Lighting 20+ people indoors

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by allison_thomas, May 13, 2010.

  1. Hi! I'm a lurker and have finally signed up!

    I have an upcoming wedding with some big indoor family group shots that will need to be done, maybe 20 people per group. I can stack them in 3 rows of 6/7 across or so but was wondering, given what gear I have below, what would be the best way to light this inside the church? The venue has average ambient lighting and would probably meter at 1/60, f/2.8 at 800 ISO.

    3-430ex (one is on its way to the graveyard)

    2-45" reflective umbrellas (white with removable black backing)
    1-60" umbrella (same)
    2-8 foot light stands.

    1-Pocket Wizard transmitter

    I'll shoot wide, maybe 15 feet back. 1/40 - 1/60 maybe(?). I'd like to keep this simple. I should have about 20 minutes to set up. I can't bounce because this place is too big. 20 people might not be big to you guys but I normally do very small weddings.

    So, given what I have, what combination would be best for this? I will be shooting at manual power and will get a reading with a light meter but just want to know if my flash units and umbrellas would have enough spread for even exposure with these size groups. If not, I need to get something else maybe. I tried practicing this in my garage but it just isn't the same. :)

    I've also searched the forum and have found some good general reading on this.

  2. If you have done a serach, pretty much everything is discussed here:
    Was there something else you are looking for?
  3. Was there something else you are looking for?​
    Well, yes. I read that thread a few days ago and that's what inspired me to start my own. But there's all kinds of different gear involved, everything from Sunpaks to reflectors. That's why I listed my specific equipment. Thought I could get some specific advice, customized especially for me. :)
    I'd like to try a single 60" umbrella, back about 15 feet just to my right and up 8' or so. With maybe the 580 or 2 of the 430's shooting into this single umbrella. (A single umbrella to eliminate cross shadows). Do you think that's enough power? Somebody suggested to shoot through the 60 incher with a 580 and positioning the umbrella way off to the right side of the group and feathering it a bit to spread some light on the end person on the other side. Not sure this will work though.
  4. A single 580EX with the wide angle diffuser down, full power, pointed into the 60" umbrella will work. It will give you f5.6 at ISO 400 at 10 feet from your subjects. Otherwise, if you pull it back to 15 feet (try 14 feet, which is closer to the multiple for stop difference in distance), you'd need ISO 800. See my test in the thread linked to above. I used my 60" umbrella, reflected, with the back covers on.
    If you put 2-580s into the umbrella, you'd gain a stop. If you used 2-430s, you'd lose 2/3 stop from the 2-580s set up.
    Closely packed rows would be OK with f5.6 if using around 35mm or wider (non cropped) focal length. Go to DOF master and check it out.
    Shoot through on a 60" umbrella won't give you the ability to feather particularly well. If you understand what feathering is, you are using the edges of a light source, and the 'far' edge of a shoot through umbrella (curved) will not 'reach' the opposite end of a group very well. This is why it is said that shoot through can hot spot. For me, the primary reason to use shoot through is so you can place your light source very close to your subjects. That, or the curved shape is an advantage, such as lighting a curved, horseshoe shaped group. Shoot through is also not as efficient re flash power.
  5. Funny thing is, I was just at a lighting seminar the other day (PPA sponsored) and like any seminar, the lead off was that you can't possibly learn it all in one seminar! But the great thing about the way the physics of light works is that it doesn't change. It the same today, as it will tomorrow, as it will next week. I suppose as we delete the ozone there is a chance our modifiers might catch on fire but the physics of light is the same.
    Your gear doesn't matter. That is to say, you aren't shooting with a 8x6 Larson softbox using a ProFoto strobe. You are essentially shooting with the same gear as outlined in the other thread. How you go about lighting it is all up to you. There were many different theories on how to light the shot in the other thread. One isn't any better than the other since better is subjective. Which leads back, what more can we tell you. It seems you are asking us to tell you exactly where to place your lights and what lights to use? How does that help you?
  6. It seems you are asking us to tell you exactly where to place your lights and what lights to use? How does that help you?
    Not to sound sarcastic but actually, that would help a lot. :)
    And I can appreciate seminars and lighting theory but I'm merely looking for general guidance from those who have similar gear to my own AND have shot groups of this size. You see, I won't get a chance to experiment with this, I can't round up 20 people for a BBQ and try it out nor can I replicate the light in the venue. I'll only get one opportunity at this, maybe two after an upcoming ceremony.
