Skip to main content

Shoot: Groups

Lesson 13 from: How to Take Amazing Photos with your DSLR

Julia Kelleher

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2200+ more >

Lesson Info

13. Shoot: Groups

Lesson Info

Shoot: Groups

- [Julia] We can always keep going. You have a family but what if you have a group where it's not a family, it's a corporate group or it's people who don't necessarily want to be touchy-feely and leaning on each other all the time? What if it's just co-workers, like you guys? What if you just do a group portrait that way with all adults all the same size? Then you've got another dynamic to go into play here, so should we try that? You're like, "Yeah, let's try it." Okay. So, let me think here, I didn't even plan for this. So, let's think about how we're going to do this. I'm going to go ahead and remove this stool because this is just conducive to everybody sitting close together and then, I think I'll get some more taller stools. - [Man 1] There's stools there. - Over there, okay. Awesome, perfect. And a lot of people like matchy-matchy stools, I don't. I don't always like matchy-matchy stools. I like them to be a little different. I don't know, I think it mixes it up a little bit. Bu...

t do you see what I'm doing? I'm creating sing-song just with my stools, right? And I can bring things out just a little bit to make that light a little more even. I got to be really careful, though, because it's going to affect my focal plane. You see that, okay? So, I got to shoot pretty stop-down to make this happen. So, let's get some people. Let's get some of the back row. Why don't we do you three and then we'll do you three here in the middle row? Sound good? We'll do six of you, that's a lot. I can't believe I'm taking on this brave project here. Okay. So, let's put...okay, who's my darkest skin tone? Let's bring you over on this side, why do you think I'm doing that? Because she's going to have the hottest light on her. What's your name? - [Miowa] Miowa. - Miowa, what a pretty name. I'm going to have you sit right here facing that way, that way. Perfect. Beautiful. And go ahead and turn your body a little bit that way and I want you to put all your weight on this seat's bone. Yeah, there we go, perfect. You see how that just dropped 10 pounds off her thighs? I love that. Oh, pretty, you did good. Okay, I know. I need...let's see, let's do... What's your name? - [Joe] Joe. - Joe. We're going to have Joe right here. And, Joe, I just want you to put your back... It's going to be squishy, so just keep that in mind. You're just going to lean against Miowa like this, sound good? - Mm-hmm. - If it feels weird or you're uncomfortable, tell me. I don't want everybody to feel... There we go. - Nice to meet you, Joe. - Nice to meet you, Joe! Okay, then let's take cute shorty over here. What's your name? - [Joe] Joe. - Joe, Joe, Joe. Okay, and I'm going to have you sit on this stool. I know it's going to be super-close to Joe but just go ahead and sit straight on and then maybe put your...actually, turn this way and then put this foot up on there, perfect. Good girl. Awesome. Okay, and I'm going to need you to scoot just a little bit closer to him, let me know if it's uncomfortable, there we go. I don't like to see error, I don't like to see error between my people, okay? Then, let's see. You, my dear, are going to sit back here like this, okay? Don't be afraid to face people away places because that's what makes it interesting. See how now I need a tall one, you, my dear, are going to sit right here, and I'm going to have you put your feet one foot hanging down and one foot up on the thing. You're tall...yeah, you're about as tall as me. And then what's your name, again? - [Brandon] Brandon. - Brandon. Brandon. I'm getting squishy. Okay, we're going to scoot everybody this way. So, hop up just one second, just a little bit that way, scoot that way, there we go. Keep it that way, we got to fit Brandon in. There we go, you sit there, bring this closer, beautiful. Okay, Brandon over here, awesome. And now, you just go ahead and stand this way, we're going to try about a couple things and yeah, put your hands in your pockets. What's your name, again, sweety? - [Bindu] Bindu. - Bindu. I want you to get nice and close to Bindu. I know it's going to be a little weird and awkward, but this is a great...see how we've made a musical scale? Okay? So, I've placed my background's tough with these 10-foot seamless papers to try to squish everybody on the background but if I do use a longer lens, again, I'm going to compress. It's going to bring the background a little bit closer to them. Now, Brandon, go ahead and turn around and put your back to her. Yeah, and cross your arms. Now, he and... - Joe. - Joe, sorry. Look really the same. So, it's bothering me a little bit but it's a really comfortable position when you're not related to the person. Back to back is like, "Hey, I'm your friend but I don't need to be nice to you," right? So, I'm going to keep it that way. Maybe, instead, Brandon, like you're leaning on her, like a wall, like this, more forward-facing to me. Yeah, a little bit more and then take your left foot and cross it over your right, perfect. See how we change it up just a little bit like that? See that? Okay, I'm going to shoot this. They are not...I should have had them closer to the background in order to get them all in the background, so we're going to have not enough background to extend beyond. So, I'm working with a big group here, but I just want you to see the dynamic of how this looks with... Yeah, I don't have enough room. I'm going to have to use a wider lens. Let's get this. I don't really want to do this because it's going to distort them a little bit but I'm going to go ahead and do it, just to see the posing. Sound good? So, I'm going to shoot at 50 millimeters, there we go. Now I can see. Let's see if I can do it more. Compress, compress, compress, there we go. Awesome, it's going to be slightly overexposed, but you can see how they have that musical scale sing-song look to them. They're all in a straight line and they're posed pretty pleasingly. Now, Joe, girl Joe, I would like you to put all your... Joe girl, female Joe, yes, can you put your weight on your right seat's bone? There you go, a little bit more. Perfect. She's like, "Whoa, that's hard." Okay, now what I want you to do is turn your nose towards the light, connect with that right shoulder, beautiful, and