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Shoot: Group Portraits with Profolio Flashes and Umbrella

Lesson 39 from: Lighting, Logistics, and Strategies for a Life in Photography

Joe McNally

Shoot: Group Portraits with Profolio Flashes and Umbrella

Lesson 39 from: Lighting, Logistics, and Strategies for a Life in Photography

Joe McNally

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Lesson Info

39. Shoot: Group Portraits with Profolio Flashes and Umbrella


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 Profolio Flashes and Umbrella

You know, one of the things that you guys have seen in operation here, and you'll get the PDFs on this, is all this various gear that's going on. And I just again, I urge you to, you know, as you go forward, accumulate quality stuff. The things that you see in that list might be a bit more expensive than a knock-off, right? But it's gonna stand you in good stead. I mentioned this earlier, this kind of a lifetime tripod. I lost a Gitzo tripod in the New York Harbor. It got knocked over by a 12-foot silk that was propelled by the wind in an act of absolute idiocy. I was photographing Gregory Hines, do you remember Gregory Hines, the dancer? At the end of a pier in New York, and I tried to use a 12-foot silk. It just wasn't working. So the wind took it, knocked my tripod, thankfully the camera wasn't on it, and two New York City divers saw that happen, and they worked on the piers, and they said, "We're divers, we know the river, want your tripod back?" And it's a $1200 tripod. I was like...