    Nadine: Thank you. I read how you did this in the other thread but thought you were using a Sunpak.
  7. Allison--I was using a Sunpak 120J. However, I tested the Sunpak and the 580EX II (with wide angle diffuser in place) pointed into my 60" umbrella.
    I happened to have my large umbrella out today to test something, and took some readings, in case it helps anyone. My Sunpak 120j at 1/2 power gives f5.6 and 2/3 at 10 feet (from the umbrella inside surface), ISO 400. If you have an on camera fill at approximately 1:3 ratio, your final aperture will be 1/3 to 1/2 stop smaller, meaning, with the above, your final exposure will be approximately f8. Light is additive so if you are dragging the shutter a lot, that will figure in too.
    I then tested my 580EX at full power (1/1) inside the umbrella, with the wide angle diffuser pulled out for maximum light spread. It tested f5.6 and 1/3.
    Even though you can't come close to having 20 people to experiment on, I'd still set everything up and test, even if you only have one person. You will then have a chance to determine where to set the umbrella in realtion to the flash, for instance, for ideal coverage of the flash beam inside the umbrella. This kind of thing, we can't tell you. Then, have a back up plan, such as on camera flash, if, for some reason, your plan doesn't work. Or use of two flashes, one on each side.
  8. I don't see a need for the wide angle diffuser for spread in a 60" umbrella; 24mm zoom setting is generally sufficient to spread the light IMO.
    What I do is put two shoot-through umbrellas in the center and point them outward toward the edges of the group. That said, I may go back to pointing two umbrellas directly towards the group and separated from each other by about 6-10 feet just to see if I like the output better.
    Camera settings be darned, I get what I get. I don't expect miracles and I don't get them - I do a test shot and adjust my camera to what is necessary.
    20 people is a fairly large number for me; if there was a dynamic environment to pose people against instead of just an altar, it can be much more interesting.
  9. I don't see a need for the wide angle diffuser for spread in a 60" umbrella; 24mm zoom setting is generally sufficient to spread the light IMO.​
    I was wondering the same thing. If you make the shaft longer (put the speedlight further away from the umbrella surface this should do the same thing? And maybe not lose the 2/3 stop of light because of the diffuser flap. I'm a little hesitant to question Nadine's advice though. :)
    What I do is put two shoot-through umbrellas in the center and point them outward toward the edges of the group.​
    This is interesting but won't work for a full length group shot. The umbrellas would be in the way.
    I think where I'm at right now is to shoot two 430's in the 45" reflective umbrellas, one to each side at 1/2 power. Then maybe the 580 right over the lens axis for fill light with the WA diffuser flap down.
  10. As a 2nd shooter that does the occasional solo wedding I can't justify the cost but most of the people I work with use higher powered strobes/mono lights to do the things speedlights just weren't designed to do. You can get an AB1600 for the price of a single 580ex with change to spare. Of course you'll need that change to buy a 100' extension cord as portable power costs almost as much as the AB itself. :)
    And at the risk of irking the strobist camp, my point here is to use the right tool for the job at hand. If you're ever going to be in a situation where power is needed then get something that will deliver that power. I just don't buy into using speedlights exclusively for weddings.
  11. I'm betting that if you tested the 580EX into the umbrella with and without the diffuser, you aren't going to get much of a difference if at all, and filling the umbrella surface makes a difference in light quality. But I could be wrong. I like to pull the umbrella in close to the flash to help with weight distribution on the stand. The closer the umbrella to the center of axis on the stand, the better.
    Test it and see. Report back to us. I'd be interested.
  12. Also, when using two shoot throughs as a bank of light, you set up once, and use your zoom to frame the subsequent groups, with the camera remaining 'under' the bank, so you set up for your largest group.
    If your plan to use two 45" umbrellas, you won't need fill light. The umbrellas are throwing frontal light anyway. You may need the third, on camera flash to add to and even out the light, but not for fill.
    And, I am not infallible. Question all you want. I may learn something.
  13. If you stack the people in 3 rolls and your lights are too close to the people, about 8 feet or less, you could experience a 1 stop variation between the first row of people the second and the third. For example when the flash fires the first row is dead on regarding the exposure, the second row may be 1/2 under and the third is 1 under.