then... Oh, green shirt, what's your name? - [Sarah] Sarah. - Sarah, I want you to take your right arm and put it up over Joe's elbow, there we go. Perfect. Not too much, there we go, and then lean back, just perfect, just a little bit. Awesome. Okay, then, Bindu, you look awesome, can you put your hand in your back pocket for me? Beautiful. And now I want your nose this way and your chin forward and down towards me, beautiful. Good girl. Brandon, you're looking pretty awesome, nose that way, just a little bit, beautiful. I like the broad lighting on Joe, boy Joe. And then, Mayu? - Miowa. - Miowa, I'm sorry. - Iowa with an "M." - What? - Like Iowa with an "M." - Iowa with...Miowa, that is a great way to remember it. I tell you, when you have names like this, you've got to come up with little analogies for that, huh? So, I want you...I like the way your legs are, and can you just bring your hands crossed over like this? Perfect. See how that changed the dynamic of her hands a little bit more relaxed? Now, bring that left shoulder forward just a little bit, there we go. A little bit more, a little bit more, and drop it, good girl. Awesome. And now, nose towards my light, chin forward and down, good girl. Awesome, I know it's hard to stay straight. Perfect. Good job, awesome. Now, because Miowa...I got it right, is closest to the light, she also has...I'm going to stop this down just a little bit because that means I'm going to make my aperture... She has a dark skin, so she doesn't reflect the light as much as say... - Sarah. - Sarah does, because Sarah's got this bright white skin. Okay? Now, Bindu also has dark skin. I could have put her closer to Miowa if I wanted to, but I wanted, because we have these different ethnicities I didn't want to all bunch them up all on that side. That looks weird. You want to give everybody a mixed look, like this is a corporate shot for a website guys are so stinking cute. I love it and I can't chimp. If this is a corporate for a website, you want that pattern of back and forth but at the same time you want to show that you have a mixed ethnic diversity, diverse crowd in your workforce, okay? So, I'm shooting this fairly low to get some importance. If I come up here up high...sorry, babe, and take the shot, then what I can do later is crop it as a long skinny and then all of a sudden, you've got a blog header for your company. Your company... Oh, Bindu closed her eyes. No, there she is. Now, of course, the background is not wide enough because I'm shooting you guys too far away from the background. But you can see the musical scales. You see it? Okay? Makes sense? Help you out? And then, basically, what I did is, I made the musical scale and then I fixed hands, feet, legs, shoulders, chins, noses from there, each person down the line, okay? It's nice with adults who can follow directions. Right? You guys are awesome. Thank you. High-five, you feel it? Good. Awesome. You guys are amazing. So, look at the...I know you can't really see it because you're in the image, but hopefully, you can get a sense for it. Okay, any questions about group posing? And I know group posing is a big animal. It's a lot to take in because it's a lot to think about, but I hope I gave you some sense. Now, if you look at the light pattern, isn't this interesting how Joe here is a little hot because he's close to the light? But then as we get over here, the light falls off. And Brandon, who has very similar color tone to Joe, is a little better exposed. These monitors tend to blow things out but he's probably properly exposed. Excuse me, he's probably properly exposed and Brandon is probably a little underexposed in the file itself, okay? But do you see that light fall off? How dramatic it can be? But because Miowa has a darker skin, she doesn't reflect as much of the light, she's not going to be super-hot right next to the light. That's why I put her over there, okay? So, you have to evaluate the tones in your image against the distance from the light as well as your focal length, the focal plane, and the camera angle. Remember what I said the very beginning? What were the three things? Camera angle, lighting angle, posing angle. Nail those three things and you'll get a good image every time, okay? It's really all simple because it comes down to camera angle, lighting angle, posing angle. Then things like aperture, of course, aperture or focal plane is important for getting everybody in focus but aperture is also an artistic component. And then we have lens choice, is another artistic component. When you're shooting people, giving a longer lens with compression is going to make them look more realistic and make them look better on a two-dimensional plane, okay? Remember the whole point of...compression makes the background come closer, but it also has to do with your distance. The closer you get to a subject with a wider lens, they're going to get distorted. Their face is going to go all... Nose is going to be 10 times bigger than their eyes, okay? Questions? Yes? - [Woman 1] Can you touch on why you wouldn't do a second light, maybe at a different height on the other side? - Totally could and I probably would, but because I'm in a basic DSR class and I'm trying to simulate window light, because I don't want people to think they have to go out and buy massive studio lights to do this kind of shot. But, yes, in a big group situation, I'm going to have two lights and they're going to be further away and honestly, just blast them with forward-facing lights, make sure everybody's lit properly, okay? But yeah, a good question. I wanted to simulate natural light so that anybody at home could do the same shot, with the same parameters and limitations, okay? Yes, Judith? - [Judith] When you talk about a longer lens or a long lens, are you just saying that to distinguish it from a macro lens? - No, I'm saying it to distinguish between a wide-angle lens. A long lens... - That's what I meant to say. - Oh, got it. Okay. - That's what I meant to say, a wide-angle lens. - Yes. A wide-angle lens to me is... This is an industry debate, is a 50-millimeter a wide-angle? To me, yes, it is, especially if you get up close to a subject. Remember that shot I showed of Belinda, of her nose? That was a 50-millimeter lens up close, okay? That will distort. Whereas, I do an 85-millimeter up close, it's not going to do that distortion, okay? So, to me, anything 70 and above is a portrait lens, is a longer lens, and then anything 50 and