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Lens Choice

Lesson 2 from: Lighting & Posing Large Groups

Lindsay Adler

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Lesson Info

2. Lens Choice

Next Lesson: Depth of Field

Lesson Info

Lens Choice

So we are going to start with lens choice. There is no one right focal length, and something that I want to mention as well, is the focal lengths that are going to work for groups, it also matters your distance, from the group. So I'll show you how this comes into action. A 35 millimeter, you're far enough away getting a big group, you're not going to see the distortion. But a 35 millimeter a couple feet away from the group, it's going to be disastrous. So it's actually more than just what lens works for everything. My recommendation is, usually go a little bit longer. My mistake that I made early on, was if there was a big group and I'm in a small space, I don't have much room to back up, so I just use a super wide angle lens. The problem with that is several fold. First of all, you use a wide angle lens. What it does, is it exaggerates distance. So if you think about this, the example that I always use, say you have a tree in the foreground, and there's a mountain in the background, ...

and I'm up close to that tree and I use a wide angle lens, the tree looks huge and the mountain is small in the background. Exaggerates the distance. It exaggerates it. The thing in the foreground looks huge, the thing in the back looks tiny. And they look so far away. But if I can back up and use a super long lens, it makes them look closer. So, what ends up happening, if I am using a wider angle lens on a group, the people in the foreground look really close to me, and huge, and the people that are a couple rows back have little heads and look far away. One thing if you can err on the side of a longer lens, if you can back up and zoom in a little bit, it's usually going to help the group look more unified. So keep that in mind. Wider focal length exaggerates distance. The longer one compresses it. If you want people to look closer together, more like a group, and unified, use longer. But it's a balance, because if you're in a small space, you might not be able to back up and use a 200 millimeter lens. It's kind of back and forth between the two. I'm going to show you some examples. So I mention this as well. These are kind of the rules you want to keep in mind. Wide exaggerates, long compresses, but also, whatever's closest looks bigger, whatever's furthest looks smaller. Wide angle exaggerates this. So these are the things you're balancing. So, if I back up, I use a longer lens, if I can. So we're going to take a look at this. So this is an example I did of this super cute family. The girl in the bottom left has been my assistant, one of my assistants for several years. I invited her to come in and have a cute little family portrait done. In this shot, I'm shooting at 24 millimeters. It's not that it looks terrible, but if you actually look at it, they're out of proportion. The two people in the foreground look much bigger and everyone in the background has smaller heads and look further away. This is bad for two reasons. First of all, it's not putting them in proportion. You want everyone to have the correct body proportion. Also, they don't look like a family. They don't look as united because there is distance between the two of them. What I did is I switched from a 24 millimeter, backed up a little, and then I used a 65. 24. 65. Look at the girl on the bottom left. That's Raquel. Look how much more in proportion to everyone she looks. So you can actually see here, an example of me, this is me shooting in the first shot with the 24. So I'm not saying I'm not shooting 24 like at their feet, exaggerating it. I don't think if you're shooting in a small space that's necessarily an unreasonable distance. But because I chose 24, it does exaggerate them. Now if I can back off just a few feet, but switch to 65 millimeters, it makes that much of a difference. So, back up, use a slightly longer focal length, if you can. Now, we'll take a couple more examples here. Now, let's say you're like, great Lindsay, but I'm shooting a big group and I'm in a tiny space. I can not back up. So what you're trying to keep in mind, is remember whatever is closest to the camera looks largest. Whatever is further looks smaller. What you want to try to do with your camera angle, is have everybody roughly the same distance. So for example, if you're looking at this shot, let's say that I'm like sitting everyone in and I'm doing this. I'm getting nice and low. Well if there's a group stacked, when I do this, the people in the front are going to be closer to me than the people in the back. They'll look bigger. So what I try to do is I try to think of drawing lines to the heads for distances. I try to find a height that puts everyone roughly at the same distance, if I have to use a wide angle lens. A small space, for example. So in this shot, all I did was go from photographing them from here, to photographing them to here. That was the biggest difference. So 24 to 24. 