    If you can move our lights way back, 25 feet or so, the lighting will be more even, maybe just a 1/4 stop between all 3 rows.

    Keep your lights higher than usual, 10 feet to 12 feet, depending how far away you are.
  14. If you stack the people in 3 rolls and your lights are too close to the people, about 8 feet or less, you could experience a 1 stop variation between the first row of people the second and the third.​
    Yes, thanks Bob for that silly inverse square law thingy reminder. Never did understand it. I should have time to meter each row during setup and move my lightstands accordingly.
    And RT, I understand about the Alien Bees. Should I find myself in this situation more often I can see moving in this direction.
  15. Seems that the extra you'd need is a Y connector to trigger two 430EXs on a dual bracket fired into the 60" reflected umbrella ... both set to manual full power. Take this up as high as your stands will go which, when the umbrella is used in the reflected mode, will be higher than 8'. Like Nadine said, place it camera right as the key light about 10' from the subject.
    Being as close, and as high as you can get away with will place the light downward and avoid drop shadows, while evening out the light front to back. The further away you get with the light, the taller of a stand you need for the same angled effect.
    Put the 580EX on another stand with the 45" reflective umbrella take that up to 8' and place it just behind your camera position. You may want to avoid placing it camera left even if set for fill because you'll get double shadows. You can slightly feather it (biased to the left). But the more direct and straight on it is, the more it acts as fill without creating another set of side shadows.
  16. Nadine,
    You want the flash as far from the umbrella as you can. Or at least as far away as to provide coverage across the surface of the umbrella. This is easiest to test by shooting through the umbrella. Set it all up. Stand in front of the umbrella. Take one shot with the umbrella pushed all to the flash. You will see a very small circle of light. Then pull the umbrella away from the flash, this circle will start to increase. Essentially, you want to fill the whole umbrella, otherwise, you really don't have a 48" or 60" or whatever light source. I have some time tonight I might try to post some examples.
  17. Perhaps, John, but I found, at least with my Sunpak, that if I took the reflector off, and put the bare bulb into the umbrella as close as possible to the spokes, the light efficiency actually increased because the entire surface of the 60" umbrella was being used to reflect the light. When I tested, I think I gained about 1/3 to 1/2 stop. Not to mention, the quality of the light and coverage was nicer. Now, this may be due to the type of bulb on the Sunpak, which outputs light, actually out the sides of the long tube.
    When I tested my 580EX, I pointed it into the umbrella, not as close to the spokes, with the wide angle diffuser down, and got f5.6 1/3. The acid test would be to actually photograph the coverage pattern of the umbrella, as well as meter the light efficiency.
  18. Hi Nadine! Well, I didn't shoot my Quantum bare bulb, I left the reflector on. I am not sure bare bulb would have gained my anything though. My results were interesting. First, there is a definite difference in the size of the light source the further back the umbrella is from the flash. That much I already knew. However, this size difference is virtually (if not totally) irrelevant at the distances we are working at when shooting a group. If this were a portrait, I think we would "see" some differences. My set up wasn't all that scientific, I was just doing this out of curiosity. I had my light source on a stand about 13 feet from the camera. Camera was on a tripod, light stand didn't move. ISO was always 400.
    Started with a Nikon SB900 flash. In retrospect, I should have at least thrown a SB800 on there just to not any difference in the spread. Anyway, SB900, 13', full power, I got f7.1 @ the camera. 10' left of camera = f/5.6. So 2/3rds difference, but a 20 foot spread. To control front to back fall off, just keep the flash raised above the group! Not too bad. Probably one of the reasons I prefer bare bulb (with my QFlash though!). If I use the built in w/a panel, I drop to f/5.6 @ camera and f/4.5 @ 10' off center. So I lose 2/3rds of a stop and gain nothing! 10' off center was as wide as I could go. I am now wondering how wide I would need to go between the two before I saw a difference!
    Next up, SB900 through a white umbrella, umbrella near the flash. @ camera f/4. 10' off center f/4! Here is what I found interesting... with the umbrella furthest from the flash, @ camera f/4. 10' off center f/3.6. So almost 1/3 of a stop. Now you can definitely see a difference in the size of the light source. All the way in and I am getting a small oval of light near the flash head. All the way out and all of the umbrella is lit. In pratical terms, I think I would prefer it all the way out as the increase in the light source is substantial. This should mean the center of the group is somewhat softer lit. The other interesting discovery is how much less light appears to be reflected back when the umbrella is further from the flash. This is image #1.
    After that I tried the silver umbrella. Obviously using silver I am not shooting through the umbrella. The efficiency of the silver gained me 1/2 an f/stop. What's more, it was consistent with the umbrella close or far, at camera or at 10' off center. I was @ f/4.5 the whole time. The light spread striking the umbrella was virtually identical to the white umbrella. So, if I had to use an umbrella to light a group, I would want to use silver and I would still use it further from the flash. Although I didn't gain or lose any power, the light source is still larger when further from the flash. So something might be softer lit within the frame. Although I suspect at the distances we are working at, this is simply spitting hairs.
    I did try a Qflash with the parabolic reflector but w/o the front diffuser and got the same results (f/4.5 all around). However, what I really found interesting was simply the quality of light difference between the SB900 fired into the silver umbrella and the Qflash. I have always said I liked the quality of light from the Qflash better. I will post that comparison next.
  19. Here is the shot into the silver umbrella with the umbrella furthest from the flash. Left is the SB900, right is the Qflash. @ camera (about 13' away) I get f/4.5 from both. But the the illumination of just the umbrella is radically different. I have had people tell me I am nuts (which I will grant you- who spends Friday evening playing with flashes in their garage), but there IS a difference in the quality of light between flashes.
    Anyway, as a disclaimer, this little test was hardly scientific and your mileage is certain to vary! For one thing, I had the flashes firing straight on.... something I would never recommend! But from my little endeavor, I have concluded that I do like the umbrella further from the flash if only for purposes of possibly softer light and I prefer my Qflash!
  20. Ha ha--I'm also nuts. Here's what I tested. I was only interested in finding out the difference, if any, in efficiency between a shoemount flash (580EXII) with the wide angle diffuser down and one that was set to 24mm zoom. As I hypothesized, there was no difference in efficiency--both metered f5.6 1/3 at 10 feet. There was very little difference in light quality too, although I'd say you can see a very, very, very slight difference.
    In A, you see the light pattern into the umbrella itself--flash pointed straight in with wide angle diffuser down. In B you see the flash makes a more concentrated blob in the umbrella. In A, the flash head was about 5 inches from where the spokes started (pictured in C), the face of the flash perhaps about 2 inches 'into' the umbrella edge. For B the face was perhaps even with the umbrella edge. Any more pushing of the umbrella from the flash and I'd be afraid of it being unstable. A 60" umbrella weighs quite a bit. I'd say my 120j, without the reflector, fills the umbrella much better, which is why I saw an increase in efficiency from reflector use. If you use your Q flash, I'd recommend going reflectorless.
    The two scenes below correspond to the 2 positions. Identical exposure, position, etc.--so I didn't use a tripod. But very little difference.
  21. Forgot the image! Here it is.
  22. Anyway, the difference is that with Position A, the shadows are a tad more open.
    Bob and Marc both bring up valuable facts about photographing groups. The flash/umbrella position is actually always a compromise between flash power and light coverage and quality. Ideally, for even coverage of rows, you want the biggest light source (softer) but one that is farther away, so light fall off isn't so quick (contraindicated). Ideally, you want a light source that is up high, pointed down at the same angle the rows go up, for the most even coverage, yet if you did that, you wouldn't be able to push the light back for less harsh fall off--everything kind of works against each other. Plus you wouldn't be able to hoist a huge umbrella and flash 20 feet into the air (you could, but it would be quite stressful, not to mention time consuming!).
  23. To illustrate what Nadine is talking about, here is a diagram for lighting a 3 deep row of subjects on steps ... shown from the side.