, "Yeah." He goes, "We'll charge you 300 bucks." I'm like, "Okay." So then I sent it in to Gitzo and I just put on the thing water damage. (laughter) And they repaired it! They repaired it. Sent it back to me. Clean, brand new. So these things stick with you. The cameras, choose your system. I'm a Nikon guy. ProPhoto, the most advanced, solid, dependable, large flash system out there. The SP5000, best Speedlight I've ever used. So take it as you would, but when I go into the field I have to be comfortable with the gear that I have. Okay. Now. Did you want to jump right into the SU4 of this? Do you want to pull this off or do you want to stick with -- Let's stick with the radio, for now. We okay? And that is now, you're putting them in D. Yeah, I have them in D now. Alright and that's group A. Yeah, 1A and then pull to D, and I have the plus seven built in already. Alright, thank you very much. So now we're back in a situation where I'm governing these with radio. They're responding TTL. I'm at TTL plus point 7. I'm just starting with this, I have no idea where it's gonna go. I'm not gonna deal with two different systems of TTL at this particular moment, I'm going to start this off in manual okay. Where are we now? We're at 10 on it. We're at 10, full blown 10. I can get start it lower if you want. Let's give it a try. Everybody look away for a second just in case. It's not that bad. Alright, it's too much. Let me take it down. I'm gonna take it down minus two stops. Alright. Cool. Alright. So now that gives me greater assurance of sharpness and also now I've got a little push of light. It's really lovely light. There's a push of light from over in here. Now maybe what I should do is get out of aperture priority. 'Cause now I've got two light systems and a TTL light, this and that. I'm juggling a lot of stuff. I'm at 25th at F11. So I'm gonna go into manual mode, and I'm gonna go, come on, into lets call it, let's take a stop of ambient light out of it. Let's go to a 50th at F11. Kinda cool. Kinda cool. Now if you notice the feathered position of this, when I tell Callie or Andrew to feather a light for me, if you notice they don't change the position of the light. They just swing it back and forth. If I say feather camera right, Callie's gonna take this light and go this way with it right? So now the bulk of this light is actually blowing past you. What does that do for me? It helps me get to that side of the group for sure, shorts the light a little bit coming in here, and also scoots me around the idea of a really blatant flash hit in this metallic door. Right? So I'm getting a little bit of glimmer, but it's not bad. Okay. How we feeling? Good. It actually feels like we might have a little too much low light now. Yeah. With the mixture. Yep. Everybody looks like they're from Hollywood now 'cause there's too much low light. Alright. I didn't change it though. Okay yeah I'll change it. (speakers mumble) Alright yeah. (laughs) Just let me do this by myself okay. I'm gonna take the low light down like a stop 'cause it's TTL right? And it's being effected by the other blow of light. So do this. See how that looks and feels okay. And now I'm gonna send those lights a signal. I'm gonna tap the intuit and I'm gonna go manual. And we are at a quarter power on manual. And that looks and feels pretty good. You guys on the computer over there? Yeah much better. It looks absolutely wonderful actually. (laughs) So alright. Alright you guys. Now that's a single blow, now that's two lighting systems operating in concert. It's a very good way to work. You know if I go into the field and I think I've got like a mildly sizeable job, I'll bring my small flash with me and I'll bring a ProPhoto kit. It's got two B1's, okay, in it, and it's got all the dressings. You know the radio transmitters and this and that. And the absolute magical thing that has happened is the radio systems of the D5 work with these, and it works with that and it decodes both and it's working really wonderfully well. So this is a complete kind of I can do just about anything set up. Shandy? I think you said, "Should I put them at 50 millimeters?" Yeah. What does that mean? Well that's the, yeah. That's the secret handshake though. We can't tell you that. I'm goofin with you. No here's the thing. If I have the dome diffusers on these guys, what happens? The light sprays and starts to hit the knees and stuff like that. If I have it wide, if I take that dome diffuser off, then it's directional. But if I have it wide, it's still kind of like scattering everywhere. So I kind of collect it. Usually when I bounce like this, I'm at 50 to 85. It concentrates the pool of light a little bit more and makes sure that the light goes boom down, and then lifts up at you guys, okay, without actually skating towards you in a hard fashion. Cool with that? Alright. Okay. So now. Let's do this. Alright Kaiako you've drifted a little bit. There you go. You gotta do that. Alright now. Anybody who is handy to somebody else, do exactly what Kaiako's doing to Nick. Lean on each other. Yep good, good. Alright here we go, here we go. Cool, cool, cool. Perfect, perfect, perfect. (camera shutters) (laughs) (camera shutters repeatedly) Performance art. Now you have to do stupid stuff right? You have to kind of get people along with you. If this was the, you know the board of governors of General Electric, I wouldn't do that you know. I would not do that. But you guys are a bunch of goofballs, so I'm fine about it you know. No we're just having fun together okay. And that's the main thing of a group photograph. Make it fast, make it fun. Make it an enjoyable experience for people who are out there with you. And then they walk away and it's like oh okay cool. And then they're happy to get the picture and all of that sort of stuff. Good stuff happens and you'll get called back. You know I had a very dear friend for many years, Rita, she was a fashion model in New York City. I shot her wedding for her many years ago. She had