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Thread: Help! Family group shots on an overcast, dreary day

  1. #1
    Andrew76's Avatar
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    Help! Family group shots on an overcast, dreary day

    Hello - I'm in a small panic. I'm going out to shoot some family group shots for a friend of mine in about 3 hours at a 'Natural Conservation Area'. I've have done work like this in the past for engagement photos, personal family photos, etc, with success. The problem today however, is that it is dismal, grey, dreary, and almost raining outside. I've tried to re-schedule the event, but the lady in charge is insisting that it be today, as it's the only day she will have all of her children together.

    I have two camera bodies, both equipped with speedlite flashes, I have numerous reflectors etc, but can anyone offer me any advice as to what to do about the unfortunate natural lighting????

    Help please!!

  2. #2

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    Re: Help!!

    I think all you can do is to virtually ignore the natural light and consider it to be an indoor scene.

    You may find that shooting in AV (Aperture mode) will allow you to 'mix and match' the lighting. But this might mean longer exposures so make sure you use a tripod and get everybody to adopt a static pose for a little longer than normal.

    And, of course, beware of complicated backgrounds which could cause unwanted highlights or very deep shadows.

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    Andrew76's Avatar
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    Re: Help!!

    Thanks Geoff, that helps me quite a bit. I'll let you know how I make out!

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Help!!

    Andrew

    Saw your dilemma, but since what Geoff said made sense, I thought it best not come in and overload you with other ideas at such short notice.

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    Re: Help!!

    Hi Andrew,

    Normally, this kind of lighting is GREAT lighting for portraiture because it's even (diffused) - so no harsh shadows to worry about (in fact, what's called "directional diffused light" - where it's overcast, but the sun is still making one area brighter than other - is THE best lighting for outdoor portraiture) (I cross all fingers and toes hoping for that kind of light!). Remember - just because it's a dull and dreary day - doesn't mean to say that's how the camera sees it that way. Levels etc are adjusted afterwards (and the camera will choose a lower shutterspeed to compensate for the reduced available light).

    So ...

    Usual stuff ...

    - Choose an appropriate aperture (F11? F16?)

    - Shoot from a tripod

    - Point your flashes at the group

    - Review the results on the screen (don't rush) and reshoot if necessary.

    - Be careful where you're focusing

    - Enjoy!

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    Andrew76's Avatar
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    Re: Help!!

    Awesome - thanks Donald and Colin - I really appreciate the 'last minute' efforts! Great advice, I'll let you know how I make out - and if I don't, I'll hold you all personally responsible!!

    Haha, thanks again guys!

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    Re: Help!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew76 View Post
    Awesome - thanks Donald and Colin - I really appreciate the 'last minute' efforts! Great advice, I'll let you know how I make out - and if I don't, I'll hold you all personally responsible!!

    Haha, thanks again guys!
    No worries Andrew.

    Don't worry, I'm a very responsible person. If anything goes wrong ...

    ... generally, I'm responsible!

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    Andrew76's Avatar
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    Re: Help!!

    Wow, that was stressful!! One of the sons decided he didn't want his picture taken, so he decided not to show up at all - needless to say, the mother was beside herself, no one wanted to be there, the only saving grace was that it didn't rain!! I fired off 256 shots between two lenses, and managed to get a couple decent ones - I just got home, and here's the first one I've looked at. Let me know what you think! A busy night of sorting ahead - wish me luck!

    Help! Family group shots on an overcast, dreary day

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    Re: Help!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew76 View Post
    Wow, that was stressful!! One of the sons decided he didn't want his picture taken, so he decided not to show up at all - needless to say, the mother was beside herself, no one wanted to be there, the only saving grace was that it didn't rain!! I fired off 256 shots between two lenses, and managed to get a couple decent ones - I just got home, and here's the first one I've looked at. Let me know what you think! A busy night of sorting ahead - wish me luck!

    Help! Family group shots on an overcast, dreary day
    Hi Andrew,

    Bet you wouldn't have got that shot if they were sitting in full sunlight

    Not sure if you're seen this or not, but I've just kicked off a new thread in my School of Portraiture series - this one titled "taking it to the next level" - this shot would slot right in perfectly with the discussions I hope to have there. If you're interested, you can find it here.

    PS: I'm reminded of a shoot I did as a favour to someone - son refused to get out of the car - mother was yelling at him - he was practically in tears ... and I had to turn all of that into a "beautiful family portrait" -- ever get the feeling that it wasn't going to end well?

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    Andrew76's Avatar
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    Re: Help!!

    Nice, thanks Colin! I'll add it to your thread soon! Thanks for your input as well, I hope I can get a handful of others from the lot that will make the family happy!

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    Re: Help!!

    I have very little experience with portraits. That said, I think the image is a pretty good one. I know getting the proper light on faces under hats is a task and you did a pretty good job in that regard. They look spontaneous and comfortable. I like that she is holding only three of the four fingers on his left hand. It sort of adds to the spontaneous result. Originally, I thought she was looking a little down through her specs and thought perhaps her chin should come down to match her boy but at second glance she looks like she may be leaning back into his shoulder a bit. That makes it loving and intimate in my opinion. A tick more light on his face would be picky but preferred. Nonetheless, I think it is a really nice image. Looking forward to more after your long night of sorting.

  12. #12

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    Re: Help!!

    With a little bit of processing you should be able to get something acceptable from that photo.

    I recently had similar problems with a couple of events at my local regatta; particularly the Greasy Pole and the Line Dancing.

    In both cases, the dull evening light was impossible for relatively fast action scenes so I had to use high speed flash at 1/640 and ISO 800 to try for an overall scene which was a little too far away. And as an additional problem, I was shooting the greasy pole from a dinghy.

    I encountered problems with background 'noise' but your photo seems quite crisp, even in the background.

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    Re: Help!!

    Thanks Scott, and Geoff - I will try to post some more tonight when I get home, I managed to get through a few of them last night, I have some good ones, unfortunately, being rushed, a lot of the shots (of different family members) have similar backgrounds. Everyone was in a rush to get out of there, and so no one wanted to walk through the woods to look for different scenery. Oh well.

  14. #14
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    Re: Help!!

    Sorry, I've been meaning to post some other shots - here's another... See what you think!

    Help! Family group shots on an overcast, dreary day

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