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I just got a call from my brother asking if I could help him out with a work thing... he needs someone to take a good photo or two of a corporate group (about 250 people).

The photo will be in a hotel conference room. I'm assuming the people will be seated.

I am a complete amateur and he seems stuck, so he needs someone to at least try get a good photo of the group. With the gear I have..... Is it possible? I know it all depends on the room size and lighting, and of course the setup, but I thought maybe someone here could just give me a few tips on how to approach this.

The Photo gear I have is:

  • Canon 70D dSLR
  • Probx190 Manfrotto tripod
  • Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II
  • Canon EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM
  • Tamron 70-300mm telephoto
  • Yongnuo YN-565EX II flash

He also wants a few candid photos of the conference... I've had my eye on a Sigma 30mm 1.4 being sold for a bargain. Would it be worth getting this? (I'm looking for an excuse to pick up a bargain — ha.)

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You should go there ahead of time. Gather as much information as possible. Try to get access to the room before the group arrives. Try asking the hotel employees. Google the hotel, maybe they have a group shot of their employees or of a previous conference on their website.

You should definitely find out if this is seated or not. If the people are not seated, all those 250 people have to be directed in some formation to take the image. This can require a change of location. There might be a big stair in front of or inside the hotel, which makes assembling groups (especially of that size) a lot easier.

Your YN 565 will probably be useless for the group shot. Getting an even distribution of light on 250 people with a single small flash will not work very well. But that shouldn't be a problem, because conference rooms are usually well equipped and it should be possible to light the entire room very well. Use this lighting for your group shot instead of your flash.

I am not sure how you come up with the idea of shopping for a new lens in this situation. With an appointment like this, how do you have time to familiarise yourself with new equipment? For candid photos your 50mm will work well. And there's no use for a f1.4 lens anyway. You are photographing a conference. that means many people interacting with each other. Even your candid shots would include at least a few people (2, 3, maybe up to 5) which makes using an aperture of 1.4 less than ideal, because you want everybody in focus and not just one persons right eye.

Your zoom lens will be a lot more versatile when walking around the conference, adjusting for different locations, where the "few steps back" that a prime sometimes requires, are often not available. The flash will help in dark situations without relying on a wide open aperture.

The tripod can be useful for a staged (not seated) group shot. Keeping the camera in one place allows you to direct people better.

I don't see any use for the tamron, but keep it in the bag just in case.

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Besides the good answer null gave, I'm adding some thoughts.

Group shoot

1) Give loud and clear instructions. It is not a shouting competition. Ask for the main microphone.

2) Make clear and fast desitions so people keep the mood and participation high.

3) Use the ambient light. Shoot in raw. Prepare your white balance correctly, raw settings, aperture, etc. before asking everyone to gather. Prepare all technical details in advance.

4) If the light is low and shoot in raw you should decide if you can force the exposure 1 step darker. It is better to have some grain rather than a blured face.

5) If the people don't fit in one shoot you can try using a panorama aproach. Would be a pain to stilch but it is an option.

  • Explain you need to take pairs of photos and you need them to be perfectly still, but happy. Take one to the left, then to the right. Repeat that another 3 times, so you have at least 4 pairs of photos to choose from.

6) Mesure visually the desired location. 1 person ocupy lets say 50-60 cm shoulder to shoulder. Mesure it in "steps" walking on the location etc.

The candid ones

1) Turn off the pre-flash.

2) Take some photos without flash. Of course use the max aperture.

3) Take some other with the flash, and probably a shutter speed so some ambient light is shown on the background.

4) Shoot the host and expositors but also the people looking at the exposition.

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