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Shoot: Group Portraits with Natural Light

Lesson 37 from: Lighting, Logistics, and Strategies for a Life in Photography

Joe McNally

Shoot: Group Portraits with Natural Light

Lesson 37 from: Lighting, Logistics, and Strategies for a Life in Photography

Joe McNally

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Lesson Info

37. Shoot: Group Portraits with Natural Light


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Location Assessment


Gear Overview


Direction and Wardrobe


Exploring Location and Available Light


Bar Owner: Setting the Scene


Shoot: Bar Owner


Shoot: Bar Owner, Evolving the Look


Lesson Info

Shoot: Group Portraits with Natural Light

Callie? Yes. That's just about exactly the way I would have framed this. Nice job! Hey thanks, Joe. Yeah. I got you. There you go, yeah. Alright, so, first thing I'm going to do, what's the first thing I'm going to do? Aperture priority, right, aperture prior-- Who said Aperture priority? Who said that? Was that you, Suzy? Yes it was. No, no. (laughter) Are you mocking me now Suzy? Okay. (laughter) Alright, so, yeah, so I just do this. Okay and it looks actually you know, pretty nice. Pretty nice for a group picture. I would be remiss not to shoot it just as is. So everybody just go over there and stand by the doors. And then we'll start sorting this out. Occupy the whole thing. Oh you're going to do this to me now, right? You're going to do this to me. A line up. Yeah, it's a line up. (laughter) Alright, Josh. Go to the very end, yeah, yeah, the edge. Alright, face the camera, turn to the left. And show the tattoo, no, alright here we go. Everybody just pick their sp...

