Shoot: Business Portraits for Groups & Composites
The first thing you need to do when you're doing three quarter length portraits, if it's just for an individual, you don't need to worry about a whole lot. You just need to shoot. But if the purpose of this is to create something that's gonna end up in a group shot, you need to pay attention to a couple things. For one, the person's height. I did a 38 person group shot for another law firm shooting everybody individually over the course of three months. So that brings in a lot of factors. You don't know that one guy at the law firm is five foot six, another woman is five foot eight, and another guy is six foot six. Because if you upload them in a group shot and you don't pay attention and they're all the same height, it's gonna look, for one they might not love it because the really tall guy is gonna, people might thing he's short. And the person who's shorter is now gonna look giant and people in the office are gonna be like, oh, I didn't know Julie was the same height as John over he...
re when they're really a foot difference. I'm not having a measuring tape out here. I'm just generally thinking, I have a sheet as a shoot that has all the people's names I'm working with, the time that they're gonna come in. And then that corresponds to the file name on my computer and then what I put is their general height. I'm 5'10" so I'm gonna be like, all right so he's about 6'1", six foot. Pretty close, right, 6'1"? And maybe taller.
Six foot, so there you go. If you're off by an inch, no one's gonna know but if I'm off by a foot, it's gonna look really obvious. So I put the general height about six foot, 5'6", 5'2", whatever it is so that way when I'm forming that group later, I know that everybody in this file name range, this woman is this height. So it just works when you're putting together groups. So it's those details that later on make the image look realistic. The next thing I'm doing is paying attention to the height that I'm shooting from. Even more important than that is I'm making sure I use the same lens for every time I'm shooting individuals from that office who are gonna go on that group. If you do one portrait at 24 millimeters, then the next one at 70 it's not gonna look right when they're in a group together. So generally speaking, I'll use my 50 or even my fix lens for all group shots because I don't wanna deal with 24 to 70 where there could be variation. And then the last thing is the height that you're shooting from. I tend to just shoot from own height for all these individuals, but if the room or background changes sometimes I might set an apple box down and I make sure that I'm firmly planted on that apple box for everybody's portraits just so that there's consistent angle for all the shots. So that way, you know, your not looking up one person's nose and looking down on another person and all that because it'll start to look really askew within your group shot. So just paying attention to those details ahead of time will make the backend work a lot easier and a lot more realistic. Because a lot of times with group portraits, the goal is to not have anyone ever guess that those people weren't in the room at the same time. And the best way to do that is to make sure that all of your details are planned out. And the technicalities are taking care of because then your results will be the best, they'll work out the best they can. So what we're gonna do now is we're gonna do a couple, I'm gonna have to take a quarter step this way. Just for background. I'm gonna move back a tiny bit. And one of the reasons I like to shoot with C stands is because they have an arm. I like to keep this above camera, but if it were just on this stand I'd be shooting through it. So I can just stay right here. I'm gonna do one test shot. So I don't care if we can see the background, off the background, the wall or anything like that because these are all gonna get cut out. And I'm just planning a frame. So generally speaking, I shoot from just underneath the fingertips. So if he's standing like that, I'm gonna go an inch or two below his finger tips and then just over the top of his head. So we're gonna do one test shot here. One, two, three. All right and we're shooting tethered still. So here we go. We have our nice, clean shot. So we'll make a few adjustments here. Not much. I like to keep everything. And you can see, we even see the light in there. It doesn't really matter. So the next thing I like to do, when you're gonna form a group shot, you can't have everybody standing in a line, looking the exact same. So you need to go through different poses that work. So when I'm posing him, his weight's already on his book foot. That's what I tell a lot of people. I want you to be about shoulder width apart with your weight generally on your back foot. What that does for males and females or anybody who has two legs, it gets their hips away from the camera. If you put that weight on the front foot, that means your hips are going towards the camera. That makes this area larger. So nobody really likes that. So I always say, all right, feet about shoulder width apart, weight on you back foot. That gets the hip swayed away from the camera and that's our base. So we're nice shoulder width apart, weight on the back foot. It gives this front leg a little bit of bend, brings our hips back and then we go with hands. So this is where things get a little tricky. You get people who are in fist mode. It's like they're ready to fight. So they're just uncomfortable so you might have them just fingers out. I generally do one pose where it's just hands down. And then we move to the classic like fig leaf where it's just one hand over the other. Not the most exciting thing in the world. But the reason I have to do this is for group shots, if you have two people, four people in a group and it's a man and then a woman and then a man and then a woman, and you have someone that, and their hands are all like this hands are gonna get close to rear ends