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Lighting & Posing Large Groups

Lesson 4 of 8

Light Modifiers

Lindsay Adler

Lighting & Posing Large Groups

Lindsay Adler

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Lesson Info

4. Light Modifiers


  Class Trailer
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1 Class Introduction Duration:02:42
2 Lens Choice Duration:10:46
3 Depth of Field Duration:10:15
4 Light Modifiers Duration:09:40
5 Light Position Duration:08:34
6 Posing and Balance Duration:20:34
8 Shoot: Large Group Photo Duration:05:19

Lesson Info

Light Modifiers

I'm going to demonstrate these things for you with groups shots later on, so just know we'll see some of these things in practice, as well. But let's talk about the next one, light modifiers. For light modifiers, you want, typically, to go as big as you can in your space or whatever is practical. Now here's the reason why, and we're gonna talk about this for two different reasons. One reason is quality of light, you know, soft versus hard light, and it also has to do with lighting a group evenly. What happens if you use a very small modifier and it's lighting your group? What ends up happening is unless that modifier is really centered and really far away, the group's going to be unevenly lit, and so this has to do with the way the light spreads out and also the inverse square law. So I will show you kind of how this works, but just know that there's a rule of lighting that when I take a small modifier and I pull it far away, it makes it hard light. And so hard light means that the peo...