ot, and kind of hang out. Nice, everybody looks good. Suzy? There was plastic. Oh there was plastic. (laughter) Okay, good thank you. I'm glad you did that, because that plastic was bugging the hell out of me, you know. Photoshop in real life. Alright here we go. (shutter clicks) Alright, nice soft light, easy going picture, people are out of the frame, it's too wide. I need everybody to sort of self contain. Which means now I have to start doubling up, layering up. Now, while I do this, remember, it's Seattle, it's gray outside. It's getting on to the late afternoon. This lovely beautiful light is going to disappear. Okay, absolutely going to disappear. And then we'll have to go from there. Okay, so, alright guys could you help me with some apple boxes. Ken? Yes. Are you actively employed at this point? (laughter) I hope so. (laughter) Alright, so let's put two apple boxes horizontally right about here. Let's do this, let's get more height. No, let's put that on top of that. Alright, Ken? Get up on that please. Alright. Alright cool, there we go. Alright, I've been thinking about this for about 24 hours. Cause I think Ken is perfect up there, don't you? Why do I, (laughter) Why do I think that? I don't know, probably what he just did. Okay, alright, now Nick, you go right next to him. Put your shoulder, your back into-- I'm going to be touching people, is that okay? I'm going to position your shoulders. Is everybody cool with that? One of the things, one of the absolute maxims I use, on the set, whenever I'm working with an individual model I never touch anybody unless I ask them. Okay, so, do I get a blanket kind of okay about that? Alright, that's looking pretty good, Nick. Alright, cool. Now, Suzy, right in here. Do you want them close to the wall? Yeah, yeah, I do. Okay, now, may have just done a strategic mistake. Anybody pick up on that? A lot of black. A lot of black, a lot of black. Shandy, switch positions with Suzy. Cause now, I have the choice of black and medium gray, whoo! (laughter) Oh my goodness, let me just have a moment here. Scooch this way for me, just a tiny bit. Okay, cool, now, okay. Danny, come in next to here, we'll do the, this will be the testosterone section of it here. Okay, you know, Bob? You're going to be kind of one of my book ends, cause you're kinda tall. So stay at the edge of the steel there. (laughter) Yeah, it's going to be a little less formal than you know, a firing squad here okay? (laughter) Alright? Now what I'm not going to do though is, put somebody with a light colored, shirt or blouse at the end of my photograph, right? So that means, that somebody with kind of a darkish tonality, is going to be at the end. Cliff, I'm going to push you out to this end a little bit. Keep going a little bit, alright. Now, can I get another couple of apple boxes, please Brad? No, no we're going to do this a little bit differently. I'll tell you what, well I'm not sure why I would do this, but I'm going to put this guy, like this and Tonya, have a seat there. Nice. Good, okay, Kiako, slide in behind Tonya over there. Okay, let's give Kiako one horizontal apple box to stand on, please? Like this one? Yeah, like that, yep. Alright. (laughter) Nothing about you Kiako, I just made you about the same height as Nick. Alright, we've got to keep those together. Alright, let's put another horizontal apple box on top of that one, and put Kiako up on there. Are you afraid of heights? No. You're okay, alright, good. Alright, cool. Guys, feel free to chip in here, any information. Okay, you know. (laughter) Or, am I interrupting your latte? Lynn, Lynn, Lynn, I know I'm checking Talk to me, talk to me. I'm one with you on that so far. Alright. Yeah it looks like we're in a good spot. Alright, Hailey, given that expression I'm going to put you right back in here. Okay I'm going to have your shoulder in front of Danny, right like that, good. I'm going to turn you a little bit this way. Cool, alright, now Tony I think green goes good in there. Alright, so, okay, you got to turn that shoulder this way. Cool, good, good, good. Alright, now. I think we need a little light over here, and another box. Joe this feels a little, too much goin' on over here. I think there may need to be another box, like a one horizontal, someone a little smaller. Somebody up there, yeah. Okay, alright, work that out for me. (laughter) Hey you opened your mouth, now solve it. Okay, back a little bit. Okay, thanks Brad. We'll have to see-- That's nice. That's nice. Alright, Josh, let me see all the rest of the folks who aren't posed, just gather in there. I think instead of going too, too wide, I think bring a couple people from the sides in. Yep, it's too heavy over there. Yes definitely. Alright. Maybe get some color over here. Because we have that center seam in the doors that we need to keep, as our center point too. Yep, yep, alright, I'll tell you what. Let's, let's get a couple of people towards camera, on apple boxes. Let's get a set of apple boxes over here, at a comfortable position. Maybe get Dillon on one of those. Do you want them standing or sitting? Sitting on that, let's try that. Okay, nice, alright? See I like what you're doing, there Josh. But that shirt, and that shirt? You know, didn't you guys call each other this morning? (laughter) You know, I don't know, I don't know what I'm going to do here. What if we put Cliff in here, and then put the flannels on the outside here? Alright, that sounds good, Cliff, come on in. There we go, that's looking better. Alright. And do we through, We actually have a quarter. Do we just try, let's just see. Yeah, something like that? Yeah, okay. A little texture there. Cool. alright, now we're still too heavy on this end. Yes. Alright, so, but I can't put Bob down here with Josh, cause those aren't you know... Just a little clash of color. (laughter) Yes. That's my, my spot. Okay, Tony come on down here. Bob you tighten up there a little bit. Okay, good, good. Alright, that's starting to work a little bit better. Okay, good, good, good, alright. That's your camera. Alright, how do we feel about that? I think Victoria is too far forward. Tuck yourself back in there, just a touch Victoria. Okay, Dillon, tiny bit, like an inch back for me. Cool, cool, alright nice. I think we're still too heavy on this side. Well, or we can move in a little closer too? (laughter) Do we sit someone here, to kind of like bring that level back down? Yeah, yeah. Why don't you take a seat, and we'll try this. Okay, and you can position your body, this way. Yeah, there you go, very cool, okay great. Yeah, like that, there you go. Alright, cool, cool, cool. Tony, turn outwards from the photograph, reverse your position, that's better. And come a little bit forward, a tiny bit forward, nice. Alright, Nick, we've got... Do we have that horned helmet for Nick? That I was talking about yesterday? (laughter) The viking? Okay, the viking. Alright, so there'll be some tweaks here, but let's do this. We could spot the start at least? Yes, it's a good spot the start. Now. [Indiscernible] I would fix this. Oh yeah, because we have two, patterns. Oh we've got a couple plaids? Maybe if we switch them? Try that, give it a try. Maybe, yes. Okay, go ahead and switch. Now your body position will be out, okay and if you can, just scooch up a little bit here, great. Alright, now what do you think, let's see. Alright, the way this is setting up, in camera is, Hailey, If you could take that box and go in, just about two or three inches, that's it, better. Okay, good, good, good. Alright, now I'm going to drop my focus on Tonya. Middle of the group. (laughter) What do you think, f-stop should be here, to get everybody sharp? 24-70mm lens, at about 30mm on it. Eight. (stutter click) Let's see how we do here. Okay, alright, not bad. not bad. Let me come in here just a tiny bit. Nice, I still feel like I'm skewing this way, am I? Alright. (shutter click) Alright, so is the internet that's listening in, are they upset with me at this point? I'm just using available light? You know, anybody could do this. Not upset with you, just wondering if you could talk through sort of, what you the angles and the positions that they're at now. I'm sorry? Oh, wondering if you could talk through sort of the angles and positions that they're at now, and what you're liking or not liking. Okay, yeah I can do that. [Indiscernible] Sure, sure. Bob if you could just come in a tiny bit. Awesome. Yeah, cool, thank you. And yeah, make sure that you're filling that space there. That's good, right, perfect. I feel like Bob might be too far back, on that side, because our end over here is... Like forward yeah, yes, yes, yes. So Bob if you'd come forward a little bit? Like away from the wall. There we go. Yup, yup. See now, now what's happening is, when we pull people around, I'm starting to look through camera here, we're kinda curving the group so there's more of an embrace to the shape and design of it, that's basically it. And we'll just take a look again here and see how we do. You guys look absolutely fantastic. 1/10th of a second at 5.6, I have no compensation on my apeture priority dialed in. Now here's the thing, if I want to be safe, I would prefer to be at F11, right? Be at F11, alright. Over there? Stay where you are, you're good. Tony, tony needs to come up a little bit, because right now, what's happening is Dillon's head was coming right to the end of Tony's chin, and so it would look like I don't know, they could be a circus act, potentially. So you don't want that to happen. Alright, so that's not bad positioning. Now here's the thing, here's the conundrum. At F11, and I am currently at ISO200, which, let's presume we wanna make a big print for you guys, are a design firm, and you wanna make a big print for the hallway, do I wanna shoot this at ISO1600? No. Do I want to be at F11? Close, at least F8, but F11 is currently giving me, a shutter speed, of a half a second. Am I gonna trust the job to a half a second? No, cause you guys have had too much caffeine. And that's as lovely as this looks, and it looks quite nice, okay, the light is very embracing and all of that sort of stuff. It's probably, if I really wanted to rattle through things here, let's do this let's go to even at ISO1600 I'm at 1/15th of a second. (shutter clicks) But I'm not gonna let it go, I'm gonna shoot it, okay, and make sure I have it, just in case, I don't know. What could happen, I don't know what could happen. Now also too, if I pinch in to this...