her wedding at a big photo studio in New York. Right and her being a fashion model, I just goofed around with everyone. We had big group photographs to do, but it was a photo studio. So I had a 12 foot silk and six speedotrons. You know and I shot at two and a quarter and it was great. And so I had Rita come to the front of the whole group who are a bunch of, you know everybody's standing there. Bunch of, lot of guys and stuff. And I said, "Alright Rita, "strike an incredibly dramatic fashion pose. "And then everybody else mimic her." You know so Rita went out and did one of these things and everybody's like this. You know you can find certain things to pull people along with. You definitely can. Alright. Now. Let's see. Where would we go from here you know? I'd like to actually get a couple more people. Sir, I apologize. I don't know your name. In the red plaid. Joe. Joe. That's-- (laughs) Can we build Joe a series of apple boxes. Would you mind being in the picture Joe? Okay. And let's put him as a kind of a corner stone on this side. Andrew and Ken are a little too close in height. I tell you what. Give Andrew that quarter. Okay. If you don't mind. [Man In Black hat] I'm gonna just step down so I can do that. Alright cool. Thank you bro. I'm just gonna have you jump up there. [Man In Black Hat] Alright cool. Thank you. And now let's give, let's give Cliff. Okay cool I'm just gonna-- Can we get a sandbag maybe and throw it into that one that Andrew's on? (laughs) I'll dive, yes this way. Perfect. Thank you. Thank you Lisa. [Man With Black Hat] Well you guys could hold me over here right? There it is. There it is. Yes perfect. Alright. Alright Joe would you mind getting up there? Can we sandbag Joe when he gets up there please? Joe. You got it? Alright cool. What do you guys think of that? Yeah that's good. That's kind of nice. I like the color. Do we switch Tony and Josh, plaid shirt goes to where Tony is, green comes in front of plaid? We can try that yeah. Yeah let's try that. Switch guys. Nice, nice. It's still plaid, plaid, and plaid. Plaid, plaid, plaid. Alright I tell you what. Brad. Yeah. No not Brad. (laughs) Brad. No you stay where you are. Danny you switch places with Josh. Oh no I can't do that. Plaid. I know. It's a problem. All you men with your plaid shirts. Can't do it. Plaid shirts, plaid shirts. Okay. Alright. (laughs) Alright I tell you what. Brad you go in and take Josh's spot. Josh you just have to be out of the picture. Oh no. I'm kidding man come on. Now. Let's see. Ken, let's see, you need to go a foot that way. Take the boxes. Come down. Come down first. (laughs) Take the boxes, go that way. Good. Good. Alright Josh get in there behind Shandy. Alright good. Now Josh come forward a little bit. Cool. What do we think of that? Yeah that 'cause at least the black breaks it up a little. The black breaks it up a little bit. Okay now we've got kind of a topographical map going on up in here. Varying heights of people. Okay cool, cool, cool. Kaiako you know, you need Nick. He's your rock. Your strength. Now Cliff, let's give an apple box to Cliff. Cliff fade back in please. And what I want you to try to do Cliff is let's put the apple box kind of horizontal flat on the ground please. Back. Let's try this Cliff. If you go behind that apple box and put your right leg up on it. That'll break your stance up a little bit. Okay cool. I'm feeling like you-- Suzy you're good. Alright. Come out a little bit. Tonya you're good. You've been our center piece all day long. There you go. Let's see how that works in the picture. Alright so let me see how this works out. I want to just do a preliminary test. What are we thinking? Those are pretty good. Mhm. Yeah I feel a little clustered right here. Yeah maybe Tony edge out this way just a tiny bit. Yep. Actually now he looks a little too far. This hole in here though is-- The hole in there? We could put-- I like this. Can Nick go up on a small box? [Man With Black Hat] We have a quarter over here. Sure let's pop Nick up on a box. You think this is too small or should I go-- I think go with a full. Okay. And Nick maybe you have to go like two inches that way when we get that box in there for you. Yeah I think that might be better. Okay nice, nice. Yeah there you go. Even better yeah go for it. Good. Alright. Cool. So are you guys, is this valuable educationally like seeing all this kind of? Trying to have fun with it right, you know. And you know trust me. Those group photographs you see in the three page gate folds of the magazines and all of that you know. I mean they're all, for instance when I shot Michelle Pfeiffer for Life. I had her for basically 24 hours. It was a major, major story. I had a fashion model work with me for about three days 'cause we had to establish 10 setups that we had to do. We had to take notes, everything, lock it all down, shoot right through the night. Okay and then she got on a jet and she left. So I hired a fashion model who had her exact measurements: height, weight, everything. And she came in and I got all my lighting tracked down that way. Okay and trust me all these big group photographs that you see, they are planning that stuff out like crazy okay. There's people standing in, lighting is blocked. It's like days of preparation and then the big actors or actresses come in. They go right to where they're supposed to stand, and then everybody just thinks they're swell. So alright. Tony I think I actually drifted you a little too far. Go back-- I was just gonna say that. Yep. Alright nice, nice, nice. Cool. Tony relax a little bit. You got that kind of sort of, you talkin to me. Alright you know kind of thing going on. Alright here we go, here we go. Good, good, good. Nice. Good posing, good posing. Nice job. Veronica could you-- (laughs) Victoria there we go. There we go. That's happening now. That's happening. Here we go. She's like, "What a jerk. "Oh my god." (camera shutters repeatedly) Beautiful big light right? I'm done with my exposure. It's