Long-time friend Ken Bloehm asked me to take a group photo of a large singing group, the Aiken Singers, and I said “yes” way too quickly. Only then did I start thinking about how to do it.
First, don’t make the mistake of getting too close and using a wide-angle lens. With a wide angle lens and a flash on the camera, the people at the ends – and the people in the back rows – would end up a lot smaller and a lot darker than those front row center. In order to see all those faces, I wanted to get high. I brought a big step stool and stood on the highest step, about 35 feet back from the singers.
The challenge was how to light such a large group in a relatively dark church. Fortunately I had all the tools I needed at hand. I needed a lot of light. Well, I’ve got a PROmaster SL200 speedlight, which is amazingly powerful. I set it to full power in the manual mode. (without going into detail, that unit has enough settings it can do anything!)
I wanted to get the flash even higher than the camera, and behind me so it was even farther from the group than the camera. Why? Because a more distant light means the back row of singers won’t be much darker than the front row.
To get the flash really high I used a PROmaster LS-4 light stand. The LS-4 let me get the flash up 13 feet plus. That put it comfortably above my head and the camera lens, so shadows fall behind the subject and it also minimizes red eyes.
With the flash a few yards away from the camera, I had to use a wireless trigger system. (also from PRO). A transmitter sits in the camera’s accessory shoe, and the flash into the receiver.
I set the camera to ISO 400, the lens to f5, the shutter to 1/160th second.
How can you get all the subjects to keep their eyes open? I used the old trick of waving my left hand and saying “keep your eyes on my hand” to make sure all the eyes were open. Now if I could just have gotten rid of those front couple of pews…
There’s a really big print of this photo at the store.