Background and Vision
A corporate photoshoot may not always be the most exciting type of photoshoot, but it doesn’t mean that there’s no room for creativity. Recently, I was asked by my client to do a group photoshoot with a fresh and contemporary look that is shot on a white background. What we end up with is a strong set of clean, modern images that would not look out of place in a business magazine.
Shooting and lighting a group can be challenging because you have to not only deal with properly lighting everyone, but you have to make sure that you can get the best expressions and poses from everyone.
Luckily, because we were shooting on a white seamless background, instead of shooting everyone at once, I can shoot each person individually and composite them together in post.
Gear and Camera Settings
Camera: Olympus OM-D E-M1
Lens: Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8
Shutter Speed: 1/125 seconds
Focal length: 31mm (62mm full-frame equivalent)
How We Lit and Shot It
As I mentioned before, shooting one-by-one allowed me to take 8-12 shots per person and have the client pick out the images with the best pose and expression. Additionally, I can maximize the amount of pixels used for that person, and have the flexibility to create individual portraits in case they need them in the future.
Here is the lighting diagram to how I lit this shoot.
The beauty dish with diffusion sock is the key light, and its power was set for f/8. Using a front sock diffuses the light and creates a look that is more like a small softbox or octabox. Because I’m already using a softened key light, I used a 74″ Paul Buff soft-silver parabolic light modifier (PLM) umbrella without a sock to add a bit more contrast than a diffused PLM umbrella. This was set around 1-stop below my key light.
For the hair light, I had an Einstein on a light boom with an 8.5″ reflector with grid at 1/2 stop over my key. The grid creates a spot light effect for the hair and the shoulder and helps to minimize lens flare.
Finally, the two softboxes flank either sides of the white seamless to blow out the background. You want to overexpose the white background by 2/3 to 1 stop over the key light, but not any higher. If you start lighting it any brighter than that, the white background starts to become a large light source and its light will start to wrap around the subject. This is good if that is the look that you’re going for, but if you are compositing, you will not have as clean of an outline around your subject.
And finally, be sure to feather both lights toward the center in order to get an even exposure coverage across the background. This is where a lightmeter comes in really handy because you can meter in different area of the background. Just be sure to twist down the lightmeter’s white dome when metering a flat surface such as this.
Before and After
Here is how the image look straight out of camera.
Because the images all look the same in frame, I can just take each person’s image and layer them together in Photoshop. Using layer masks, I can blend the white background area between each person.
The next step to retouch each subject using a combination of Portraiture plugin, Heal tool, and Clone tool to clean the skin.
Finally, I cleaned the white background by desaturating and lightening up the floor, and using the Level adjustment layer to clip the white background a bit more.
Here is the same lighting setup used to light the two managing partners.
And here is how it looks when I did a single-shot group image. Notice that even though I used a 9-foot seamless background, it was not enough to completely cover everyone from left to right. As a result, adding back the white background required more time and effort.