recycled. Boom, boom, boom. I'm able to move alright. Do that at a distance with small flash, you gotta wait a little bit. Let's do this. Let's kill this, and replace it with this. Okay. Same attitude and direction. So now let's do this entire thing with small flash. (gasps) Oh my god. All I can say Joe is the internet is definitely calling for you to be in the last shot. (claps) And Callie can take the picture. Sorry? Have Callie take it. Yeah. That's right. Joe do you want me to do indirect, or do you want me to shoot through here? Let's go with a reflected. Okay. Yeah. We'll get more scatter out of it. Why would I go with reflected in this instance? (groups murmurs) It's gonna scatter more, and also with the uncovered shoot through aspect of it, I may get a hit you know. The soft box is different 'cause it's got black sides. Now with the parabola, an uncovered umbrella is really gonna radiate you know. It's gonna be hard to manage. Alright so jump that (mumbles) off the top. Yeah let's get rid of this. Let's feather a little bit left. Alright. Alright so group A is again this right? The bounces right? Actually you know what? We'll make these B for this. Make these B okay. And that up there now is group A. True? Yeah. Okay cool. Yeah we'll go B on those. Now I'm gonna have to make some adjustments here. I anticipate that anyway, but I'll start my main light out at zero zero. And what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna drop these out. I'm gonna kill them. So now that I'm reordering my lighting, what I'm gonna do is make sure that I start with my main light first. And I'm gonna see what this does, first and foremost. Okay. Testing. Don't have to waste all those magnificent poses on this. Alright. Okay. Alright. Predictable, a little brighter over here. Darker, let me pump it up by one and a third stops. Alright cool. Here we go again. Much better. Much better. Okay feels good. Feels good. Now let's add the low skips. Again I'll start off at the TTL zero zero. (man mumbles) (laughs) Or that. Just don't see. Thanks brother. Can we put Brad up on four apple boxes now please? Alright so I'm gonna compare the last photograph, yeah that low skip, powering up the low skip is very helpful. Absolutely. That is really, really nice light. And I've got this group covered, and we are Speedlights all the way through. And how many people are we? Four, eight, 12, 16, 17 people. Okay. That's good. That's a good thing okay. Speedlights. Alright, alright. We did it with big flash. We did it with small flash. We did it available light. We did it with a floor skip. All that sort of stuff going on. And it's all been fairly seamless. And if you notice what I'm doing here is I'm just playing with ratios. How much is outputting here. How much is outputting there. Being careful of glasses. Being careful of posing, but obviously I have really good help okay in that regard. Okay here we go. Now. Would you, would you do the laugh? Would you hate me? Oh my gosh. I'll do it with you. I'll do it with you. You gotta tell them the story first. Callie's got this laugh, and every once in a while we pull it out of the bag. He always makes me do it in front of rich people. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Callie calls it his rich guy laugh. And, and it's definitely from a country club someplace. So come on over Callie. Alright. Alright you ready guys? Now just look at the camera. Stay looking at the camera. Ready? (laughs obnoxiously) What's wrong with you guys? It broke the ice. It broke the ice. It definitely helped. Andrew try not to screw this up for me okay? (camera shutters) Pretty fast recycle. Not bad. Not bad. And I'm at F11. And I'm at ISO 800. So let's do this. Let's just risk uncertainty here for a second. Okay. And let's take it down to ISO 200. So. Let's see how the TTL likes that. Hear it? Now it's struggling. Now it's struggling. Okay, yes? I have three minutes left. (laughs) Let's do this in two 'cause you're just not that interesting. Oh, oh. Those are inside words. (mumbles) get loose on the set. Those are like, ever see the movie Raising Arizona when John Goodman and his brother break out of prison and they come out of the mud, and they're just going ah. My assistant and I, Gabe and I, we had a really tough corporate job and we'd be absolutely done, packed up, and driving away from the corporate headquarters, the two of us would just start going (yells). Alright. I think it's your turn to get in there now Joe. Alright let's go back to ISO 800. Now I've screwed everything up. Okay cool. Alright. Get in there Joe. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. (claps) Have a box. I'll go over here. I'll go over here. You're gonna hide? You didn't have a box-- (speakers talk over each other) Dillon kind of you know. Where's your middle apple box? Get in the middle Joe. You want him in the middle? Everybody wants him in the middle. Everyone wants you in the middle Joe. [Man In Black Hat] I think the internet wants you in the middle. The internet wants you in the middle. That's right. That's a good spot. Oh lord. (laughs) There you go. Perfect, perfect. (camera shutters) That's perfect. Yeah Joe get the laugh in here real quick. (laughs) That's a good one there. And there. We're good. Alright. (group claps) Alright. Joe. This has been an epic workshop. We have so many people thinking you from all over the world, and we're just wondering if you have any final thoughts. Any final words of wisdom. Something you'd tell yourself if you were just starting out or a go forth and conquer. What have you got for people? No I don't. You know. If you're a young photographer listening, just remember this a marathon not a sprint okay. There will be lots of ups and downs. And just make sure you keep loving doing this because if you don't really love it, then it ain't worth doing 'cause it's really kind of hard to do actually. So you know hang in there. As Spock said, "Light long and prosper."

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