and that does, if people don't know that that was a bunch of individual shots and they think they were all in the group together, it's like, oh man, Jim's getting a little close to Kathy over there in the group shot. So I like to keep that awkwardness away so that's why I'll do hands down. For males I do one hand in pocket with thumb out. The reverse, both, both hands. More of a fig leaf and then arms crossed which is kind of like your classic, cheesy business portrait shot, but so many companies want something like that and with arms crossed one of the keys is to, as soon as you tell someone to cross their arms and they start thinking about it, they're like, oh gosh. It's just as long as you have these fingers peeking out, that's the key. So you want the back arm tucked under and the front arm just peeking out because if you go this way, you get these awkward fingers down here. People with rings and things like that, it just looks good like this. So you wanna just go back arm underneath, front arm away. Because anything else, and then you get people who, they can't remember how they do it even though they've done it a million times in their life. They're just thinking about it. So I would just say tuck your back hand under, front hand peeks out. So we'll do all of those poses facing towards camera left, straight at camera, and then camera right. So that way when you're forming your group shot, you don't have a whole bunch of people facing the same direction. It seems obvious, but one of the first shoots I did, I didn't do that. I just had everybody facing towards the light, and I thought, oh I'll just flip them. Well then all of a sudden, I had people who had shadow on this side of their face and the guy next to him had shadow on this side of his face so I thought, wow that looks horrible. I didn't really think that through. So knowing to do everything that way. So what we're gonna do is I'm gonna have you pull down on you jacket just a little bit. For guys I always like that button, top button buttoned. And we're gonna start with this pose. So he already has his weight on his back foot, nice confident feet position. Just extend your fingers out a little bit so they're nice and comfortable. You don't have to be like stiff, but just let them fall where they go now. Yup, there we go. And I'm gonna do one portrait so I'll give you a three count. We're all tethered up. And we're gonna keep about the same height, so I'm just gonna go right over this. One, two, three. Great. Now I'm gonna have to bring your hands together, just one over the other. Whatever's more comfortable. So just, yup. Down a little bit lower and then just relax your shoulders. Yup, so right in here. Your fingers are extended out. Just relax them a little bit, there you go. All right one, two, three. Now I'm gonna have you drop your front hand in your pocket, thumb out just underneath your jacket. I'm gonna have you pull your jacket for-- Yup, that actually fell down perfect. Leave your thumb out and then back hand just down. Chin down just a little bit. A lot of people when they get in portraits, they tend to go like this. Whether it's their neck of their shirt, or anything like that, but I'm shooting from a down angle so it's not unflattering. It actually looks a lot better if you bring your chin down so that's perfect. One, two, three. Now I'm gonna have you reverse that. Throw you back hand in the pocket, and the front hand down. And this is just so no matter where they're at in the group, no matter who they're standing next to, there's a appropriate hand position for them by mixing it up. All right, so that's great. One, two, three. And then lastly, I'm gonna have you cross your arms. So just have, perfect. Just like I said, the front fingers peeking out. I'm gonna have you pull on your tie just a little bit. It's kind of caught down here. There you go. Perfect. Looking right here. One, two, three. And one smiling one just so we have it in the catalog here. One, two, three. And generally speaking, I would do the exact same, we'll do a couple of them straight on. I don't do all the poses straight on because square to camera never looks that great, but there, that was six different poses there. I'll do four of them straight on. We rarely use them, and then I do six the other way. So that's our sixteen. And then I do seated poses too. Actually, let's throw, is the posing stool still in here? Let's just complete the whole mission here. So we'll throw the posing stool back in. We won't need to re-meter. I'm just gonna lower the lights. He's done this, scoot up a half of, oh yeah. Thank you, John. All right. Thank you, Dave. Let's have you stay right in there. I'm gonna do one of these. I'm gonna scoot in a little bit so we get that, the exact crop I want. All right one, two, three. And now I'm gonna scoot back so we can not cut off the shoulders. This is just for the client so that way I have it and I don't have to go back. One, two, three. Now I'm actually gonna have you rotate a half turn this way. So keep going a little bit further. Right there. So I'm just watching shoulders so they're not square to me but they're not at a profile. Shoulders a little bit more towards me. And I'm gonna have you move your, reset your feet a little bit so you're nice and comfortable. There you go. And then a lot of times with men I'll have them bring their hands together more so bring your hands together just a little bit because you get elbows out and you start getting this weird shape especially if you're cropping a head into shoulders portrait. So I like to keep shoulders down. For females, depending on what they're wearing, a lot of ladies don't like to put their arms flat against their body because it makes you look a little more muscular, or just bigger arms. And you know, not everybody likes that. So I was trying to keep just a little bit of separation between arm and body so that way we have a nice flattering shot, but for him wearing a full suit with a dark jacket, you can't see that so I'm gonna have him