ple are gonna look crappy. Like, if you look at a group shot, you can tell when they've used a small modifier and far away because that's typically when you'll see the really shiny spots on the forehead, and you see a lot of texture to the skin, and often the flat light, it just, it looks almost flash-on-camera-y, but not as bright. So here's my recommendations for light modifiers. You want to go big because when you get that big modifier, you can get a little bit more even light across the group, and then the bigger modifier is softer light. So here's the rule you want to keep in mind. The larger the light source is compared to the size of your subject, the softer the light. So there's two ways that you can do this. Let's say you have a really small light. I can make it seem like soft light by bringing it in super, super, super, super close. If I bring that small light in close compared to the size of my head, it's actually pretty big, so it's going to give me soft light. The problem is, in a group, if I go, "Yeah, I only have this small modifier. "I want it to be soft light, so I'm gonna bring it in." No matter what I do when it's close, someone is going to be closest to that light, which means they'll be brightest, and everyone else will be much darker. And so I don't want that, I actually want everyone to be roughly, relatively the same distance. So I say, "Okay, great, I'm gonna take that small modifier "and I'm gonna back it up to here," and now my audience, that's, roughly, everyone's the same distance from that light. There's a little bit of difference, but roughly the same. But now, as I've backed it up, the smaller the light source is compared to the size of your subject, the harder the light, so I brought it back here and now it's not soft light anymore, and everyone looks crappy. So this is when you go, "Well, the other way I can "make the light soft, (whistles) bigger modifier." And so I said this in the beginning, it depends on your space, if you have seven foot ceilings, a seven foot octabox is not the way to go. So you've gotta kinda have the balance between those, so we'll take a look at some examples here. So we talked about this, the larger the light source is, distance changes, softness and hardness. So just note that if you're moving your light, you're not just moving the direction, you're moving how it's looking on the face. All right. So my recommendations are this. If you shoot in a studio space, maybe a five foot octabox. If you don't have really small ceilings, that's going to be good for lighting groups, but I actually generally prefer large umbrellas with diffusion, and so that's what you can see over here on set. There's a couple reasons I prefer these for lighting groups. One of the reasons is most of the time I would photograph groups, I'm not photographing them in my studio, like, in the past, when I'm talking about big groups, it would be photographing somebody on location. If you've set up five foot or seven foot octaboxes, they're not super portable, and they're not super easy to set up. So if I'm shooting this wedding party, and I'm over here struggling to put together my five foot or seven foot octabox, and then it's heavy, and so I need to bring a heavy stand to balance, like, it's a hassle. And so one of the reasons that I like umbrellas is because of how they're built. They're super easy to pop open, but what you'll see is I've got diffusion on them, I'll just bring this out just a little bit for the cameras. 'Kay. So they have diffusion on the front, and fundamentally, this makes it like a soft box, like, the quality of light is not that different. And what's also nice is how umbrellas are built, is they're throwing a lot of light everywhere, and usually, usually that's a downside of an umbrella. If somebody says, "Why would you choose an umbrella "over a soft box or vice versa?" People will often say, "Choose a soft box "because it gives you more control over the light." It's easier to feather it, there's less spill of light, it just gives you a little bit more control, but in the case of this umbrella, I actually want a lot of spread of light. I want it to cover a large area. So I go with large umbrellas with diffusion because they're portable and easy to set up, they cover large areas, they're big modifiers with soft light, and then the last reason, much, much, much cheaper. Significantly cheaper than a soft box at an equivalent size. And so for most people, if you're shooting groups, that's actually what I'm going to recommend. And in fact, for people that are shooting small groups, families, I'm still gonna go that direction. For my fashion stuff, you know, a lot of times I'm using cool and funky light, but as soon as it's groups, and I need even light and forgiving light, this is what I go to. Just so you know, there are several different brands that make them. They range in price, and this might be for a couple different reasons. Sometimes the umbrellas are better built, is maybe why they're a little bit more expensive. The other thing you might see is the depth. So is this one a deep one? It looks like a deep one, yeah, okay. So this umbrella is actually a deep umbrella, and so what that does, it actually does move it more in the soft box direction. It gives you a little bit more control over where the light goes, gives you a little bit faster falloff of light. So these ones are gonna be more expensive that they give you more control, but there are big umbrellas, like 65 inches with diffusion that you can get for between 60 and 80 US dollars, so it's a really good modifier to start with if you're going to try to get big soft light. I think that's the, John, like the Photek, Phottix brands? Yeah, we have Photek soft lighters back there. They come in three sizes, 36, 46, and 60. These are seven foot. You have to watch out, some call 'em 65 inch, some call 'em 80 inch, it depends on if they're measured across the front or around the back, and they're the same size, actually. So funny, and kinda dumb. All right, cool. Good heads up. So yeah, so there's inexpensive ones. This would be the direction I'd recommend. Now, I put up on here three different modifiers that I'd recommend for photographing groups. So I've got your octobox, I've got your umbrellas with diffusion, and then I also have shoot-through umbrellas 'cause shoot-through umbrellas will also give you really broad, soft light for lighting big areas. I want to make this one step more complicated. Assuming that maybe you're a little bit more advanced than this, maybe you're like, "You know what? "I've already got this, I'm photographing groups "and I want to have really even light, "and I want to shape it, and I want to have a lot "of sculptural effects on the face." So the other thing that you might consider would be something called a scrim. And so I'm not using a scrim today 'cause this would not be a modifier that I would put in your first, second, third, fourth, or fifth of must-haves, it's much further down the line. But what a scrim is, it's a big frame, and it's a big frame with diffusion on the front. You add the diffusion. But what's really nice for that is you can get them six foot, or eight by eight, or 12 by 12, and so what happens is when the light hits this diffusion material, it becomes the size of that scrim. So if the scrim is 12 by 12, you have a 12 foot by 12 foot soft box, basically, and it gives you massive even light. So if you take a look behind the scenes of one of the Annie Leibovitz bit groups shots, right, and they've got many people lined up in different places. She's often using scrims and softlighters. It's a combination between those, to get that even light across the group, but also have a little bit of shape to it. Problem is is, you know, let's say you get a 12 by 12 foot scrim in your space. I've shot in spaces that are 12 by 12 total with eight foot ceilings, so that's going to be more practical if it's a bigger set, a bigger production. But if you look at the movies, they're not using umbrellas, they're using silks or scrims, and that's how they broadly light a scene, so that would be the next one up. And they're not cheap, but they're not crazy priced, like, you can make your own, of course, if you're crafty, that are like the four to $600 range, but that's only gonna be if you're photographing big groups and you actually need it.

Class Description

If you've photographed groups before you know it can be a challenge! This class will answer your questions and cover the most important considerations to keep in mind for your next group session. You'll learn depth of field, lens choice, posing, focus considerations, light modifiers, light position and more.


joanne duncan

I got do much out of this course, not just for shooting, but posing myself! I’m getting old, it’s hard to get a good selfie! Seriously though, this starts with epuipment, goes through settings, clearly shows what doesn’t work and why, and what does work and why. This is the second Lindsay course I’ve watched this week, and I’m anazed by what I’m retaining. Lindsay spells it out for anyone to understand, I highly recommend this class, and any class Lindsay teaches. I already have another lined up to watch! Simply brilliant, value for money even if it wasn’t on sale.

Dave Hogan

I have several of Lindsay's course and was lucky enough to see her at the Photography show in Birmingham (UK) earlier this year. I think this course is one of my favorites and has so many "group" shot tips & explanations that it's a no-brainier to any photographer to buy this it. It's great 10/10.

Rebecca George

What a brilliant, fast, well-organized, packed-with-useful-info class!! Lindsay is amazing.