Time to be with your loved ones

Time to be with loved ones

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What are some techniques for getting good group pictures (3-8 people, say) on a bright sunny day?

I've found shade to be difficult, because someone will invariably have a splash of harsh sun across their face… But I haven't had the opportunity to experiment with multiple off-camera flashes yet. Does that help?

Edit: Thanks for the suggestions. One of the issues I was thinking of, which I should have mentioned more explicitly, is harsh shadows (eg, on people's eyes, on their nose).

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3 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

The easiest is if you have the sun behind you, but not exactly behind you, but at an angle. That will give a slight side light to the faces, and they don't have to squint so much because of the sun.

If you use a flash in daylight, it's mostly to push away shadows, so that is useful if you have the sun from the side or behind the subject. The direction isn't very critical as it mostly affects the shadows, so a camera mounted flash works.

If you happen to have a big light wall close by that is in sunlight, you could use that as a giant reflector. Be a bit careful about the color though, something just off-white with a yellow tone would be ideal to match the warm sunlight and counter the slight blueish tone in the shadows.

There is not really the same need to use multiple lights outside as in a studio, you usually have a lot of secondary light bounding around, so not even the shadows are very dark.

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+1 for squinting: avoiding full sun for portraits is as much about people's expressions as the lighting. OTOH, sunlight isn't warm, it's neutral. Shadows are a bit cool though (because they're illuminated by the blue sky). –  Reid Jul 24 '10 at 16:15
    
+1: I've found the auto flash settings on a speedlite produce really pleasing results in fill-flash scenarios. –  Alan Jul 24 '10 at 16:19
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As @Guffa said, but I've found a somewhat useful technique (if you have patient subjects, that is) for squint avoidance is this:

  • have everyone close their eyes
  • on the count of three, have them open their eyes
  • take the shot on the count of three.

Right when the eyes open, they will not be squinting. They will squint about a second later, though, and the first time you try this, some joker will inevitably ask "Wait, you mean, on three, or right after three?" and then that will lead to a round of clarification.

Because of these potential crowd control issues, you should only use it when you need it, like if you're shooting on white marble or something (Hearst Castle pool deck, certain parts of Joshua Tree) where the entire area is very very bright and you have to take the group shot right now. Otherwise, follow @Guffa's suggestion and angle the sun.

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That's a great idea — thanks. –  David Wolever Jul 24 '10 at 19:49
    
I've had mixed results, sometimes that same joker will open their eyes much wider than others, resulting in a wide-eyed, surprised expression. Unsure if that's better than squinting, hehe –  Chris Aug 3 '10 at 18:40
    
Well, ultimately, it's a photo of him/her, so I guess the joke's on them :) –  mmr Aug 3 '10 at 18:43
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Since you only have a small group, if possible, bring the group into the shade. Or setup and ready to shoot and wait until you get a shade cause by the cloud blocking the sun for several seconds/minutes. I have done lots of group photos during sunny day with these tricks.

If this is not possible, do what @Guffa wrote above.

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