    Using Allison's original problem of a 20 person family group, assuming she can access steps or benches with a rise, (or a downward slope in the landscape in order to shoot and light downward), I would do 3 rows deep in a classic staggered pyramid formation: 8 in the front row, 7 in the second, and 5 in the rear ... which allows you to place the subjects in-between and behind one another. Or reverse that order ... which I do at weddings to place the emphasis on the front row with the B&G, and mitigate the front to back size distortion of a wide-angle lens by widening the rear row. A properly placed 60" umbrella about 10 feet away should cover 9 people wide if coupled with fill.
    As simulated in the diagram, when you move the light back from the subject you must increase the height to maintain the same downward coverage front-to-back while keeping the drop shadows off the rows behind one another. As you can see, the amount of height needed as you move back increases dramatically.
    As you move back the angle of coverage increases and the level of light reaching the subject decreases. As you can imagine, that is pretty dramatic as well.
    The trick is to find the right balance of being back enough to cover the widest row of subjects side-to-side, while being high enough to control drop shadows ... while also having enough light to maintain depth-of-field front-to-back. Fortunately the latter is less of an issue these days with some cameras offering better high ISO performance.
    I use up to 800 w/s of lighting power to accomplish this which is roughly equal to 7 or 8 SB900s or 580EX-IIs ... not because others need this, but because I usually shoot this type of assignment with a Medium Format Digital camera which 1) has less depth of field for any given f stop, 2) offers less high ISO performance than most 35mm DSLRs, 3) uses leaf shutter lenses with sync speeds to 1/800th of a second to control ambient contamination in mixed lighting.
  24. I thought I had posted this before, but must not have confirmed it. I would suggest the following alternative. It would be helpful to know what the camera ISO capabilities are, but
    1. I would use all my flash units and point them to the side or behind me (trying to bounce it off something)
    2. Put my ISO to the highest acceptable level, put camera on tripod and drag the shutter to compensate for the smaller apertures. You can shoot as low is 1/15, but will need to tell people to hold still as you are using a very special technique that requires it.
    3. If you have an iPhone, there is a small app called DOFMaster. It is very useful. Don't know what sort of lens you will be using, but at 15ft with a 50mm @ f5.6, your total DOF is only 6.4 feet (1/3 in front focal point, 2/3 behind). At 35mm @ 5.6, your DOF is 15.2! at 15 feet.
    In this model, you might be able to use mostly ambient light and fill/brighten the people with the flash. This also converts your light source from smaller flash to a larger source. With an umbrella, unless you have a very large one, it will be a small light source, will fall off quickly (from front to back and side to side). So you will have to balance (side to side) with a second strobe, but will still have front to back fall off.
  25. If we are going for the best set up, then I would say a decent strobe in an umbrella/softbox hybrid and feather the light. Meaning imagine your group lined up, place the light camera right, about 2/3rds down the right side of the group. Imagine the light firing forward, no good. We need to turn the light so that the center axis is just past the center of the group, but the edge still catches the last person on the right. David Ziser explains it better than me! The strobe still needs to be above the group. But if you do this, especially with an umbrella/softbox hybrid, your metering on the guy on the furthest right is the same as the gal on the furthest left. (if set up properly). Feathering is the best but also takes the longest to set up and tear down and requires a strobe with enough power, I use an AB 1600 at at least 1/2 power.
  26. I don't know John--I feather my umbrella with the Sunpak 120j into my 60" umbrella and don't meter. I would say that I probably don't hit it exactly every single time, but enough of the time, yes--close enough.
    I was actually thinking about the problem Marc talks about, and remember something I read in a Jack Curtis (old) book about wedding photography. There was an explanation for using a single, parabolic flash very high and aimed straight forward (not into the group). I believe it talked about a 13' stand and no umbrella. The theory was, the hottest part of the light hit the background and the lower edge of the parabolic reflector lit the group, automatically accounting for the rise of the group and taking care of the variance between front row and back. I think it was placed fairly far back, too. Never tried it but thought it might be interesting one day.
  27. I am not saying you have to meter, I am just saying when it's set up right, the light is the same front to back, left to right. And it's reasonably soft with great color and catchlights. Attached is an unprocessed image (the one guy is under a spot!). ISO 400 @ f/10! I just don't get a chance to use it too often: AB, 60' umbrella hybrid, 13' stand, and a couple of sandbags! The Curtis set up is pretty close to what I usually do except that I am using the wide flash reflector on the Qflash (looks like a metal toilet paper tube cut in half!). I get it high but do aim it down onto the middle row of the group. I would think using the parabolic and feathering would give me a fall off at the bottom of the frame?
  28. Well if you use the bare bulb enhancer it would for sure. You need to use a parabolic reflector, in which case, you wouldn't get as severe a cut off. If you are aiming the flash downward, it isn't what the Jack Curtis book was saying. You would aim the flash over the heads of the group. You could still feather it left to right.
    What this does is take advantage of the inverse square law and how a parbolic reflector works, instead of having to fight these two factors.
  29. Wow, you guys are awesome! Pictures and everything. :) I am learning so much here.

    I should point out that I shoot cropped cameras, Canon 50D & 40D. I plan on using the the 50D with a 17-55 IS lens for this group shot, most likely in the 20mm range which will give me a 35mm equivalent. (The barrel distortion right at 17mm is too much for my tastes on a 50D. From 20mm and up it does fine).

    Nadine: I have heard so many good things about the now defunct Sunpak 120J you use and have an opportunity to take one off somebody's hands for $125 in fine working condition with battery pack. Would you (or anyone else still recommend it?). I don't know which version it is (TTL?) or which is better. Comparing the output power of this flash to a 580ex II is confusing when going by the guide numbers - feet, meters, mm - manufacturers can't seem to decide on standard nomenclature. If it won't give me much more power than the 580 in this kind of situation (as your test above would indicate) I'm not sure I should consider it. Other strobe options aren't feasible right now so I'm stuck with my two 430's and a single 580 (which I use for a lot of quick setup portraits).

    I would love to move up to an AB800/1600 if it weren't for stringing an extension cord and hunting for an outlet. Along with safety considerations of having a cord snaking all over the floor of course.

    I am also trying to learn from William Porter's recent post and his situation which logistically speaking is identical to mine except I have more time to set this up and have an additional speedlight (I think). I'm also trying to maximize placement of those speedlights with umbrellas which I don't believe he used given his time constraints.

    Marc wrote: "Seems that the extra you'd need is a Y connector to trigger two 430EXs on a dual bracket fired into the 60" reflected umbrella ... both set to manual full power. Take this up as high as your stands will go which, when the umbrella is used in the reflected mode, will be higher than 8'. Like Nadine said, place it camera right as the key light about 10' from the subject."

    Dual flash bracket and Y splitter is doable if this is the best approach. When you say, "place it camera right as the key light about 10' from the subject", how far camera right would you suggest? If my group spans say, 14-18 feet from end to end I'm thinking about 8 feet camera right. Also, upon reflection and given my 35mm field of view (converted from a 20mm crop), I might have to do this from 12-15 back - that will make a difference.

    I suppose full power would be needed for both 430's but I'm not to crazy about the resultant recycle times. Once this shot is set up I'ld like to keep everything the same for the smaller groups to follow. Oh well, it is what it is…

    Marc: "Put the 580EX on another stand with the 45" reflective umbrella take that up to 8' and place it just behind your camera position."

