Sierra Studios Manifesto

Part 6 of 6

Group Shots

Aliens and Robots

Every photographer knows that group shots can be a nightmare. Getting more than three people to agree on anything is challenging enough with experienced and devoted actors… so I prefer to photograph them individually and combine them in post… Still, sometimes you need them together for dramatic reasons.

Group shots in which your subjects are between six and eight inches tall and interacting in close proximity, can often be challenging. You must be careful when adjusting the final positions that your subjects don’t fall over and knock others down… sometimes you tape or glue down your subjects, which makes it more challenging to make the final adjustments… your light and your patience are leaving you quickly… and demands of the reality layer await you…

Surprisingly, the pre-Disney Stormtroopers were exceptionally cooperative and professional. They would have made pre-Disney Lucas proud.

Pre-Disney Stormtroopers

My preference is usually to include some natural light, and various targeted spot lights. Sometimes I let that natural light fall across a face, using fill-lights to diffuse the contrast in the shadows… other times…

Another problem with group shots is that they must sometimes remain “a group” when added to a photogram, which isn’t always desirable.

Often, I’ll make individual shots of the participants in a group shot using the same or similar frame and lighting setup and moving others out of the way. This can open creative opportunities later, allowing the individual figure to be cast in a totally different picture.

There is, of course, a certain freedom in assembling the group in Photoshop, which allows for individual re-sizing and re-arranging of the various participants. And, as in the case of the Apes in the image below, to use different shots of the same figure to create the feeling of a group. How many different Apes do you think were used in that image?

Many apes, some with spears

One last thing… I NEVER shoot on location. I admire those brave souls that take their toys and their gear onto natural environments where ANYTHING can happen; rain, wind, wild animals, runaway trucks, bees, broken glass, oil stains mixed with dried spaghetti and cigarette butts… crazy drivers and food delivery bicyclists on the sidewalk… and that’s just on my block.

Sadly, the outdoors, great or not, is now a reality-only zone.


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