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Posing Large Groups Demo

Lesson 32 from: Professional Portraits: Moving Beyond Headshots

Gary Hughes

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Lesson Info

32. Posing Large Groups Demo

Lesson Info

Posing Large Groups Demo

So now we're going to do a group shot. So you kind of saw, did everybody kind of get a sense of what I was doing as I was moving different people? Like, different body types, you want to light them differently. I posed people this way, I posed people that way. 'Cause what I'm running through, the thing that I do that aids me more than anything else in being efficient is to know when I got the shot. So you'll see me sometimes and I'll pose people and I'll move and I'll pose and I'll take five or six or seven. And some people, I'll take one or two. And so sometimes if I've got a line of people that I'm photographing in volume, the person behind is like, why'd you only take three pictures? And then in that case, I go back to the old dentist analogy, it's like, did you want me to take longer? You know, because I know that I got it. Because sometimes you just get the right expression and the right person at the right time. And some people need a little more work and need a little more time ...

to relax. And that's totally cool. So there's no set number of shots that I shoot with each person. But I do get, Joe, did you see that picture of you? It's up there, man. You look good, bro. I dig it. And that is not a stool, that is the world's tiniest cocktail table. (group laughing) Pretty awesome. Okay, so let's make a company. Who wants to be the boss? Carol. Come on, be the boss. Let's start to set this up. Remember, we're going to build this one person at a time. And I will often build the group and then I will set the lighting. In a lot of cases, I will get the lighting and then I'll put the person into it and test the lighting. I will build the shot, and because you've got a lot of human moving parts, I will build the pose and then I will build the lighting in the studio around the pose. So the lighting is going to be pretty similar, but it's going to adjust 'cause I have to feather a little more. I'm going to have to shoot, that was shooting at f4, I'm going to have to shoot at f8 so my ISA is going to go up or the power of the lights are going to go up, so that it makes sure that everybody's in focus. Joe, I'm going to make sure that you get that picture. Okay. You ready, boss pants? Let's do it. Let's have you stand there. So what's a good boss pose? You've been doing this with me for two days now. Are you gonna power foot me? Is that a pretty good boss pose? Point that toe at the camera, the imaginary camera. There you go, good boss pose, right? I can dig that. Okay, who's second in command? Alright, come on up, Cathy. Alright. Let's go right here. We're gonna move some stuff here. Perfect. Alright, let's do it. Yeah alright, well how do you pose? Show me your second in command pose. Oh yeah, you look like a bodyguard, yeah. I'm the muscle around here! (group laughing) The kombucha. Okay, so what I would probably do is bring you up just a little bit and then I'll have you pop this knee over the other one. And then we're going to do the contour with your arms. Instead of the hands on the hips, just relax your hands kind of on your upper thighs here and contour them to your body. I might move you a little bit later. So go forward a little bit so that, yeah, perfect. And that's awesome. Alright. Hmm. Cliff, let's roll. Okay, I'm going to have you stand right here and we'll leave a little gap between you and Carol. Alright, you are the other bodyguard. That's great. So let's get Sharon, I'll have you. Perfect, I'll have you sit there. So I'll get everybody posed. The first thing I do when I'm posing a group is I try to get the heads in the right position, okay? So you want to make sure that you've got boom, boom, boom, boom and then I'll go in and I'll fine tune. What I want to convey more than anything else is to have the shot composed and have it lit and have it exactly ready to go before you look through the viewfinder. This is going to, one, improve you photography, is going to, two, make you take a lot less pictures and you're going to spend a ton of less time in front of the camera, or in front of the computer, rather, if you do this stuff in your head before you take the pictures. You have to have intent, you need to shoot with a purpose, you need to design it and then shoot it. 