24, 24. It's actually just my height changing. It makes a difference, and I think that was something I missed because if you've seen me, I'm a very active shooter. So I do this. I'm shooting all over. I'm up and down. The problem is, I wasn't realizing from here to here, totally changes what the shot looks like. So your focal length will make a difference, try to go longer and back up and zoom in, but if you have to go wider, try to get it so everyone's about equidistant. One more thing. The next thing, we're going to actually talk about depth of groups. So how deep the layers of the group is. How deep that is. In general, the more compressed you can make that group, putting everyone's faces lined up on the same plane, the better. There are several reasons for this. We're going to talk about focus and depth of field next. Let's say that one group of people here, like this is the camera, okay? One group of people here. One group of people here. One group of people here. These are going to be several feet away, and so they're going to be smaller unless you are super far away, using a longer lens to compress the distances. So let's say you're stuck again, shooting at 24 millimeter. You're in a small space, your stuck with 24, 35, whatever it may be. You've got several layers of people, so the ones in the back look small. What you have to do is whatever you can to squish that distance, so people may be uncomfortably close and touching. But too bad. It looks good, so it's fine. So what you have people do for example, is you'll have them so that their thighs are right up against the people in the back. Or if they're a little bit forward, you actually have them lean out, so let's say someone's sitting here, you're actually leaning the heads out, over top, trying to line up the heads as much as you possibly can. And a side bonus, if you've watched any of my videos on posing, or read my book on posing, whatever is closest to the camera looks biggest. Face and chest is bigger, hips and waist are smaller. So it actually has a benefit. So taking a look here, I don't have them leaning back particularly far in the back. All they're doing is they're just standing there straight up with their hands on everyone's shoulders. So in this shot, if you look at my 35 millimeter, people in the foreground, they are distorted. All I'm going to do in this shot, the people in the background, instead of standing up straight like this, just going to have them lean in. So keeping the same focal length, standing up straight, leaning in. Up straight. Leaning in. See how it puts their heads more in proportion? What you want to be careful of, is what often happens in group shots. Is people do this. Because you say, okay lean forward. Line up your head with the person in front of you. So they go like this. So what happens, is A, everything gets rounded. They look shorter, they have no neck. They're hunched and it tends to make someone look heavier. Therefore, they're not going to like their group photo. So what I try to do if possible, is instead of having them crouch and do this, is I will try to have them put one foot almost between the person in front of them, like just hide it, And then they can lean, because watch how my neck is longer when I lean versus if I do this. It's a totally different look. So I put one foot in between, lean with the chest and then chin down. It makes a big difference to what people look like. They're kind of on the verge here. They're almost hunching, but it's pretty good. You'll also notice just as a note here, if you watch out for the arms around each other. Stay away from that as much as possible. Because the arms around each other when you try to lean, you get this. It's never going to be flattering. So I always try to do, if it's going to be a hand around the waist, or I'd rather do hand on the person in front, than the person beside. It just makes for better shapes. So, taking a look here. Here's where the group was in the first shot. They're not particularly far behind, a foot and a half, two feet max. And then I ask them to lean forward. That's what you're looking for. You're looking for that much of a lean, where the person's torso is almost hitting the person behind. Compress the group as much as possible to have everyone in proportion. Just as a note, if you're backing up and using a longer lens, this change is less noticeable, because that longer lens compresses distance, so when you see this movement with a long lens, you don't notice it as much. But this movement with a wide lens, you see instantly, which is what you saw in the previous shot. So, if you can back up, back up and zoom in, if not, compress your distance, get everyone equal distance from the lens if you can. Summarizing that, back up and zoom in, if you can use a 50 millimeter or longer, that's great. But I know if you're photographing a group of 100 people, it might not work. So just do all these things. Put all these things together. Just don't be wide and close. That's the only rule. No wide, no wide angle no close.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Group Posing Keynote

Ratings and Reviews

joanne duncan

I got do much out of this course, not just for shooting, but posing myself! I’m getting old, it’s hard to get a good selfie! Seriously though, this starts with epuipment, goes through settings, clearly shows what doesn’t work and why, and what does work and why. This is the second Lindsay course I’ve watched this week, and I’m anazed by what I’m retaining. Lindsay spells it out for anyone to understand, I highly recommend this class, and any class Lindsay teaches. I already have another lined up to watch! Simply brilliant, value for money even if it wasn’t on sale.

Dave Hogan

I have several of Lindsay's course and was lucky enough to see her at the Photography show in Birmingham (UK) earlier this year. I think this course is one of my favorites and has so many "group" shot tips & explanations that it's a no-brainier to any photographer to buy this it. It's great 10/10.

Rebecca George

What a brilliant, fast, well-organized, packed-with-useful-info class!! Lindsay is amazing.

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