    I actually tried this outside and in the garage last night and it worked pretty well. And add me to the other nutjobs here playing with umbrellas on a Friday night. The neighbors probably thought a storm was moving in.

    Marc: "I would do 3 rows deep in a classic staggered pyramid formation: 8 in the front row, 7 in the second, and 5 in the rear …"

    Unfortunately, I only have one step to work with so 3 rows may not be possible. I know this shot includes younger ones so I could put a few on the floor I suppose.

    I'm going to <eek!> try and attach a hastily prepared drawing to illustrate my initial thoughts regarding placement with what I have. Option 1 was my original thought and it is quite "linear" given my inexperience in all this. Not sure if, a.) the 430ex's have the power even though they will be filled by an on camera 580 and, b.) whether I'll be getting double shadows.

    Option 2: is similar to what a lot of people are saying (I think) but I don't know if I can get that 60" umbrella high enough given the distance from the group or do I know what to do with the available 580 with regard to another umbrella (which is why I left it on camera):

  30. Option one will produce double shadows and probably a hot area where the lights cross each other (remember what Nadine said ... light is additive), ... which is why I suggested centering the fill light using the 45" umbrella up high and with a slight bias left to feather it off toward the right where the key light is more intense. Two opposing key lights produces very flat results also.
    You want the key light to be somewhat directional to create roundness ... this naturally creates shadows camera left ... so you then fill them so they retain detail. For a big group like this I wouldn't move the key light to far camera right ... just enough to create shape.
    The problem with using on-camera flash for the fill is that it won't be high enough and may cast shadows on people behind. The hardest thing to fix is uneven lighting on faces ... it almost always looks bad. Better to bias any lighting in favor of the skin and faces.
    BTW, you could use the 580EX and a 430EX in the 60" and the other 430 in the 45" because you don't need as much for fill.
  31. If I had a chance to buy a 120j for $125, I'd snap it up. But this is because I like them, but I don't use them for anything but manual flash applications. The key things about them are that they take AAs or you can use an external pack. And, they are bare bulb. This does not seem attractive to shoemount 'people', partiularly since the guide number doesn't seem all that much bigger, but consider that for a 60" umbrella, it really is the ideal thing for even coverage of the umbrella surface without resorting to two flashes. I don't know if you noticed, on your other thread, the bulb sticking into the umbrella in my photo of it. The light comes out the sides of the bulb, and it fills an umbrella so well that, as I said previously, the efficiency actually increased over the reflector use. I would bet that if I photographed it as I did the 580EXII above, the light would be very even--not much different over the entire umbrella surface.
    Technically, a 120j has 2/3 stop 'more' power than a 580EX II. But you have to consider that the 120j has a parabolic reflector. You have to compare the units with the 'normal' setting for both. The 120j' normal reflector setting covers the 'normal' 50mm lens (on a 35mm camera), and the guide number at that setting is 150. At the same 50mm zoom setting on the 580EX II, the guide number is 138. But the parabolic reflector makes a difference. A shoemount reflector achieves it's various power by manipulating the lens. The only other setting the Sunpak (and Q flash) has is the wide angle setting--no lens manipulation. The surface (or size of the light) is bigger than the shoemount. It is small, but you will see a difference in light quality from a shoemount to the 4.5 inch round parabolic flash reflector. It won't be softer, but it is somehow 'nicer". I say not as 'pinched' looking. You can feather a parabolic reflector more easily than a shoemount.
    My opinion is that if you only look at power, that is somewhat short sided. But this is up to you. The 120j is not as robust as a Q flash. I've broken the neck of one of mine several times. I have one plain and one TTL. The plain one does not have a hotshoe foot. The TTL ones have modules (you can get the universal or standard module too) and have a hotshoe foot. I have one of each because I used to use one with my Hasselblad on TTL. If the pack that comes with it is the Sunpak one, I'd take it with the deal, but I'd get a used Quantum Turbo. The Sunpak one is nicad and is not very 'smart' with charging. You have to baby it.
    The Sunpaks are bigger too. But I like them a lot. You can also look at Lumedynes and Norman 200 and 400Bs. Used, they are quite affordable. These have the bare bulb, but cannot operate on AAs alone. They also have a bigger guide number than the Sunpak/Q flash. I forget what they are--I could look them up.
    As for placement, I put it just into a pew, so about 15-20 degrees or so to right. I find about 12-14 feet back is good. I believe people use two shoemounts at 1/2 power to cut down on the recycle time. With battery packs, the recycle time for full power should be about 1-1.5 seconds. Without, about 3 seconds. Are you going to do this constantly? If not, I'd just work with the recycle times. Count to 3 in between. The 580EX II has a thermal cut off switch though.
    I don't think it is possible to get the 60" up high enough to 'technically' be at the same angle as the rise of the group. As I said above, it is all a compromise.
    Option one will produce cross shadows, and you don't need to toe them in toward the center so much. I actually photographed a 100 person choir with two umbrellas, and metered the width of the group. I found just a slight toe in is sufficient, without even needing the third light (on camera). I don't think you will need this kind of set up on a 20 person group if you have 3 rows. Marc is right about the on camera fill light--you could try shooting direct with the on camera, and feathering the head upward. The key light determines the quality of light, so shooting direct won't do anything unless you have the power incorrectly set. However, I barely have time to set up one light and umbrella, let alone two. So I just go with it. At today's wedding, I had 15 minutes, including the time they took to sign the certificates. I didn't even set up the umbrella, and luckily I had set up the Sunpak earlier.
  32. I'll second Nadine's 120J reco. I also have two of them ... one non-TTL with a household plug base that you can plug in a radio trigger (or optical peanut trigger, which isn't for weddings but is great for putting it in small places for supplemental light). The TTL version has a replaceable hot shoe module ... which I used on a Contax 645 and Hasselblad 503CW. I now just use the Contax one as a manual trigger.
    Nadine is right about the battery, the Sunpack is old tech and not really worth the trouble IMO. I use Quantum Turbo Cs, which are pretty small and light, but are more than enough full power flashes for a formals session. I just clamp it to a light stand using the belt holder on the Turbo, and an inexpensive light stand clamp.
    Besides the light quality of bare bulb with or without the parabolic reflector or other Quantum light modifiers, plus the ability to use AAs when needed ... what I've always liked about the 120J are the no-brainer controls. You can simply move the sliding control for any % of power you want. No accessing menus, fiddling with buttons and LCD read-outs.
    BTW, the best of luck on your shoot Allison ... I'm sure you'll do fine.
  33. Also, looking at your diagram, are you forced to use a horseshoe pattern or is that just the way you drew the group? Using two equidistant lights on a horsehoe pattern group may cause problems with even worse cross shadows than normal.
  34. For the record, yesterday's wedding called for a group shot in the church of about 20 people and a single 60" brolly box with Sunpak 383s worked fine.
  35. One or two or three 383s? Got an image to share?
  36. Nadine: Thanks for the thorough explanation of the 120J. I've been reading your other posts about this unit in the forum. I have subsequently discovered that the one for sale has a defunct battery. That's another $65 so this expenditure is adding up. I know if fires on AA's but I'm putting this thing on hold for now. I may just invest the money in a strobe instead.


