AD4803 Studio – Group Portrait

Task 3 in the module guide for AD4803 (studio) was to produce an ‘outdoor group portrait (minimum of 3 people, preferably more)’. This could be shot on DSLR or film and must consider the positioning of subjects, the overall structure of the composition and quality of lighting.

I decided to use flash to light my group portrait because I intend on using on location flash when I shoot my subject for my 4 portraits. This task enabled me to get used to the setup of the on location flash as well as figuring out which positioning of flash works best. However, this was different to my final shoot as there will only be one primary subject, meaning that the zoom is likely to be closer.

Link to Contact Sheet from shoot

In class, we looked at how group portraits are arranged, and found that generally they are formed using a triangle shape. This can be done with gaps between subjects’ heads, the subjects’ heads themselves or body positioning. This is seen in the Annie Leibovitz image below:

I decided to use this technique along with the flash as I thought it may make the image more interesting to look at from the viewers’ point of view. On this shoot, I used a Canon 70D with a 28mm lens in order to fit the whole group in. I also used a speed light on the top of my camera. I originally had it aiming into a reflective umbrella on a stand to the left of me, however the natural lighting overpowered the flash making it seem non existent. The only way to make the flash more effective was to put it directly onto my camera.


This was one of the first images I shot. I had enough people to forma  physical triangle so I positioned them like this. I also asked the girl in the front to crouch to add levels to the image. However, the framing of this image was off, and I wanted to include more of the subjects as well as more of the backdrop.


As I and all of the subjects knew each other, I wanted to portray their relationship to each other in the portrait. I therefore thought it would be appropriate for them to be touching each other somewhat. In the above image, the subject in the centre is testing settings for me. However, I liked this positioning more than the original because it was more interesting. I think the use of levels in it (the people in the background being on their knees and the subjects in front being sat down) as well as the angles at which some subjects are sat (bottom left and right facing our of frame but looking at the camera) makes it more visually interesting.

The above 2 images were shot with an aperture of 11, a shutter speed of 1/125 and an ISO of 200 (the lowest ISO the camera would go to).


I think the wider angle of this is considerably more successful as it adds context and shows the positioning of the subjects more clearly.  I also like the facial expressions on the subjects in this, as again I feel that if shows their relationship. In comparison to the first 2 images, this was shot using an F stop of 13 with the same ISO and shutter speed settings. I think this is evident as the image as a whole is darker. I think that the subjects in the background may have been out of focus had I shot from this distance with an F stop of 11.

Finally, to see if it made any difference, I decided to shoot portrait. For this, I made the subjects get closer again, making a much more obvious triangle with the shapes of their bodies and heads:


Although I like this image, I think I personally prefer the wider shot which includes more context and in my opinion, is more interesting as the viewer can see the rest of the shapes on the bodies of the subjects.

The most challenging part of this task for me was positioning my subjects effectively. Although I am happy with the outcome, I think next time I should be more adventurous and more creative with the positioning.


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