Wedding outdoor group shots - Ranger RX; Overkill?

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by johngodwin, May 5, 2010.

  1. I have an Elinchrom Ranger RX for a wedding I'm shooting on Saturday. It's my first time using it, and I'm going to be using it with a 1 meter softbox for the outdoor group shot consisting of 24 people.
    Does this sound like a bad idea to anyone? Portability and weight is absolutely not an issue.
  2. It would seem to be a waste, in my mind. The softbox is too small to soften the light enough at the distance you need to use the light to cover a group shot of 24 people. And portability and weight may not be an issue, but knock over and set up time could be.
  3. For groups, skip the softbox, as Nadine points out, the lighting is going to be hard regardless. The Ranger will give you more options. One example, perhaps you want the background (ambient light) to be 1/2 to 1-stop darker; the Ranger should have the juice to still expose your group properly. Whether the options are worth the trouble, only you can decide.
  4. It's either that or use a couple of strobes, which I don't fancy either.
    Maybe I could shoot through an umbrella?
  5. Sorry, forgot to say thank you for replying.
  6. The size of the modifier is the issue, John. So unless your umbrella is pretty big, you might as well use direct flash. A 60" (5 foot) umbrella will make a difference over your 1 meter softbox, but it still won't exactly be 'soft' lighting on your group of 24. To give you an idea, the rule of thumb is to have a modifier/light size the same as the distance you are from your subject. Figure this out. For a tightly packed group of 24 (say 3 rows of 8), you will probably be standing 12 or more feet from your subjects with a 35mm or wider focal length. So your modifier 'should' be 12 feet big. See what I mean?
    Also, depending upon what the outdoor circumstances were (bright sun or shade), soft light may or may not make any difference. With bright sun, the light is hard anyway. With shade, direct flash, used only to provide some direction to the light, will not look so harsh because it isn't the main or key light.
  7. I am not sure I understand your issue. If you are shooting a group of 24 people outside, your light is going to be hard. Period. An umbrella in front of the light will diffuse it, but unless the umbrella is larger than the 24 people (unlikely), the light will be hard. You can buy (or possibly rent) huge reflectors/panels if you want to soften the light:
    But these require a couple of assistants at least. For softness, it's all about the size of the light source. The larger the light source in relationship to your subject, the softer the light. The idea with the Ranger is that you can be in bright sunlight, position the group with the sun behind them, use the Ranger bare bulb, above the group so that the shadow falls downward. You should be able to get a great balance with the Ranger. I would also try standing on a step-stool or ladder. In any event, we might be over thinking the shot a bit. If I were shooting a wedding party of 24 people outside, I would look for the best light I could and use bare bulb flash for fill. I know unless there is soft light to begin with, I am not going to be able to create it quickly and efficiently.
  8. Nadine beat me to it....
  9. I respectfully disagree about the "hard" light from any source idea. Yes, light will not be terribly soft with a small softbox, but it would be softer than with a point light source. However, a softbox will be too directional to evenly light 24 people. An umbrella - or two strobes - would give more even lighting. If the ranger is powerful enough, I see no reason not to use the biggest diffuser you have available if you can transport it and keep it from blowing over.
    The ideal would probably be massive octoboxes or parabolic reflectors on multiple lights.
  10. Umm..what is the 'hard light from any source idea'? At a certain point, even light from a small softbox will be as hard as a point light source--depends on subject distance. The OP stated he was going to use a 1 meter softbox, hence the answers.
    A 1 meter softbox can be made to cover a group of 3 rows of 8, feathered across the width. But this usually means pulling the softbox back, which is contraindicated for softness.
  11. People said it would be hard regardless and discounted the use of a diffuser for that reason. I don't think it would be a bad idea to use a diffuser, but a bigger one or an umbrella would be better for more even coverage and "less hard" light.
  12. I agree with you about using a larger modifier (that would make a difference in light quality) if one wanted to take the trouble to bring one to the field, meaning enough set up time, flash power, weight and transport, and avoiding knock over, not to mention the light quality even showing up in the final image. I discounted the use of a 1 meter softbox for the intended subject.
  13. I think the comment was aimed at me! And sure, if you bring a large enough modifier (and I even linked to some), you will be able to soften the light. Will any umbrella do, no. Perhaps a 60" umbrella. Anything smaller and your distance increases as to make it hardly worth the effort. In terms of even coverage without a modifier, get the light a bit above the group, pointed down. This also helps get the shadows falling downward. On camera flash can provide a bit a fill and viola', great, quick lighting. Not all that different, sometimes no different, then a group shot in the church. Hard light in and of itself isn't bad. Knowing how to control the shadows is key. Come to think of it, it would be easier to just shoot the Ranger, just above the group (no umbrella or softbox). Then lay one or two of these on the ground:
    Between that, and fill flash, you will have some soft shadows.
  14. What time are you making these photos?
  15. Hi guys, thanks so much for the help with this. I've never photographed a group outside before.
    I'm thinking this is all a bit pointless, but since I have the lights anyway, I may as well use them. I've ditched the softbox, and possible have a 60' umbrella, but if not, I'm going to just use the bare bulbs.
    I'm thinking of this scenario:
    The group shot is going to be taken around a bench, I'm thinking of just placing the bride and groom sitting together in the middle of the bench, with the rest of the group(22 people) surrounding them behind standing up. I'm considering using the lights on just the bride and groom. Does that sound like a good idea?
  16. Depends on how big the bench is. If just for two people, fine, but if it is a bigger bench, I'd put the couple standing off to one end and use the bench to achieve levels. Put as many people sitting on the bench as possible with a row right behind. You could put another couple or two next to the couple, because they are going to stand out anyway, due to their clothes. I would light the group, not just the couple.
    By the way, when outside, I use my Sunpak 120j with the reflector on, not bare bulb. I don't see much difference between bare bulb and reflector outside, and bare bulb loses light efficiency. I'd test it out first.
  17. Thanks Nadine, sorry, when I said bare bulb, I did mean with just the reflector on the end, I should have said so.
    That's a good idea. I have a blanket with me, I may put the wedding couple sitting on the floor, then immediate family on the bench, with everyone else behind. Maybe then I will only need one light up high to cover them all with another from the front acting as fill.
    God I love this forum, thanks a lot.
  18. I think you are taking the photo's outside. Well if you use a 60" umbrella tie a sting from the 60" kite to the bride and watch her fly away. It won't take much wind to blow an umbrella that size over, even with sandbags.

    As for the umbrella I prefer a white one, not the gold or the silver inserts for outdoor work, with the exception of late afternoon type of work I really like the gold lined ones. This of course is a very personal choice.

    Bare bulb is very nice wrap around lighting, but you need to be careful with the harshness and hot spots on the faces of people.

    A trick use at most weddings, when people sit on the ground bring those big plastic bags and place these under them to avoid wet grass and grass stains.

    Be careful with how high you place your light. You may get hot spots on bald guys and dark eyes.
  19. Hi John, you'll have 1100 w/s of lighting power to work with ... and unless you are shooting a large group at dead noon on the white sands of Miami beach, you'll have nice control over lighting the group even if there is some dappled light from leaves, and those sorts of irritating outdoor issues.
    I'd have to agree with others here that an umbrella solution may be a bad idea if there is even a light breeze. One solution I've used outdoors is to fit the two heads with a 7" grid reflectors and use a clip-in half dome white translucent diffusers.
    While this DOES NOT act as a diffuser in the way a large light source does, it does mitigate the more specular light quality of a direct strobe that Bob Bernardo mentioned. Like any diffused modifier, the light output is cut somewhat, but with 1100 w/s I doubt that will be an issue. So, you can somewhat modify the light quality (not the coverage) of your Elinchrom heads without the threat of wind issues. The only thing you need to be aware of is to turn off the modeling light so you don't melt the plastic ball diffuser. Modeling lights would be useless outside anyway, and only serve to sap power from your battery.
    These half dome diffusers are also useful indoors to somewhat broaden/soften the bounce light off ceilings and walls, and the lights can be set up in much more compact areas than can be accomplished with umbrellas. It's all easier to cart around also.

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