    About the group positioning; I just threw a bunch of circles on the drawing. :) Really, I haven't given it much thought just yet. I used the horseshoe pattern of posing because:

    a.) I want to keep my DOF as constant from one end of the group to the next. I've shot long straight lines before wide and the people on the ends tend to get a bit fuzzy. In hindsight, I was probably too close and forced to shoot too wide open because of pews I think.

    b.) I want to try and keep the group as tight as possible so I don't have to shoot so wide and hopefully keep the barrel distortion to a minimum.

    I did consider the cross shadowing effect in my option 1 example but was hoping my lights would be high enough to keep them low & behind and also hoping a 580exII on camera with a bounce card would dampen those a bit.

    Just for grins, I actually tried setting up two 430's, each in their own 45" umbrella and positioned thusly (Option 3 - See attachment):

    They were up about 9 feet and I played with feathering them outward slightly toward the ends of the group. This seemed to work out for a nice even distribution of light. Both "ends" of coverage seemed to meter about the same as the middle and as best I could tell, all the shadows were low and behind. Both lightstands were right next to my camera. The downside with this is things look pretty flat as these 2 lights basically serve as one large key light (as Marc eluded to). I think in the real shooting environment (other than my garage) I would take the ambient down about 1-2 stops to create some separation and contrast. (I have limited space to practice with and the small garage is giving me lots of unintended bounced ambient so I can't get it down - If I could get hubby to clean the thing I'd have more room).

    Marc: Thank you for your well wishes. Given your advice Option 4 (attachment) depicts what I think you describe:

    You describe the use of Key and Fill. I'm not sure I have the juice to do both so I just may have to settle for all around, even lighting (as bland as it may be).
    Joey: "For the record, yesterday's wedding called for a group shot in the church of about 20 people and a single 60" brolly box with Sunpak 383s worked fine".

    Shoot through brolly? 2 Sunpaks? I'd be interested to hear these details, what kind of brolly you used, how high up it was and how far back it was placed.

    Everyone, your help is really appreciated. I'm learning a lot and I apologize for not addressing you directly. Unlike other forums I've been too, there certainly seems to be a lot of seasoned talent here.

    I'm also beginning to draw the conclusion that doing traditional wedding formals with AA batteries is not the way to go. (i.e. using a bag of speedlites exclusively).
  37. One Sunpak 383 set at 1/2 power, probably 10-15 feet from the subjects. Two would have given me another stop down to the aperture, or same for full power. Canon 5D with Canon 35mm f/1.4L @ f/2.2, ISO640, 1/125 sec. - Flash was gelled with full CTO to match ambient tungsten lighting.
    Brolly was an ebay model (look for 57" brolly soft box with the flat face being the white part) sold by oeccamera. I don't notice a color cast with them like I did with some cheap umbrellas I've bought in the past.
    Do I like this shot? It's acceptable, but I would like to do other things with it. I will have to take the open eyes from another frame and put them on one of the girls in photoshop who closed their eyes in this frame (or just find another frame with everyone's eyes open). I would be very happy if I never had to do another formal photo again, because I much prefer artistic work.
  38. Excuse me, here's the one with 20 people - same settings except ISO400.
  39. Did you have that brolly camera left or behind you (I can't tell). How high up was it?

    It's interesting you did this with only one Sunpak at half power. Plus that gel probably took out 1/3 stop and the white translucent the light had to go through another 2/3rds at least. I can see where you needed f/2.2 to shoot with it at that distance. You've got the exposure and sharpness so all kinds of things can be done with this in post. I also like how you left enough room on the outside to keep your barrel distortion down. (I usually screw this up).

    The resultant light from that brolly looks more even and diffused than with an ordinary reflective umbrella without the translucent cover.

    Very nice job. I hope mine turns out half as good. Thanks for sharing Joey.
  40. OMG, I would never shoot a group @ f/2.2. I am not even sure how much the flash was actually contributing.
  41. It wasn't designed to provide all the light, but more like fill. It contributed 1-2 stops of additional illumination. 85mm, ISO400, f/2.2, 1/125 sec., same flash output. Compare one to the other to see how much was coming from the brolly.
  42. Stunning wedding pictures!...
  43. There's a problem I just noticed, and I will be needing to address it.
  44. Allison--when you post an image, be sure to add a caption (besides making them the right size), or they don't show up in the thread.
    I'm not sure why you are getting fuzzy edges, but I read somewhere that doing horseshoe groups was not necessary for even lighting or for sharpness. Anyway, I don't have sharpness problems on the edges of my lenses (corners, yes), although I keep people away from the edges and corners. I'm always trying to for an 8x10 proportion anyway.
    Your Option 3 is a tried and true set up. Should work, but yes the light is frontal and flat. Same with the other option where 2 umbrellas are used.
  45. They are nice pictures indeed Joey but that last one shows why I don't venture into the wild without a light meter in a non studio environment where time is short. Those whites/blacks were actually blown out by that brolly. Nothing a quick reading on somebody's face wouldn't fix.
    And based on the wonderful ambient light you found yourself with, I wonder if simple on camera flash with a bounce card wouldn't have provided the necessary fill.
    But I'm back seat driving of course. Like I said, nice photos.
  46. The whites are well within range of being brought down with some brush adjustment in lightroom.
  47. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member


    The thread has focussed upon lighting issues and techniques BUT I would just like to point out, (as it seems only to have been mentioned once), you need to address DoF (Depth of Field).