below, for the most part, is a wider angle. And of course, I was shooting Judy with a 24-millimeter wide to saw how heavily she was distorted, okay? But it added some cuteness to it. Now, wide-angle looks amazing on landscapes, and city scenic shots, and it distorts the angle of the buildings, and looks all cool, some people want that, some people don't, and they will actually use architectural tilt-shift lenses, which gives you wide angle but straighten the lines, okay? So, there's tons of...and that's the beauty of having a DSLR. You can upgrade and all these different interchangeable lenses that give you all these neat unique techniques that can add to the flavor of your image, and do things creatively, and tell a story that you want to tell. So, that's the beauty of having a camera with this flexibility and you guys all have that now with your DSLRs, which is awesome. Now, does it take money to buy lenses? Yes, lifetime of collecting, but that's the thing. I've had my 50-millimeter 1.4 lens for years, years, this stuff never goes bad. Eventually, they do come out with an upgrade, but the bodies change like that, the lenses hold their value and hold their status for a long time. So, investing in glass is never about investment, in my opinion, and I always say, "Go for the most expensive glass you can afford. You will not regret it." Yes? - [Woman 2] And lenses have amazing resale value, which is awesome. - They do very much, though. Very much, though. - So, speaking of lenses, when you were describing as you were shooting with this family, you had said something about compression and how you were compressing the scene or not. And so, somebody had asked, "What does that mean? What does compress mean?" - Compression is a little bit of a complicated topic but what it basically means, in the simplest form, is a lens that compresses, takes the foreground and the background and brings it closer to the subject visually. So, when you shoot the opposite, a wide-angle lens spreads things out. So, when you shoot a scene with, say, a person in the foreground and a car in the background, that car may be only 10 feet away. It'll look like it's 40 feet away with a wide-angle lens. With a long focal length, a telephoto lens, that car will look like it's right behind the person instead of 10 feet. That's compression. So that's why portrait photographers love long lenses, is because it compresses everything and makes the body look truer to form and slims people down, in essence, a little bit, okay? Compression also creates much more intense bokeh effect, that out-of-focus background, that's so creamy and when the background's out of focus and the subject is sharp, it really just leads your eye right to the person. And that's why we, as portrait photographers, love lenses that can compress, long lenses, because they not only make the subject look more true to form and flattering, they also create that out-of-focus background better, which makes your eye, as the viewer of the image, go directly to the person. Does that make sense? - Thank you. - Okay. - That's great. Way to break it down, Julia. - I'm trying. - No, it's awesome. - It's hard to explain because you don't... You can get into the whole technical and the way the glass curves and blah blah blah. - No, that's perfect, no. - It's like, "No, that's too complicated. Let's just break it down into ABC." - Right. It's what does it actually mean for us? - Yes, why do you care? - Yeah. So, a couple more questions. - Sure. - This one's from Sean, "What about just standing poses with a group, are there any considerations there with your musical notes?" And similarly, somebody had asked about posing a group outside where you wouldn't necessarily have stools. - Have stools, great question. Yeah, and the same thing, look at their heights. We had a lot of variety of heights. And I was calling Bindu shorty, a term of endearment, I hope you'll get that. But, yeah, it's size. Size and height matter. A larger person you're going to want to hide behind other people so they don't feel self-conscious. Those of you who are heavier in the audience, do you like to be set behind somebody so that you'll slim down and viewed, and not put in front? You don't want to put the largest person at the very front because then they look even larger comparatively to everybody else in the image. You want to put heavier-set people in the back so that it evens out. The person in the front is closer to the camera so they appear a little bit larger. So, it balances everybody out again. So, not only do you want to pair people this way but then also look at their heights, and that whole concept of standing backwards, and standing forwards, and standing to the side, mix it all up between them along with their heights, and you could still create that scale of reference or that sing-song-y musical scale if people are all just standing. I love stools because it adds to that effect even more, you can see from this image, I'm able to really turn people either which way and some sit, some stand, some legs down, some legs up. I never like two things to be absolutely equal. For example, when Joe and Brandon were standing there and they were both standing this exact same position, standing exact same way, I was like, "Ah, too matchy-matchy." I don't like things to be matchy-matchy: clothing, posing, anything. I want everybody to have a unique look to the image because it makes everybody stand out as an individual. So, when both Joe and Brand... I know they're buddies over there, but when Joe and Brandon were standing exactly the same, I'm like, "Okay, this is too much," and that's why I said, "Brandon, turn this way and cross your legs like you're leaning on a pole," and all of a sudden it change dynamic, and he was just slightly different, okay? So, just make sure no two people are totally different. Now, if you've got a group of 20, then clearly, there's going to be people who are a little more similar than others, just space them out, okay? More internet. - Another question from Angelique, "Do you typically have a shot list prepared ahead of time based on the number of people in the group?" - I used to. Nowadays, no. But in the beginning, I needed to do that to get my mind straight and I would highly recommend doing that if you're just starting out because if you're so worried about your camera settings, white balance, focal plane, compression. All this lighting angle, posing angle, it's so much to take into account, you