'Cause once I have this set up, I will only have to take four or five shots to make sure that I get it and that I got a good expression out of every person. Are you guys cool with that, does that make sense? Alright Cliff, come forward a little bit. Alright, come a little bit more forward, Carol, you lost a little boss power. There you go, alright. So turn this way for me, Sharon, just a touch. Keep going, bring your feet around. There you go. Now I want you to square up a little bit more. Carol, turn this way, perfect, that's the boss pose I was looking for. Head goes this way when you're the boss, chin down a touch, turn your head a little bit, okay. Sharon, a little more this way, perfect. I like it, that's nice. Okay, who have we got next? Let's do it, Daniel. Bring the, yeah, that foot over, cool. And rest that hand right there. And let's, is that a Montblanc? No. No? It's a Monthowdan? Or that. There you go, perfect, good. So now we've got one, two, three, four, five. This is great. Come forward a little bit, you can kick the box forward a touch. Good, there we go. Relax those arms a little bit, Cathy. Yeah yeah, you're doing pretty good, perfect. Okay. Who else are we going to build into this shot? Let's go with... Come on, it's your turn, Marianna. Alright. So you're going to come just in front and turn your body that way, perfect. Yeah, keep going, keep going, keep going. You're going to back up a little bit, back up. We're going to squeeze in Cliff, we're gonna squeeze in, we're gonna squeeze in. Good, okay, perfect. You can to hook those thumbs if you want to. You're gonna, yeah, pop the leg. Turn your body a little bit this way, just over this way, this way, this way. Good, perfect, good. And your head goes into the light, good. Man, you guys are looking like a real team. This is good stuff. Alright. Joe, my friend. Good. A little. Let's try ya. You might not be tall enough to be in the back back, but let's see. Come this way a little bit for me, this way. And then Joe, you're going to go right here. There, now I can see ya. Good. Square up and you're going to put your hands in the pockets and you're like, you're going to squared up, go this way, go this way, keep coming, keep coming, it's going to get odd. It's gonna get weird, alright? Come this way just a touch, there we go. Cliff, I want you to turn this way a little bit. Good, alright. Now I want you to lay on the ground, Savannah, in front. (group laughing) I would look stupid. The belly slide. No problem, alright. So let's get a, can I have another apple box? There it is, one right over there. Savannah, will you grab that and bring that with you? Perfect. So now, we've got really nice heads. Everybody looks good, everybody's on the same plain. Let's see. I'm looking, what I'm looking at now is I'm going to balance the image. And, here we are. Not in front of the boss. There we go, perfect. Good. Alright, we're going to back that up. Get right in between 'em. Maybe a little more, come out this way a little bit. Perfect, you slide your shoulder back there. There you go, perfect. Now relax. Lean forward a little bit, you're going to relax it down. You're the wildcard, be a wildcard. Put your foot out flat, there you go. And I want you to get your shoulder out from behind Cliff. Almost be leaning forward onto your knees a little bit. Yeah, perfect. Press that hand like that, there we go. Do it that way, turn that way, there we go. Does this look fine? Shift your body weight to this side. Yeah, there you go, perfect. And I want you to relax your left hand onto your, bring it up high, point the fingers in. And then bring your right arm forward a little bit. And bring it in, forearm resting on your thigh. Yeah, relax. Do this. This, yeah, perfect, that's what I want, yeah, there ya go. Now turn this way a little bit. There you go, perfect, alright, there you go. And I need maybe another small box, but we'll work on it right now. Let's get the lighting. Okay. We've got a team, let's squish in this way, team. Good, okay. So right now, it looks like Sharon is the boss, right? How did you steal the company? Oh man, perfect. So what I'm going to do now is I'm going to show you this bank of light is going to move back, feather across, hey, my mirror. Bring this up to a quarter power on each unit so that they're the same. And this, the reason I'm doing this is so that the math is easier between the ratios 'cause they're always going to be on the same power. Good. Okay Cathy, you're a little too hidden. Come out out, girl. There we go, there we go. And now, turn your face, Cathy, into the light a little bit. Okay, Daniel this way a touch, chin down. Sharon, you're going to go this way a little bit, perfect. Okay, Cliff, turn your head this way a little. Keep going, good. Joe, walk right up into that picture, there you go. Good, alright, we've got a good team going here. We have assembled the news team. Okay, I'm going to have to shut this off a sec. It doesn't like me to change the settings when we're tethered, so let me take a look at what we've got. Okay, so let's see what it looks like. Okay, so we got. Cliff, we're going to come forward a little bit. A little more shadow than we want. Boom. Okay, and then we're going to add some fill. A little more fill. Yeah, we're going pretty good. The only thing I've got that I'm not loving is I've got a lot of shadow on Cliff from Sharon. And so we're going to add a little more fill to lighten up those shadows no problem. I'm bringing this a little more wrapped around. And I need, where's my other reflector? Ah, there it is. (humming) You guys want