lot of commercial work with that 16 to 35, kind of pulled all the way out, cause if you get up close to something and use a wide lens, it gets kind of crazy distorted and larger than life and that can be a really cool look too. If I have something and it's really a straight up and down, just need a bread and butter corporate shot, I will use that 70 to 200, zoomed in at about, anywhere between 85 to 150 millimeters to make sure that all of that perspective is compressed as much as possible. So it really depends on the intent of the shot more than anything else. Another question? Do you charge more for larger groups? I do not charge more, I do not charge by the person. I charge by the day, and then I manage how much I'm able to get done in a day, they tell me we have 50 people, and everybody needs a portrait, everybody needs a three-quarter shot, everybody needs a head shot, and then we need a group shot, or we've got five different groups, I look at what their saying and I guess how long it's going to take me to do it, and that's how I bid on it, by my time, not by the number of people. Let me tell you what happens if you bid by the number of people. You're gonna get to the job and there will always be more or less, I can't tell you how many times I've ever had the exact right number of people show up. Then, if there are less people than you bargained for, what do you do with that extra money that they've already paid you for the people that you didn't photograph? Are you going to refund them? I know I won't, but what are you going to do if they have like, "Oh we just have these nine or ten more people jump on." And that's fine, that's okay, but then I'm going to have to send them another bill, and that could, you know, it's most of the time it'll work out fine, but it can be a little messier. I like to be like "I'm here for this amount of time." And if it goes over, because they add more stuff on, I just bill them for more of my time. So it's really not, it's really not a huge concern of mine how many people there are, except for I know how many people I can photograph in a given amount of time. Let's hit it up, let's get another question from the internet. Is compositing included in your day rate or is that an additional charge? It depends on the job, if it's something that we agree upon ahead of time, due to logistics, like they don't have a big enough space to shoot as many people as they want, we do often have a per image retouch fee and that will be included in that, so if I shoot a group of ten or twelve people, and we'll have a charge per image, each person is obviously gonna get one image retouched, if they buy that ahead of time, I will do the removal and compositing without any additional charge, other than that. Most of the time, I'm shooting images for a website, and I rarely have to put the composite together myself, what I typically do is I will do the extraction and I will provide them with a file with a transparent background and their web designers, or their design team, will put them together for the website, however they want. People who design their marketing materials and their website, as long as I give them a PSD or a transparent PNG file, they'll do whatever they want with it, and it's the... And if you aren't really good at extraction, I do have an extraction technique that I use that I demonstrated in the headshot class that I did previously, but I also use a lot of, I think it's like $2.50 an image, and they'll pull the background out of it and they'll do it faster, it would take you all day to do what they'll do in like, ten minutes, it's unbelievable, so I send a lot of stuff to them. And there are plenty of other services and people that will do that but I would recommend that if it's something that's not your strong suit, you have to determine your price on it. Like if it's something that you're gonna do yourself, and it's gonna take you a long time, make sure you charge appropriately for it. I can pull an image off of a white background in about eight seconds, so it's really not that big of a deal. Okay, got a couple more. Kelly A, when you're shooting larger groups, are you typically using a narrow aperture? Yeah, I mean, again, it depends on the lens choice, depends on my distance from the subject, and it depends on what I'm trying to do with the background. If I'm shooting everybody on white seamless and their all lined up, you could probably shoot that at F4, and everybody will be in focus, it's not that big of a deal, if you're far enough away, so really depends on the intent of the image. I will typically say that nobody's really gonna want to buy a shot where the guys in the back row are out of focus, so I would say, rule of thumb for a group shot, try to find yourself around F8, and you should be mostly pretty good. Where you're gonna really exaggerate that shallow depth of field is if you're shooting close with a wide lens, and you got people that are close to the camera, the closer you get to the subject, the faster the fall off can be on the thing that's closest to the camera. If you're shooting a large group, start around F and see where that works, but again it's gonna depend on your lens choice and it's gonna depend on your distance from the subject. I got one more question from inter world. Big time images, (teacher laughs) I love that, do you have suggestions for room with a large, fixed conference table in the middle of the room, perhaps with no natural light, is it a given that you sit them around the table? Um, no, not necessarily, I guess it depends, but I shoot in rooms like that all the time. I'll shoot into the corner of the room, I'll use the table and chairs as part of the foreground to create a more editorial image. Sometimes I'll have people sit, sometimes I'll have them just stand with a hand on the office chair, they make great props, good for body blocking, good for perspective editorial, which we'll go over in some of the shooting portions, so it's not necessarily a given, but at a conference table is a pretty good stock shot that they'll find use for, maybe, but they don't always even want team shots, sometimes I'm shooting the board room because it's the only room that has the distance where I can actually get a portrait, so there are all kinds, I have one client that I shoot probably about every two to three months, and I go shoot new people at their office and I'm in the same conference room shooting the same thing every single time and they want everybody's images to look different, every person has to have different looking images, so far, I've photographed about 120 people in this same conference room over the last three years, and so far, pretty much, everybody has a different.. It's getting really, really hard to do, but you can get pretty creative, play with your depth of field, throw the background out of focus, find a ficus or a plant in the corner of the room and it can make a cool background, you know, there's a lot of different ways you can do it, conference room can be your best friend, or your worst enemy, depending on your mentality, so it gives you kind of a lot to work with, standing, sitting, shooting into the corners, all kinds of stuff like that.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Ten Tips for Professional Portraits
SEO Workbook
Posing Guide
Gear Guide

Ratings and Reviews


Gary is super knowledgable, yet down-to-earth and relatable. I love how he explains the exact gear he uses but also describes ways to accomplish the same look using DIY and less expensive alternatives. The segment where he demos a live shoot in multiple, difficult lighting situations is worth the cost of the class alone! Bonus: He's super funny. He could probably double as a comedian on the side, but I digress. This class was informative, funny, and very practical for any photographer that wants to increase their profit and expand their business into the professional world. He gives all his prices and workflows so you can get up and running in 2 days! :) Awesome class overall, and it's a great sequel to his professional headshot class (which I also bought and loved.)

Richard Blenkinsopp

I love Gary's straight teaching style, and appreciate him demonstrating with regular people, not models. This is the real life of a regular photographer! I wish Creative Live could show more from the photographers viewpoint, so that when he's posing and moving lights etc, we see exactly what he's changing, and can analyze why... not sure how they'd achieve this in a live environment though. Loved his going around to less than ideal locations and finding the place that works. My favourite course on Creative Live so far.


Gary makes taking editorial portraits look simple and fun. I want to start shooting heads! I love Creative live and Gary is really doing a great job. I got to buy the class next. Thank you.

Student Work