Advice for Indoor Group Photo with E-M1 and FL-600R Flash

Discussion in 'Olympus Cameras' started by getoutandshoot, Feb 27, 2014.

  1. getoutandshoot

    getoutandshoot Mu-43 Regular

    80
    Apr 28, 2012
    Hello,
    In a few hours I will be taking a group photo inside using an E-M1 with the 12-40mm zoom and FL-600R flash. I don't have a lot of experience photographing people or using the flash, so I'm trying to read the manuals and plan ahead.

    A few details about the photo.
    * It will be indoors, after dark, so no natural daylight from windows
    * large living room, pretty high ceilings, not sure whether the ceilings are white
    * group of about 10 or so people including myself
    * I will use a tripod, the flash will be on the camera; I have no diffuser to put on the flash
    * I need to put the camera on self timer and run to get in the picture

    So, without any experience and without having read too much either, here is what I'm planning to do:

    I taught myself how to use the custom timer setting and I have it programmed to wait 10 seconds for me to run into the frame, then it will take 6 photos with the maximum 3 second pause in-between. I hope that 3 seconds in-between photos is enough to allow the flash to completely recharge.

    I will set the flash mode to red-eye reduction, so I'll have to warn folks about all the pre-flashes. When I engage red-eye reduction, it seems that the flash may not necessarily fire, and indeed I noticed this in my testing. Apparently if I want to force the fill flash to fire I need to use Shutter or Manual priority mode. Maybe this doesn't matter too much.

    In some testing here at home in my own living room, the results seemed a little under exposed. So I will do some test shots and check the histogram and maybe adjust the exposure if it seems safe to do so. If I use compensation, should I adjust the flash or on the camera?

    I'll try to put the camera at least 10-12 feet away from the group, probably more, but not more than ~20 feet. I want to stay away from the maximum 12mm zoom end of the lens, staying in the middle or fully zoomed in.

    I figure the aperture will probably be wide open or at most 1 stop down to f/4. I'll try to keep the shutter speed at least 1/60 second and the ISO not higher than 400 if I can.

    I thought it might be good to use the face detection feature, making sure most of the faces are within the autofocus grid, not way at the edge of the frame... Not sure which face detection mode I will use, Face, Face and Eye, Face and right eye, etc.

    I think the ceilings will be pretty high (~15-18 feet?), not sure if they are angled, or painted white. So I'm not sure if I'll should try to bounce the flash off the ceiling. I might try it and if it seems to work okay I'll try one series of shots with the flash pointed straight on and another bouncing off the ceiling?

    So, does anything above sound wrong? Take it easy on me... I have a lot to learn when it comes to people/flash photography.

    Thanks.
    --Dave
     
  2. PatrickVA

    PatrickVA Mu-43 Veteran

    264
    Jul 31, 2012
    Central Virginia
    Try the ceiling first - you'll likely be surprised at how effective it is. 1/60, ISO 400 and f4 is a decent amount of light. For a little fill, you can tape or rubber band a white business card or larger piece of cardboard behind the flash, so some of the light that's going up bounces toward the group.

    Six photos is a lot to stand through unless you know the settings/light is just right. Especially if you need to adjust and then want them to stand through another round. Do a couple test shots of one or a few people to dial it in before you go to a 30 second series of automatic shots.
     
  3. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    I would also recommend trying the ceiling and direct as well. One flash for groups can be fraught with problems because of the potential for unevenness and harsh shadows, so try also to bring the group away from the background as far as possible. I would also recommend shooting in RAW or RAW/JPG, as that will allow you to recover problems a lot better. You can use Olympus Master or Viewer to adjust the RAW files if you don't have Lightroom or such.
     
  4. yakky

    yakky Mu-43 Top Veteran

    662
    Jul 1, 2013
    Bounce from the ceiling if at all possible. Shoot raw+jpeg to correct color casts. I'm not sure why you are afraid of going above ISO400. Heck you can get create large prints at 1600 out of an E-M1 with good lighting. At ISO1600 your flash is way more powerful. Lastly, lots of practice shots BEFORE the group assembles.
     
