Group shots. Hate em.

However, in terms of photography that is requested (as opposed to the stuff I dream up ) this sort of thing is high on the list.  The effort required is often no less, even though the end result is, to my eye, flat and boring.  Corporate work like this also has to look easy when you do it – CEO’s of major global banks don’t hang about.  In this shot we have 50 or so of the 2013 Barclays technology apprentices who have been at Barclays for just under a year now.  At the front, on the right we have Antony Jenkins:  CEO of Barclays Group, Peter Josse: CIO to the left and at the far left, we have Graham Bastin, site exec for Barclays Technology Centre, Radbroke in Cheshire – the largest technology research centre in the UK outside of Cambridge.  We had 30 seconds.

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Some of the things we had to think about and solve:-
A place big enough that was not already in use.  Antony was in the main auditorium opposite this space delivering a  presentation immediately before this shot was taken – as were 6 of the apprentices required for the shot so we couldn’t use that.  We cleared this space of tables and stools, chairs etc the day before.

  • People – they need arranging by height.
  • Focal length – need to get them in so wide would be good, but if I have to adjust I’ll do it with the 28-300 if I can.  Went with the 28-300 in the end.
  • Light – the group is backlit in this location so we need some lights.  We were not allowed to rig up big studio lights with massive modifiers – it had to look discrete.  4 SB900’s with the diffusion domes were deployed all pointing at the ceiling.  The ceiling would be my light source
  • Angle – with the ceiling lit up like an operating theatre, and three rows of people, I needed to get up high and shoot down.  We need the stepladder.  (Why did Hugh Dennis just pop into my head just then.. :P)
  • Poses.  If directing one model is hard, how about 50+ ?  “right, all stand side on and turn your upper body towards me” – I’m twirling my fingers at the right hand group and then the left hand side, and channeling Frank Doorhof.  You don’t direct chief execs mind you – although I did ask them to  take a couple of steps forward.  “ok put your weight on one leg, chin down, centre your eyes, hands on hips”  Not gonna happen 😛
  • Blinkers.  You need to take enough shots to stand a chance of getting everyone with their eyes open, however nowhere near what you would normally take – after 3 shots they’ll start to wonder if you know what you are doing, so fire off 3 and say thank you.

So – how do you know it will all work?  Well that’s simple:  this was the second day in a row I had taken this shot – I had all the apprentices turn up at the same time of day, the day before , and we played around with the lights, angles, exposure and lens choice for 30 minutes. Then we set up the group and the lights again 20 minutes before the CEO would arrive.  At the end of the presentation, the 6 extra apprentices leave the auditorium via the side door and join the rest.  Antony arrives, with Peter and Graham, says a few words to them, and gets into position.  I take 3 frames and he gets into his car to go to the station.  Done.   All coordinated by Barclays communications officer – Helen Gill and the 2 women on Antony’s right – Clare Findlay and Lesley Clarke who manage (among other things) the Technology Apprentice scheme.  The location was sorted by Laura Gaskin, one of the site facilities managers, who did this and much more for this event.

© 2013 Mike Ripley

© 2013 Mike Ripley

I triggered the Speedlights using Yongnuo’s YN622N system, so no messing around with sensor orientation.  I shot on manual, and adjusted the background light with the shutter, balanced with the ISO.  I then dialled in some flash compensation for my four flashes in one big TTL group – +0.7 was the answer.  The YN622N-TX trigger on my camera is a joy to work with – even easier than the native Nikon flash commander menu – you can even zoom them from camera if you want.

So, one hell of a lot of preparation for a shot of flatly lit people 🙂  and there’s always one who misses the rehearsal and is in the wrong place.  This is why Graham has a shadow across his face – he’s blocking one of the SB900’s off to stage-left; however hopefully a catalyst for some good memories  (ok most of em will be about standing around for 10 minutes waiting for the CEO while I told them lame jokes… but hey!)

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