Shooting group shots consisting of more than three people can be one of the most challenging tasks for any photographer. Generally they are done in such a way as to just bunch everyone together in several rows and at various heights so that each subject’s face is visible. Such an approach fulfills the requirements of the assignment but is often not visually very interesting.

For a recent story in Tasting Kitchen (TK) magazine featuring the ten top chefs at the Wynn Macau resorts we wanted to create something more interesting and fun. My brief was simple. Capture a shot of the chefs enjoying themselves after hours. Easier said than done.

The first challenge was to find a location where I could position ten people in various positions so that they look natural and comfortable. After considering a few locations at both the Wynn Macau and the Wynn Palace we decided to do the shot in the Wing Lei Bar located in the Wynn Palace.

The next challenge was to figure out where to place each chef and with whom they should be next to. This was achieved through trial and error. There was a fair bit of moving one chef here and there and back again. Then working to get each chef to look natural. In some cases I would have to move individuals into place as if they were manequins. Fortunately everyone remained patient through the process. The writer for the story, Inara Sim, was also very helpful during this process as she had a keen eye and understood the feeling I was going after. Her suggestions helped pull the entire image together.

Once we sorted out who was where the greatest technical challenge was how to light them. It would have been easy to simply use a large softbox or umbrella from the front and make everyone evenly lit but the easy way is often the least interesting way.

Fortunately one of the walls had a large window which looked out onto a corridor where I could place one of my strobes with a medium-sized Chimera softbox fitted with a 40 degree honeycomb grid. On the opposite side of the room I used two strobes with one fitted with a extra small Chimera softbox and grid and placed slightly behind the subjects on the right. Since this light was not providing sufficient light for Chef Christophe Devoille, located in the center behind the bar, I positioned the third light with a five degree honeycomb grid to add a bit of light to his face. Below is a simple diagram of the first shot followed by the actual image.

Because of the limitations of where I could place my lights I decided to do this shot as two separate images and combine them in post production. The group of three chefs on the right required additional lighting so once we felt like we had a good shot I asked all the chefs, with the exception of the three on the right, to remove themselves from the scene. I then added an additional strobe fitted with a small Chimera softbox and fitted with a 40 degree grid to provide light onto the faces the two chefs at the far right of the frame.

So while these three continued to look like they were having the time of their lives everyone else in the room was asking when this torture would end.

The final frame was of the entire scene with no humans and equipment in the shot. This image would then be layered into the final photograph so that no lights and other pollution could be seen in the reflections.

The final shot ended up being the opening spread to a sixteen page feature about the chefs. In my next post I’ll share the individual portraits I did of each chef.

Technical Info…

Camera: Canon 5D SR

Lens: Canon 16-35 f2.8L III

Strobes: Einsteins

Softboxes and Grids: Chimera