    Just as an example, because it is here on the thread and can be used as an example – I would never pull that shot of the Bridesmaids and The Bride and Flower Girl at F/2.2.

    F/2.2 is over the limit of “safe” for DoF, for a Full Length Shot (Horizontal Format), Five People Deep, using a 5D.

    For that Shot: F/4 or maybe F/4.5 is my limit - F/5.6 is my “safe”.

    When addressing DoF for group shots, you especially need consider children: there are two main reasons for this –
    1. Children are usually positioned in the front and sometimes sitting. We notionally will make focus on the Bride and DoF is (rule of thumb) 33% in front and 66% behind – but if the Children are sitting, remember their legs.
    2. Children move – so have a bit extra in front for them to wiggle forward.

  48. I think this thread has intentionally focused on a bit lower ambient light scenario rather than one that features a higher level of ambient as shown in Joey Allen's example ... (which, BTW, I would have shot from a bit higher angle down on the group because of the partially hidden faces in the back. Other than that, it looks good).
    IMO, one has to be prepared to deal with any lighting scenario. As I mentioned previously, you can't always count on gelling a speed light to match the ambient color temperature, or have the time to figure it out .... so many venues feature mixed lighting from sodium vapor, to daylight, to tungsten (at various levels), to fluorescent ... or all of the above ... EEK!
    Here is a perfect example that also may not be the norm, but I believe one has to be prepared and equipped to deal with the worst case scenario, not the just best case.
    Problem: client wanted some of the formals done on the venue's foyer staircase where the ambient is extremely low and very blue-green/purple ... pretty winter themed lighting, but a ghastly combo for skin tones (I've attached an available light shot so you can see the ambient as it really was). Dragging the shutter here was, at best, dangerous.
    Huge wedding party ... 16 ladies alone for this shot. Huge Depth-Of-Field needed back to front up the relatively narrow stairs, and a fast shutter speed to over-come the ambient with the daylight temp flash. The priority was to get every face in the clear as much as possible given the cramped stairs. Plus I couldn't move back very far, and had to use a mild 45mm wide angle. Would have preffered to be higher and further back to use a bit longer focal length like 60mm or so.
    Specifications: Sony A900, ISO 640 @ 1/200th shutter speed ... 24-70/2.8 @ 45mm f/14 (probably could have been f/11 or even f/8 but I didn't have time to check by zooming the LCD so I played it overly safe per William W's caution above).
    Lighting was from a 600 w/s strobe 12' high using a 60" umbrella slightly camera right. Lighting is a bit flatter than I like but not all bad and they aren't contaminated by the "alien ambient" blue-green/purple.
  49. F/2.2 is over the limit of “safe” for DoF, for a Full Length Shot (Horizontal Format), Five People Deep, using a 5D.
    Not really William. f/2.2, 35mm from 15 feet away gives you 8 feet DOF. Plenty of room. The proof is in Joey's photos. Would I attempt this? Heck no. Especially with the nice ambient there and the frontal fill light to bring out the subject exposure.
  50. The "nice ambient" is misleading because it is being augmented by an on-camera 580EX bounced against a high (but white) ceiling. If I had shot at f/4 (compared to f/2.2), it would've been a very underexposed scene even at ISO640, and it would've been worse still at f/5.6. As for getting higher, I would like to do that but I am not that tall and I don't have an assistant to bring me a stepladder.
    Depth of field is a double-edged sword for my situation: If I shoot with a wide angle, I will surely have everyone in focus even at f/2.2 because of the subject distance and focal length - but my background will not be significantly blurred. Background blurring really adds depth and subject isolation to formals, so I try to employ it whenever possible by using long focal lengths and wide apertures. The second advantage to a wide aperture is gathering more ambient light (assuming, as others have mentioned, that this light is a desirable one).
    I can't say which method is best, but mine works for me.
  51. RT--I don't think the bridesmaid shot was from 15 feet away. More like 10-12 feet, where the DOF is 3.5-5 feet. The other shots are fine for various reasons (given accurate focus)--more subject distance, only 2 rows, or one row etc. I'm betting the back row or 2 of the bridesmaids shot is OOF, or at least falling out of DOF range. You can't tell about focus from small, online images. Also, even though you can use a wider aperture, can you do so repeatedly, under pressure? Spreading your available DOF 'just so' is not all that easy to do time after time. This is why most people use a margin of error on groups. Plus sticking with one EV means you don't waste time trying to change the lights, etc. from group to group.
    I disagree about background blurring for altar formals, Joey. I don't think, in this situation, the background blurring is first priority. I think accurate focus and lighting on the people are first priority (not saying you didn't achieve this here for the most part). In fact, I would bet that if you were to ask your clients about background blurring, they would not care or notice that they 'stand out' from the background. In fact, I would also bet that people like the background sharper. It is their church, and the altar is actually something they like seeing in focus. It is actually an important part of the images, or else why have the formals there? Otherwise, it could be anywhere. Background blurring has it's place, but in this situation, that place is fairly low on the list, IMHO.
    I was also waiting for you to address the problem you mentioned above?
    Back to the general topic, another thing to mention is that when you have a light or white space to work with, just sheer reflectance from your flashes (plus the ability to bounce) can make a big difference in the final result. If your space is dark or non reflective, you aren't going to be able to rely so much on ambient or flash reflectance to maximize your flash power without running into other issues. Also, if you have to balance your subject EV to bright windows in the background, or brightly lit stained glass, or have sunlight hitting your subjects or have spotlights on your subject that you can't turn off, as Marc says, you need to be able to handle it. Unfortunately, it isn't as simple as just moving everyone. People like having their formals centered on the altar and expect you to be able to do them there, no matter what the light is like.
  52. Also forgot. I bring a short step ladder with me sometimes and I don't have assistants. I can bungee it to my rolling case. I also have a shoulder strap on it. Recently, I also purchased a folding stepstool. It only gives me a foot or so, but I leave it in the car and it folds and has a grip hole so it is easy to carry, always handy, and can also be tied to bungeed onto gear. I am 5' 1" tall, so I need it.
  53. The "nice ambient" is misleading because it is being augmented by an on-camera 580EX bounced against a high (but white) ceiling.
    Well, at what point were you going to divulge this? Your description of all this goes form using "Sunpak 383s" (The plural of a single sunpak) and now, a 580ex and just a single sunpak?
    And Nadine, I agree with mostly everything you said. The only difference being Joey who has done this a lot so I can only assume he knew what he was getting into. Myself personally, I wouldn't have shot at f/2.2. Even a group of 3 or 4 with 3-1/2 feet DOF is beyond my comfort level. I might do two shots with different settings for each one but I'd always have a trusty f/5.6 to fall back on.
  54. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Not really William. f/2.2, 35mm from 15 feet away gives you 8 feet DOF. Plenty of room. The proof is in Joey's photos. (RT Jones)