forget what you need shot-wise. I was telling Brandon on the break, I said, "There was a time, one of my first sessions, I was shooting a family and I was so worried about shooting the family. I completely overexposed the first half of the session and shot them in JPEG." They were not usable. I was so worried that I didn't even look down to see if it was right...if the exposure was even close. I just kept going for it and then you know how you get lost in the moment and just keep going without thinking? And all of a sudden, I looked down and I went, "Ah!" And scrolled back and went, "Aah!" Inside, I'm going, "Ah, I suck. I'm a horrible photographer. What am I doing? I shouldn't be doing this." Okay, but, of course, I caught it mid-session, we shot the rest the session, it was okay, and I admitted to the client that we had to redo some things because my camera had issues. But it happens to all of us. So, yes, make a shot list in the beginning until these things become automatic. But then, what will happen is, especially if you pick a genre and you want to be shooting that genre regularly, when you do it enough, it's just automatic. You'll know exactly what shots you need every time for every single shoot, okay? Yeah. - I'm just wondering, again, we don't have to go into depth, but what is it that we need to know about RAW versus JPEG, and when to use what or the importance of what, as we're getting to know our DSLR? - Sure. Sure. The biggest difference between a RAW and a JPEG file is the number of pixels within each file, pretty much. A RAW file has exactly the number of pixels that your camera can produce at its maximum, okay? A JPEG file is one where the camera decided, "Oh, there's all these pixels of gray, we don't need all those. Let's compress it down to the bare minimum so we can make a smaller file size." That's essentially the difference. So, when you go to edit them, editing a JPEG with blown highlights is going to be less successful because you don't have as much information in the file versus a RAW image. However, if you are shooting a wedding or something where you have a massive amount of images, shooting in RAW may be of a disadvantage because you don't have enough card space, your computer can't handle all those files, it's gigabytes and gigabytes of data, it's a lot for your computer to take, okay? So, you may not want to shoot in RAW. But if that's the case, you better nail your exposure if you shoot JPEG. What I have often challenged my students to do is to close RAW down and shoot in JPEG Fine and get it right in camera because if you screw up an image in JPEG, it's gone. You can't really do much with it. You can try but you just can't do as much as you can do with a RAW file. So, it forces you to get your exposure right because you'll lose it if you don't get it, okay? JPEG is a format that's used traditionally to transfer images over the internet. Because remember when the internet was really slow? There's no way it could transfer over a large file, so that we would compress the files into JPEG into a web-ready or viewable format, okay? That old technology could handle looking at, it wasn't too big of a file size. Makes sense? Hopefully, that answers...did that answer the question? - Absolutely. Thank you for that. - Okay. Yeah. - I did have a question earlier that I wanted to ask you about under or overexposing since we're talking about that. And this one had a lot of votes, so thank you for your votes, "Is it better to be a bit underexposed with a lower ISO and to compensate in Photoshop or Lightroom, or than a higher ISO with more noise or grain?" I guess, actually, scratch that. What I was going to ask you is, is it better to underexpose or overexpose? - It's better to under if you have to. - And why? - I say that with hesitation because I don't ever want anyone to under or overexpose because really, the best thing to do is to get it right. Clearly, I know you guys all know that. I think that's why I'm hesitant to say one or the other because then people in their minds go, "Oh, if I underexpose, it'll be okay." But I also understand what it's like to be a beginner and not want to lose images. So, with that being said, like I said earlier, expose for your highlights always in digital photography, okay? So, if that's the case, I exposed off of Miowa, did I get that right? Miowa, Miowa. I exposed off of Miowa. Now, she has darker skin so that my camera wanted to make her 18% gray, so I had to be careful not to let the camera try to overexpose her, okay? So... Sorry, brain squeeze, exposure... - Over, under. - Over, under, if you blow your highlights, it's much harder to save it because the data's just not there. If you have a histogram with everything over to the white side, I think I have...I don't know if they have time to find it, but I have one of those images where I was taking a DD, I just blew it out. If we look at that histogram, it'll all be shoved to the right. That is an unsavable file. There's no data there, okay? Now, on the other side, if I clip the shadows drastically, there's more data in the shadows overall than there is in the highlights. I know that's hard to understand and this is a digital thing. There's more information in the shadows of a digital file than there is in the highlights, so if you blow everything out on the highlights, you have virtually no data. If you clip everything into the black, there's data there, it just needs to be recovered. Does that make sense? I'm trying to make this as simple as possible and I don't want to over-trivialize it because it's more complicated than that, but I also don't want to cram your brain with so much stuff, you're like, "Whoa, gloss over, glazy-eyed look." So just note that underexposed images have more information in them than overexposed information. So, you can pull back an underexposed image to properly save it, expose it, than you can an image that's completely blown out, okay? We should have tested this. I should have just blown out an image and then used the histogram to try to save. But the best thing you can do is if you're scared is slightly underexpose, okay? But at the same time, I say that with the teacher caveat of try not to do that. Try to nail the exposure every time because then you will become way confident in your skill set and that's what's going to make you a better artist because you'll be focusing not on the technical of getting it right, you'll be focused on the visual of making it beautiful.