one of these? We'll make like a little banner out of it, everybody make it their Facebook cover photo. There we go, bam. Now we've got what I'm talking about. We've got a nice lighting ratio. Carol, we're going to turn your head into the light a little bit. Cathy, you're going to turn your head into the light a little bit. Okay, Cliff, I want you to turn your body towards me a little bit. Bring your, oh we got a, your foot, scoot your box that way, Savvy, just a little bit. Yeah, good, perfect. Alright, so now we're shooting at f8, 1/125th of a second. And I've got my ISO to f4, or to 400, f4. Does he even know what an ISO is? Ah man, okay, perfect. Okay, let me just look. Now that I've looked, I've got it composed, I've got it lit. Now all I wanna do is I wanna start to nitpick the pose. Alright? So we're going to turn your head into it this way, alright, thank you. Cathy, you're good. Okay. Come forward a little bit, Cathy, I can't see you so much. There you go, yeah, block him, he's no big deal. Alright, turn your head into this way. And now I think we've gotta push our butt back a little bit, lean over, good, good. Everybody looks pretty good. Everybody looks thrilled except for Joe. I can't believe that didn't fire. Oh no, oh no! We turned misfortune, we made lemonade. That's good, everybody. Good. Alright, Carol and Sharon, switch places. Bring the stool with you, Sharon. Yeah. Good. Facing the same way? Face, yeah, face the light, actually. Turn a little bit into Cathy's direction. There we go, okay. Just so, oh I like that better. Okay, you ready? Daniel, come back on in. Carol, come forward, you're the boss, square up. You're in charge of this outfit. Bam, good. Good, alright Cliff, we're going to move this way a little bit so I can see ya. Let that arm drop, that arm's good, good. Give me power toe. Good, go backwards though a little bit and this way just a touch. This way, good. Square up your shoulders to me a little more, a little more. Bam, okay. Tilt your head, keep that head dead straight, actually. Good, I think we're a little better now. Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. Okay. I like this better. Never be afraid to make an adjustment. Alright, I don't think that. Cliff, we're going to turn your body this way, upper body a little bit more, good. Alright. Okay, you know what we forgot? A bottle of kombucha. We should have, that could have been a really cool prop in this shot. Okay, there we go, two, three. Savvy, turn this way a little bit more. Actually, turn into the middle. Yeah, keep going, keep going, keep going. There we are, good. I like it, okay. Let's lean heads toward the center just a touch. You guys do not look like a bunch of lawyers, but I would buy your kombucha all day long. Okay, stand up tall, Carol. You're the boss, there you go. Right on, two, three. Alright guys, I think we got it. Breakfast club! (group laughing) Alright, cool, everybody have a seat. You did it, congratulate yourselves. Give yourselves some woos. Woo! It was a piece of cake. So we went by all the rules. We used, oh let's move these things out of the way so cameras can get to me, et cetera. Perfect. So questions about that setup? Anything we did, lights? Go ahead, start with Sharon. Do your clients ever have an issue with personal space? 'Cause it felt like we were really close together. Right. I think we mentioned this a little bit earlier in another segment. In a photograph when you're lining up a group, it feels like you're really close but in the photo it just looks like you're a bunch of people standing together. I haven't really had that problem, but you do want to kind of be sensitive and intuitive. And if somebody seems like they're uncomfortable pinching Joe on the bum, then you don't want to ask them to do stuff like that. But no, you're absolutely right, it can be. But I always do try to comfort them. I say I know it feels like we're standing really close, but in a photo it doesn't necessarily look that way. In fact, in this studio, if I'd have had even more space, I would have spread you out probably even a little bit more. But we are constrained by staying inside the circle where the cameras can get this. But you know, I haven't had anybody complain. But it is something to think about, for sure. Carol. So when you have, well it wasn't too many people here, but would you bring apple boxes or like what would you bring if you know you have a group shot like this or do you kind of just use what you have? Absolutely, great question. I bring my camera case. In the car, I do have a couple of apple boxes that are just in there. I have a little wooden stepstool that's also a little storage thing. I think it was for kids to brush their teeth. I have a couple of little things that I bring around as well as there are some really cool products. And I don't know if you're familiar with Hanson Fong, I mentioned him earlier about his group posing, he makes these blocks that you can pose people on that are really cool. But typically, keep a couple of things around in case. When I find I'm