keep his arms nice and tight. Nose this way ever so slightly. So what I'm doing is knowing my main light's coming from this direction, I wanna make sure I get catch lights. There we go. One, I'm gonna scoot in, we'll just do a closer one. One, two, three. Great. So we'll see how that looks. So you can see, I'm gonna have you do one more of those. Head this way a little bit more. And then chin up a tiny bit. So we lost catch light just a little bit. Chin down a little bit. Right there. One, two, three. There we go. So I actually like the first one better. And then you know, it all looks pretty clean. We're on that nice clean background. You can see our main light coming from this side. Even though we flipped the script and went from here. This is the shot where he's turned towards the light. You can see our main light. Our fill is filling in all this shadow that would be caused by the main light. And our accent light is just gently lighting his hair, over the shoulder and things like that, giving that little bit of separation. And this light right here will help bring his hair away from the background when you're going to cut them out in Photoshop. Because sometimes when you're using a white background you don't know, my worst nightmare situation happened when I had a woman bring in a hounds, she was wearing a hounds tooth jacket that was black and white. So there was all these weird hounds tooth pattern and I was on a white background. And when I went to cut her out, it followed that so then I had to go in at like 400% and Photoshop and gently follow that line because it wanted to cut her out and make her jacket actually jagged. So knowing what people wear. There's nothing I could do about that. Maybe a green screen type situation would've helped but I don't do that so that was just unfortunate. But for these type of shots, this works great. So you can see we had him, even though he was turned away from the light, which generally speaking wouldn't be ideal, turning his head back towards the light helped that. For those of you who aren't familiar, I like to short light everybody especially in business portraits because I think it's more flattering. So what that means is if you're facing your light and your light is on this side of the head, anytime you turn the nose towards the light, you are lighting the short side of the face. So that means the angle between the nose and the light is shorter than the broad side of the face. The main part of the cheek that's facing the camera. So that'll fall into shadow. If I were to leave my light the same position, turn my nose away, now the broad side of my face is being lit so it makes people look wider. So it's a little less flattering, so that's why I had him turn his nose back into the light. For one it kept him short lit and it also brought the catch lights back in his eyes. So just paying attention to those type of things really helps as well. So you know, just a good clean business portrait. Again, we'll go through. We had our one light set up with the reflector. Our three light set up. Our beauty dish. And the main difference there is just the background and then turning away from the light, but still using three light set up. So that's, generally speaking, that's what I do. Let's go back to keynote. Let's give a hand for Dave here who was our great model. Great business man. Now he has a whole bunch of photos he can use for his profile on his banking website. All right so here's an example of a group shot that I did. This was a group of attorneys. None of them were in the room at the same time. You can see keeping hand placement. If you look at the guy on the far right, you can see how I left his one hand our of his pocket, tucked his other one because you can see where he's positioned by the woman next to him. So it's just thinking of little things like that that avoid an awkward situation or a group photo because again nobody, my goal is for anybody who looks at this photo other than the people who are in it, I don't want them to ever think, oh yeah, these were all shot individually and comped together. Like my goal here is for you to look at this, and it to look pretty natural. I paid attention to everybody's height. And the other thing you need to do when putting these together is remember shadows. Whoever's in front, wherever your light is coming from, they're gonna cast a shadow on the person next to them. So the last thing I do when I'm Photoshopping it, is drop in a curves layer in between each person and figure out who their casting a shadow on, bring the curves down a little bit, and then mask that in, invert it and mask that in so that way you can kind of just gently brush in a shadow. You know, say right in here. So it wouldn't affect him because he's his own layer. Right underneath his layer, I'll bring in that curves layer and brush it in on her and her because he'd be casting a shadow on both of them. An also knowing my light's coming from this direction so the majority of the shadow is gonna be falling this way. Same thing here. Drop a curves layer underneath her layer and drop in this shadow. It doesn't have to be blatant, but if you start doing it and clicking and unclicking the layer, it gets, you know it's like, okay that looks more natural. Because if you don't do it at all, it's just a bunch of perfectly lit stacked on top of each other and it really starts to look cut out. So again I shot that. I think I shot that all with a 50 millimeter. I think I was sitting on two apple boxes or something like that if I remember right. And again, going through those poses where we had the arms crossed, we have hands down, we have a hand in a pocket to keep, you know it's all conscious work and we're all doing it with a purpose so that way I have those options when they say, oh we need a group shot of these people. And I like I said, I did one of 38 people which had to be stacked. It was to you know, a front row and back row. So then that became really, really crazy putting it together with a lot of shadow and