Ratings and Reviews


Julia is an amazing teacher!!!! Funny, go with the flow, honest, and obviously so gifted at what she does. That came through and also inspired those feelings in me as a novice photographer. I left her class feeling excited to play with my camera and appreciate that she encouraged me to use what I have now and get good before spending tons of money on fancier stuff. I also love that she showed how everyday materials from Home Depot can make for great images. I particularly appreciated the 2nd day on product photography, social media images and the short demos in PhotoShop. Please do a full class on just this Julia/Creative Live!!!!!

Brandon Couch

So first off I've been doing photography for a little bit now and only shot in manual 20% of the time and was okay with it. Since coming to this class and seeing how manual mode isn't scary, it is everything you need and want in the life of photography, I now will not use anything else. The team at Creative Live is amazing and Julia's love for other starting and even professional photographers is amazing. She would sit and talk to us together and individually and really loves those who love photography. I would recommend this class and any other one of Julia's classes here on CreativeLive. I can't wait to come back. Was AMAZING!!! LIFE CHANGING!!!

a Creativelive Student

What an awesome class! I am not a beginner and am currently making a living as a photographer and was interested in this class because #1 Julia is such a great teacher with such talent and #2 I was expecting to take away some valuable information to pass along to my little after school beinning photo club. I am happy to report Julia did not disappoint:-) What actually happened was that I learned so many things that I probably should have known being a seasoned professional that I lost track of my original intention of why I was there. I couldn't wait to pull out my camera and try all of the new things that I had just learned. The color balancing and the little dot showing when your camera (Nikon) was manually focused alone was worth the price. I enjoyed every minute of this course. Thanks Julia! Anyone would benefit from this course....

Student Work