shooting, oftentimes I'm in an office environment and I usually have lots of chairs and furniture and high tables and bar stools and office chairs and office chairs and office, you know, there's just lots of stuff around. So a lot of times, I have furniture and desks and cubicles and I can sort of build a shot out of whatever is around. So very rarely do I actually have to bust out an apple box. There's almost always something in. Now if I'm shooting in the studio, I have my apple boxes and I have my step stools and I have stools, bar stools, posing stools of all different sizes. And I have folding chairs and there's a whole bunch of stuff that I have around. So usually I can use what's around. I don't take a bunch of that stuff with me on location. But there's usually something there. But keep a couple of things in your car just in case. If you're going to photograph 50 people, you're just probably not going to get that in an office environment. Now if you all want to go out to the beach and do a family portrait with 50 people from a company on the beach, you can probably get them all on different levels then. But if you look at sort of the difference in the feeling of the image when you've got all of the heads kind of on different levels instead of everybody just (whistle) on one. And this is a little more relaxed. This would be something that I would do for like a family company, a small business, a one where everybody's kind of close, you know? This would be a little more of a casual pose. Other than, we could have done the locomotive, (group laughing) which would have been really cool. Okay, Daniel. I'm sure there's going to be situations where the answer to my question will be obvious, but as I look at the photo here, for the most part, I'd call this a single row. Yeah! When do you use multiple rows instead of single rows? Phenomenal question. We do have, we have like Joe in the back and Cliff, there are actually three levels almost. You have Carol, Cliff, Joe, and Savannah and you have four different levels. But everybody is so squished together that it's pretty close. It really depends on the setting and how many people. Sometimes you'll be called out to photograph a bunch of people at an event. A lot of conventions and events where I work, they have like award ceremonies and there's 100 people and everybody's on bleachers. Sometimes you're just shooting rows of people and sometimes you're creating something dynamic. Eventually, you have to stop going sideways, like building out on the sides, which is when you would do rows. So I would have people definitely sitted, seated, sitted down. I would have more people seated 'cause I don't do rows as much as I do levels. You typically keep it to two or three people deep, mostly two people deep. And so you'll have like Savannah sitting down on an apple box and you have Sharon sitting on a high stool and then you have somebody in a different kind of a chair. And so I try to do levels more than depth. Because depth, unless you're really far away with a long lens, you're going to have somebody who's a little fuzzy. And you're not always in a situation where you can shoot at f16 or f22. So I really do try to build it. Almost, in a case of a company where everybody's a little more relaxed, I build it almost more like a family portrait. I think of it in terms of that, like you want to create dynamics in the relationships and keep those heads on different levels and also body block and flatter the people, that's really where my head's at. And just making sure that you can see everybody, it's huge, it's important. We talked about our 10 secrets and tips to working with professional people. And then we talked about our marketing and selling, SEO strategy. Then we went into, what'd we do after that? Then we did combination posing for individuals, combination posings for groups. Started with gear, we did shooting in the studio, we did shooting on locations with all types of lighting setup, and then we showed you exactly what I would do with a real group of people in a real room who aren't supermodels, how to light it so that your group has the same exposure from one end to one end. Did you notice that in the group shot? That the person in that's here was f and this person here was f8. It's all about feathering that light and then using those two lights across. So I want to stress a couple of things. You get some really, really cool stuff with this class including you get an SEO guide, you get a gear guide, which all of the stuff that I use will be up there. I think a few things were missing, but we'll get those up there. You will also get the opportunity to, if you want to, to get in touch with me through social media and enter to win some really cool stuff. So if you want to find me, I'm on Twitter at garyhughes, Instagram hughesfioretti, Facebook,, and I'm co-host of the world famous Photobomb Podcast. Our listener is very, very enthusiastic about our show.

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.

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