all of that. So having these options and then when they call you and they say, oh yeah, guy on the right here quit and we have a replacement which actually happens, we just need to drop in this photo of another person there. You can do it easily and I save all these group photos as PSD layered files so when it comes time to change something it's quick and easy for me to drop somebody else in. And usually I don't even have to adjust the shadow because that layer's still there as well. So it's easy and I also charge by the head for group photos. So I charge day rates and then I charge by individual retouched photos. But when it comes time to groups, I just charge however many people are in that shot. There's a certain rate depending on the client and their budget. But if I'm dropping someone new in, that way you're not, you know, having to figure out, what do I charge. It's all clear and put out there right away so they know when you're gonna recreate something how much it's gonna cost and you know that you're gonna get paid for having to replace somebody in a photo even though you took the photo maybe a year ago. So again, we already talked about posing for group shots so it's a little out of order but it made sense the way we did it. Alternate angles, having people turn away and all that. Being mindful of hand placement. Paying attention to height, both subject and the camera. So again, all things we talked about. And then I also know I shoot knowing that I'm gonna be cutting them out in Photoshop, so I'm not so concerned about the backdrop, but the one thing I am concerned about is if, if this white background is on a darker wall or farther away, there's gonna be an edge to that background where it goes from white to dark. I don't want someone with a dark colored suit hanging off the edge of the background and frame because when I go to cut them out, their elbow might blend in with that wall and then you're gonna run into problems. So I always try and keep both edges of the background in my frame so the person is easy to cut out.
Yeah, the last photo I noticed he did a little vignette or fake away on the bottom. Just wanted your comments on that.
We'll go back to that real quick. The reason why I did that was because what you can't see here is their logo was below that. It was for an ad, so I vignetted down and then their logo is like blue and red or something like that. So it just blended into their logo rather than have them be chopped off square. So it was just kind of a gentle way to transition into the logo, but good question.
I just wanted to know what kind of research you did about the location before you brought in your equipment. Do you ever visit it in person and what do you do if they decided to paint all of their employee areas magenta about color contamination?
Yeah, that's a good question. So I, a lot of times, when I do that meeting, the pre-pro meeting I'll go in and I'll say, all right, where are we gonna be shooting? Can I take a look real quick? And you know, if it's the lobby or a conference room or anything like that, I definitely take a look. And sometimes if they're all painted white, I won't even bother bringing my reflector. There's one bank I work with a lot and they have one of those stand up white boards that they use. I just wheel that thing in closer because it's always in there. And I ask them before, I say is the white board still in there. Yup. Because then I don't have to an extra stand with the reflector. I just use that. But if the room were magenta and had a color cast, the only thing you can really do is hope to get as close to the middle of the room as possible where you're not catching that color cast. Chances are the ceiling's not magenta, but if it is, you know, you just have to work around it and maybe bring extra reflectors and things like that so if your lights are hitting the wall, that cast isn't coming back in there. So that gets to be a little painful. That's what happened at that heating and air conditioning place that had a navy blue wall. So I just got as far away from that as possible. And that was a one light set up with a reflector. So by moving everything in closer, there was less room for contamination from those colors. So that's pretty much all you can do. But I definitely ask to see the space if possible beforehand because I like to know what we're gonna work in so you're not just jumping into a surprise right away. Especially when it's an early morning shoot. It's like that's the last thing I wanna deal with.
I had a question regarding the metering. Do you actually do that for each one of those if you're doing a client every five minutes, or do you just set it up and just roll them.
I do it once. So generally, what I do is I'll just sit in, I'll sit on the posing stool, run the meter and the transmitter in one hand and that's the only time I'll do it for that day. So that way I know when my light is right there it's gonna be about FA Nifa. If it's off by a quarter a stop or less, generally speaking, that's fine. You can fix that in raw. And you'll have people of different heights so occasionally I'll have someone who's five foot and the next person after them is 6'4", I'll just raise my light up quick, but you know remembering to do that is also key or else the photos will start to look a little goofy. So I only meter once. And I'll generally do that for the standing shots and the seated shots so that way I can do it once because I hate having to get back into the technical side once I'm working with people because I feel like, if I'm photographing you and everything's great with you but my lights are off, I start getting a little, I'm one of those people who either gets too chatty or quiet and it starts to make the person on the other side think, like oh is something wrong with me? Why isn't this working? So I like to have all those technical details worked out beforehand so that way I don't have to bring out my meter and do all that stuff. I can just have a conversation and make everybody comfortable.