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How to Shoot Large Groups with Nikon CLS

Russ MacDonald (Arkayem)

Keywords: nikon, speedlights

Shooting a large group, say 40 people or more, using only two Nikon SB-800s in umbrellas is a challenge, however, you can get decent results if you do it right. SB-800s are fairly low power flashes for this type of work, so placement of the equipment is crucial. Here is an example of a recent group shot I took with just this equipment:


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EJ Wright (got2getitwright) on September 3, 2013

I just recently read about the back focus option. Seems to me this would have been a good time to use that option as it relates to getting the focus perfect and combining that with zooming in on one spot and back out.

Dave Hutchinson (Radiohutch) on August 3, 2013

Thanks Russ, This is just what I needed for a Reunion shoot that I am doing in Indiana the end of September.

Marcin Gramza (temper) on July 31, 2013

Hi Russ, Great article, thanks for taking the time for writing it. @Guy Ackermans: when looking at the mathematical formula, you are of course right. But I think that Russ wanted to maximize the amount of light coming from the SB-800 flashes. Which means that they had to be placed as close as possible to the group.

Stan Jacox (km6xz) on July 27, 2013

Awarded for his in-depth knowledge in various areas, including Portraits and Urban Photography

Guy, I think Russ meant the high position, angled down reduced the falloff due to the inverse square law.

Guy Ackermans (BeeldGuy) on July 25, 2013

Hi Russ, you wrote: "you must place the umbrellas as close as possible to the group to minimize the Inverse Square Law light fall-off." But that is just the other way around. The farther away you place the flashes. The lesser the influence of the Inverse Square Law Light fall-off.

Chris Runfola (OMMBoy) on July 24, 2013

Thank you for this very informative article! I once shot a large group of people (also about 40) for a baptism and happened to get lucky with the lighting inside the church and only used an SB-800 to fill in some of the shadows. A suggestion that might make focusing easier: I like to zoom in as close as possible on a subject somewhere in the center of the group, press the AF-ON button to focus, then zoom out and recompose. I find that this technique results in much more properly focused and sharper images.

Owen Richards (racepics) on July 24, 2013

Hello Russ, I did not think the SB800's could handle this size group. Thank you for showing me they will. Very good article. I will give it a go one day.

John Ellis (JohnE Nikon) on July 24, 2013

Thanks Russ for explaining this so thoroughly and communicating effectively.

Rick Spehn (PSAGuy) on July 24, 2013

Nice article....very well written and organized. Thanks !

Tom Mills (af4nc) on July 24, 2013

Great article, I am shooting a family reunion this weekend. Thanks

robert Beeson (rbeeson) on July 24, 2013

Russ, Thanks for your great article!! You are a constant resource for us fellow Nikonians! Keep up your Great articles, you have my Fan support!! Bob