    If the image of the Bride, Maids and Little Girl is a Full Frame Crop from a 5D and the Bride is about 5’8” (My “Average Sized Woman”) then this is what I refer to as a Full Length Shot - Horizontal Format.
    There is a bit of air above the Bride and a bit of feet room below her – that give around 7ft to 8ft FoV(v) (Field of View on the Vertical).
    Therefore this shot was pulled at about 12ft – possibly 11ft
    Assuming we respect 0.025mm CoC (Circle of Confusion) for a 5D camera, that will afford a DoF of 4ft.
    Now: the Women are stacked tight and are 5 deep, and in tight stacking I allow 12 inches depth, for each person – we have already exceeded the 4ft DoF and I have not yet begun to argue the relevance that DoF is a sliding scale – at the edges of DoF the image is soft.
    With great respect to The Image - I do not agree that anyone can say that the web image proves or disproves anything, the quality of a web image is inferior for this purpose – however IMO when viewed on a good monitor, the woman at the rear looks softer than the others.
    Please note that my calculation have taken the BEST case scenario to give the GREATEST DoF and IMO it is likely that the shot was pulled at about 11 or 10 ft and there is also the possibility that the image was cropped slightly hence the DoF will be even smaller.
    I am quite adamant about limits with DoF as and how I apply them to “The Shot”
    This is perhaps my training in cine and also the fact that I cut my teeth within a W&P studio where Formal Shots (like the one being discussed) were bread and butter money – because the Customer would buy a 10x8, 16 x20 etc of these images and when we go to those enlargements DoF is critical.
    I re affirm that for full length Shot horizontal Format using a 135 format camera (a 5D, for example) my Safe DoF Limit is F/5.6.
    PS Just as a technical note RT, I referenced 0.025mm CoC - using that (IMO an acceptable standard) at F2.2 for a 5D at 15ft with a35mm lens loaded the DoF is 6'4" - not 8ft - your calculations must be using a different CoC - something like 0.031mm whcih I consider not acceptable.
  55. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    ERROR in may last posting:
    “Please note that my calculation have taken the BEST case scenario to give the GREATEST DoF and IMO it is likely that the shot was pulled at about 11 or 10 ft and there is also the possibility that the image was cropped slightly hence the DoF will be even smaller.”
    Correction – this paragraph was meant to give a counter argument and thus read:
    “Please note that my calculation have taken the BEST case scenario to give the GREATEST DoF and IMO it is likely that the shot was pulled at about 11 or 10 ft . . . However there is also the possibility that the image was cropped slightly, hence the DoF will be slightly LARGER.”

  56. ...The issue I was made aware of was that there is banding noise in the shadows, and I have recently discovered it is from the flash battery packs mounted to my cameras. I will be having to remove a lot of such noise from that wedding's photos because I used them the entire day.
  57. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    "There's a problem I just noticed, and I will be needing to address it." & "banding noise" . . .
    Yes: previously noticed.


    "it is from the flash battery packs mounted to my cameras."
    Very generous to share this information - others should take note.


    Have you bought your 24L yet? What do you think of it?

  58. Ahh...that old radio interference. I completely understand. I'm about ready to sell my 580EX II and replace it with the original 580EX (thought this might make more sense than throwing over a bridge).
  59. I didn't know about the radio interference until I ran into it myself, and just yesterday I found an archived post on your forums talking about the same issue with Canon battery packs. Ergo, I just have to keep them on my belt or similar position away from the cameras.
    The 24L is okay for me. Nice that I have the focal length again, but I am not getting such unique use out of it that I wouldn't have gotten from the 24-70 (when I owned it). Does the bouquet/garter tosses like I want, but now I am probably going to consider a tokina 11-16mm for some of the same purposes of ultrawide with f/2.8.
    85L went back to Canon Irvine today for a recurring focus issue. I'm going to miss it tomorrow, the 23rd and the 26th. It's my second most used lens next to the 35L.
  60. I think I would like greater depth of field and potential for a wider angle for my bouquet toss shots. And I think I'd like to try tethering two cameras to a single remote trigger for things like this so they could both pick up the flash simultaneously. Might be fun - not necessarily much point to it, but fun.
    These were with the 24L, same wedding on 5/15/10, f/2.2, ISO1000.
  61. And about the above posts regarding Sunpaks: Sunpak 383s is a single item - Sunpak 383S for Super. And, the 580EX was flashing in all images shown, so it would be adding to the ambient and not in any way responsible for the greater brightness in one image over another. Did it make a difference? Not actually sure, but maybe it brightened the ambient a little.

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