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Joe McNally Gear List
McNally Lighting Diagrams

Ratings and Reviews


What is there to say, this is a master at work. I feel like I owe Joe a hundred lunches for the information I’ve learned from him and used in jobs through the years. Personally I relate to his slightly self-deprecating style quite well. Joe’s a confident, supremely knowledgeable and incredibly experienced photographer who doesn’t need to wear that on his sleeve to get the point across. He is also clearly a great leader who has built a terrific team. I snap up everything of Joe’s I can find and use it as a library, where every time you watch you take away something new. Thanks Joe, you’re a legend and good on Creative Live for offering this wonderful and beautifully curated course.

ileana gonzales photography

When I saw the chance to learn from the great Joe McNally I jumped through the screen at the chance to be in the audience. It's one thing to see how a fantastic photographer works, thinks, composes and styles, but to get a behind the curtain view at the way his entire shop operates was truly amazing. By allowing us to see Lynn's processes and Cali's workflow it encouraged me to diversify before taking the plunge into the business side of photography. Truly an amazing team and an unforgettable learning experience.


Joe is fantastic! The wealth of information, experience and extraordinary talent he shares is invaluable! He's also a very engaging, humorous instructor who keeps an audience a part of the "discussion." Don't miss a Joe McNally class, seminar or workshop opportunity!

Student Work