  5. getoutandshoot

    getoutandshoot Mu-43 Regular

    80
    Apr 28, 2012
    Thanks a lot for the useful suggestions so far. Summarizing,

    --> Definitely try to bounce the flash off the ceiling (even if the ceiling is high/angled)
    --> Don't be afraid to bump up the ISO 1 or 2 stops to 800 or 1600
    --> Try to separate the group from the background if possible (thanks I did not think of this)
    --> Shoot RAW + jpeg (I was going to anyway just to not have to worry as much about white balance)
    --> Take test shots to dial in exposure compensation etc. before assembling the group and making them sit through a sequence.

    If I bounce the flash off the ceiling, I'm thinking that eliminates any need for red-eye reduction, so when bouncing the flash I will change it to simple fill flash mode to eliminate the pre-flashes.

    Maybe I'll change it to a 4 shot sequence before changing settings. WIth ~10 people hopefully that's enough to get everybody looking decent in at least one of the 4. I'll ask them if they're willing to let me try 3 different settings (12 total photos). I'll vary the ISO on at least 1 set, and use direct flash with red-eye reduction on at least 1 set.

    Only a few more hours until I have to leave, but I will follow up in a day or two with a link to the final photo because it will be on a public web site.

    --Dave
     
  6. klee

    klee Mu-43 Veteran

    367
    Mar 20, 2013
    Houston, TX
    Kevin
    if you are still there I would actually suggest you try to find a wall to bounce off of.

    you may get unwanted cheek bone/brow shadows with ceiling bounces.

    try to position the camera and group so your wall is either 3-5ft directly behind the camera or 6-10ft to the side (simulates window light and gives jawline definition)

    also elevate the tripod sufficiently so most people have a similar gaze.
     
  7. klee

    klee Mu-43 Veteran

    367
    Mar 20, 2013
    Houston, TX
    Kevin
    here are a couple of group shots with bounced on camera flash in the same room. one came out better than the other.
     

    Attached Files:

  8. klee

    klee Mu-43 Veteran

    367
    Mar 20, 2013
    Houston, TX
    Kevin
    oh yeah set flash exposure comp to +1.0 or 1.3

    TTL metering is always underexposed.
     
  9. bassman

    bassman Mu-43 Top Veteran

    682
    Apr 22, 2013
    New Jersey
    Scott
    You did good.
     
  10. jamespetts

    jamespetts Mu-43 Top Veteran

    803
    May 21, 2011
    London, England
    Do you have an Android or Apple smartphone? If so, you can use that as a remote release and not use the timer.
     
  11. getoutandshoot

    getoutandshoot Mu-43 Regular

    80
    Apr 28, 2012
    Just following up to let you know how it went. In the end I did only a single sequence of 4 shots, all at the same settings, ISO400, f/2.8, 1/80 sec., bouncing flash off the ceiling. I used no exposure compensation, but I should have. Next time I'll increase the flash output by about 2/3 or 1 EV, I'll tell people to remove their glasses if they want to, and I'll do more frames at different settings. I might also try to move people further away from the backdrop and watch what is in the edge of the frame more. I didn't even notice that ceramic rhinoceros on the left side of the frame when I set up. The whole group did not show up for the photo this time, so I might try again when we have more full attendance. I have limited post-processing skills, so the attached image is just the jpeg out of the camera, cropped a little bit, with levels, saturation, and contrast slightly boosted (using Gimp).

    Thanks again to all who offered advice (klee I didn't see your advice until after I had left, but thank you!).
    --Dave
     

    Attached Files:

  12. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    It didn't turn out too badly. One thing to do when taking group photos is to carefully survey every inch of the background and foreground to identify distractions and how to overcome them. In this case, drawing the blinds would have provided a cleaner backdrop to the guys on the right, as would the removal of the plant in the background and the stick that must be in the pot. You can also experiment with angle; sometimes a little higher or lower can produce better photos that the traditional eye level shots. Doing family shots in people's homes is always a good thing, as it's much more relaxing for them being in a familiar environment, but it's not always the easiest place to shoot. Sometimes, you have to be somewhat brutal and move/remove furniture etc to create a clean environment.
     
  13. klee

    klee Mu-43 Veteran

    367
    Mar 20, 2013
    Houston, TX
    Kevin
    turned out great! very natural.
     
  14. biomed

    biomed Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 22, 2013
    Seattle area
    Mike
    You might also think about a FlashBender. They are very versatile and quite effective.
     
  15. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz