Technique For An Interesting Group Shot

by William Lulow

A while ago, I was asked to make a photograph of a group of people. They wanted a fairly dramatic-looking shot, so I decided to make it in original black & white. I also decided to mimic the first American album released by The Beatles, which was also black & white. It showed all four Beatles lit by only one light. Now, this may sound simple enough, but with a larger number of people, it presents certain problems. Here is the shot:

GroupShot209(c)

As you can see, it was lit by a side light and the overall effect I was after is there, but when shooting a large group, you have to make sure that all the faces are lit and that the camera can see everybody. When people are placed close to one another, they often cast shadows on the others. The solution here was to have each person occupy his/her own space with enough distance between them to let the light through. Everyone was kept sharp in the image by using a small aperture. Also, here the light had to be “feathered” slightly from its 90-degree position in order to catch more of the faces. In addition, the slight change in the light’s position caused the background to be partially lit, which was later corrected in Photoshop. A mask was made around each of the heads and the background was made a uniform dark tone, thus creating the desired effect.