Group Portraits Speed Sessions

I volunteered to help our church create a member directory with photos. Four of us in the church are familiar with those camera thingys and joined to help make this happen.

Churches usually hire some pro outfit to come in and take everyones photos, but our church just can’t afford it. It’s cheaper and easier for them to upload our digital image files into their database software and then generate the actual directory.

Our setup is simple. Our goal is something slightly better than a mugshot but not as formal or nice as proper portraits. We have a large paper background that is solid gray. Lighting is done with one speedlight pointed upwards at the low, white ceiling (with white bounce card extended on the flash head).

Yesterday was our first Sunday to do this. We’re planning on taking photos for four Sundays total. There are over 300 members (and “member” includes family units) of the church and we’ve only captured 47.



Shooting was rather painless. Yesterday, myself and one other volunteer worked the sessions after each of the three church services. One of us helped to move people in and out of the room while taking their names on a notepad. Both of us helped to situate and arrange people for the photo.

I worked the camera, and in most cases it only took one shot. After each shot, I’d quickly check the LCD and make sure that everyone was smiling, had their eyes open, and nothing looked too funny. We jotted down the file number next to peoples names on the notepad to match photos-to-names later on.

About halfway through yesterday’s shooting, I realized my wonderful Canon flash (580EX) was doing some whacky stuff with the exposures. Some shots looked right-on, but about half were either over or under-exposed by as much as 1-stop.

There were subtle differences between each group shot, but the shooting parameters (e.g. distance from camera to subject, position of the flash, distance from subject to background, etc.) were pretty much the same. I switched the flash to full manual mode and that solved the problem. I should have foreseen this problem. It wasn’t too difficult to correct in processing the RAW files, however. But I won’t be making the same mistake in future sessions.

Oh, the gray background is perfect. It matched well with everyone regardless of color and served to adjust the white balance in RAW processing.

Only three more Sundays to go… :-)