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Problem with large group portrait

Discussion in 'Street, Documentary, and Portrait' started by OM Dude, Apr 29, 2014.

  1. OM Dude

    OM Dude Mu-43 Rookie

    Dec 30, 2012
    Ku'u home o Honolulu
    For the past six years, I've been asked to take the group photo for the Class of 1954 (average ages of the people in the photo are 77-80 years old). Every year, the photo comes out mediocre because many people aren't looking at the camera or touching their faces or looking in the wrong direction, not smiling, talking to each other etc. I'm on a ladder in front of them and I've pretty much run out of ideas about how to get them to all look at the camera and pay attention for the 15 seconds or so I need to get off some exposures. I've tried being friendly, I've tried yelling at them, I've tried being really mean, but every year, it's been a picture in which half the people seem really indifferent. Which is strange because over the 6 years, many of them have died. So you would think they might care?

    Anyway, does anyone have any tricks or tips on what to do with getting a large group synchronized? Maybe 35-40 people this year since it is the 60th anniversary. I have an assistant (aka, spouse) but if she starts speaking they look at her instead of the camera. Any suggestion would be appreciated. I've pretty much run out of ideas.
  2. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    Get another ladder and have your wife climb up next to you and get her to talk, crack jokes etc.
  3. Fmrvette

    Fmrvette This Space For Rent

    May 26, 2012
    Detroit, Michigan
    Hi Dude.

    The age is a bit of a problem...I've had large groups jump in the air upon request and then taken exposures at 9 fps on the way up, down, and after landing. Generally the group would be laughing or at least smiling and no one had their eyes closed. After that the "real" shot was a piece of cake. Might not work with a group of septuagenarians...

    With a group of U.S. military veterans play the national anthem - you'll have instant attention. Play the first six notes then scream "ON YOUR FEET!!!". Guaranteed or your money back. Age is NOT an issue with getting vets to stand up when that particular tune is played.

    A police whistle will get nearly everyone's attention in a large group - at least for a moment, long enough to yell instructions and make a shot or three.

    Considering the class of 1954 is the target...crank up Bill Hailey on the stereo (or Elvis or The Penguins - but Bill Hailey has the most energy; "Rock Around The Clock" was the top rock 'n roll song of '55). (Nota Bene - yes, I'm old enough to remember; my sister is Class of '56. Or would have been had she not taken the principal's car and...but I digress :biggrin:). The opening bars of the song might get their attention long enough to make a photograph.

    Set up the chairs facing AWAY from the camera / ladder setup. Then over the P.A. (you DO have a megaphone, right???) announce that as long as they're not going to look at the lens anyway this year you are going to take a picture of their "good side". That might get enough good humor going long enough to reposition the chairs and guilt everyone into looking at the lens.

    If nothing else works setting off an M-80 will get their attention - although you might want to have First Responders on hand with defibrillators.

    On the upside you don't have any mother-of-the-bride critiquing you're work :biggrin:.

    No matter how it works out you're a mensch to be taking the photo for the folks :drinks:.

    Good luck!

    • Like Like x 1
  4. HappyFish

    HappyFish Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 8, 2012
    You have maybe 3 seconds 15 is way to long for solid attention
    get up being friendly assertive OK everyone looking at me nowhere else blah blah fire off a bunch crack a joke wait a few seconds maybe ten then repeat
    Fine line between the funny nice guy vs jerky guy cross to the jerky line no getting em coming back to your side so better to be on nice side :) 

    Takes a certain ability to command groups for sure a learned skill
  5. klee

    klee Mu-43 Veteran

    Mar 20, 2013
    Houston, TX
    try trivia questions
  6. beanedsprout

    beanedsprout Mu-43 Veteran

    Apr 13, 2013
    north central Ohio
    shoot in burst for a few seconds, use your spouse on the ladder, and photoshop them.
    • Like Like x 1
  7. namasste

    namasste Mu-43 Regular

    Mar 27, 2014
    NE Ohio
    I use a trick in any group shot (and sometimes even individual one's depending...) that seems to work very well and very consistently. Basically, have everyone close their eyes and open them on a three count (which is when you snap the shoot in a short burst. It eliminates many distractions since the eyes are closed and all but ensures that all eyes will be open and on you when you say open. Maybe not 100% success rate but its pretty close so I use it every single time I do a group.
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