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LWT in '08

Last night the agency that I work for had their annual Christmas party where for the second year in a row, they had me shoot a group photo (that’s last years photo at the right). I’m not a big fan of lining people up against the wall and posing them according to height. While it’s traditionally sound, it’s not what I like to do.

When I started here at the agency, I quickly became aware of the office obsession with the AMC drama Mad Men. The show takes place in a 60′s era ad agency and of course it appeals to our group for the obvious reasons. So for this years photo I thought I’d shoot them in a style similar to an advertisement that would be used for an entertainment magazine spread.

The party was to take place at a local restaurant called Chop House. So I went by the week before to scout out the place and found it to be a very nice venue with several picturesque opporttunities, but only one that would suit our space requirements. The main dining room was fairly open but had mirrors surrounding three of the four walls. Luckily that wasn’t a problem as the area that wasn’t covered had a long section of booth style seating that curved around nicely on the right side. It also had some nice little lamps above and frosted glass along the top. I’d found my spot.

holiday-lighting-1I showed up a few hours early and got everything pre-lit while also trying to imagine Everyone’s position. This would be my toughest challenge. I placed an Alien Bees B800 with a large soft box on the left hand side fairly close to the scene, an AB800 bounced into a large silver umbrella at camera right pretty far back in the room just to throw a bit of fill back in there, an AB800 high behind the subjects at camera right for separation and a Canon 430ex with a diffuser cap and a  green gel behind the booth to light up the frosted glass. I was going to be shooting 3-4 photos with the plan to combine them into one large piece, so while this would be my first set up, I knew the lighting would change slightly with each photo. After working out the details I put everything back out of the way.

Soon the party started and everyone drank and ate. This was fine by me since I wanted the scene to feel lived in. I got a little nervous as people got restless and the energy of the evening began to wane. When I felt everyone was done with dinner I grabbed my lights and arranged them back into position.

One of the hardest things about doing a photo like this is that no one can quite see what’s in your head and sometimes you encounter opposition to what you’re having them do. The best thing to do is just keep your cool and continue to assure your subjects that your intention is to make them look good. Luckily this group was familiar with my body of work and I got very little resistance. Moving from right to left, I shot the first photo with no problem, but soon found that I was having to chase down folks, I knew I had to hurry. I quickly moved the Canon 430ex over from it’s original position to just behind the glass directly in front of me. holiday-lighting-2I soon had what I wanted from this group and then moved on to the last photo. On the last photo I encountered a problem I had not forseen. the group was gettings smaller in the frame and need a visual element to draw the eye back in so I added a couple of tables in an “L” shape back towards the camera. I also had to re-arrange the lighting. I wanted it to feel like there was a singular light source in the center of the room so at this point I moved the Softbox to camera left and pointed it back at camera right. I also moved the separation light back to the left hand side. Once I had everyone positioned, I then positioned myself in the shot and had a co-worker, Chris Redding, fire off the last shot.

It’s at this point that I feel like I need to mention how unsure I was of just what I had. I’d been working so fast and didn’t have time to inspect every shot carefully before moving on. This is the peril of shooting this many people… I knew I would lose thier attention fast. But after getting home and reviewing the shots, I found that I was very happy with the outcome. I spent a couple of hours piecing the photos together so that the group would be able to see the results in the morning.

In the end the composition turned out to be a big hit and the principals at the agency were very happy with the way it came out. I was told that I had topped my photo from last year, and that that was no easy task considering how much they like the previous photo.

The only bad thing about a photo this wide is that it’s so hard to appreciate on the computer. It really needs to be seen much larger. So, in an attempt o hilight some of the details, I’ve broken the photos up so that you could see them larger. Be sure to click the photo at the top of the post to see the entire thing larger.

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One Comments

  1. Tweets that mention Shooting a Hollywood Style Group Photo : Stephen Poff's Blog -- Topsy.com
    on December 9th, 2009
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