Quick and Dirty Group Portrait with Flash / by Conor Cunningham

Family and friends celebrating

Recently on a celebratory trip to France, the party gathered in the garden for a quick photo whilst waiting for the taxi. I had a flash in its hot shoe on my camera and a lovely sky behind the subjects. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to do a lot, but I will walk you through how to get such a shot.

Remember, this is just a quick snapshot. For a proper shoot, I recommend planning and proper exposure as best is possible before editing. My results were a far cry from proper exposure.

Expose for the sky

Get a nice exposure of the sky with your camera. You can do this with AV or TV mode. Remember however, if you're using flash, you'll want to be at 1/200th of a second, or if you have HSS (high speed sync) you can use that. Remember though, you'll lose light with from your flash with HSS.

Light your subject with flash

I put my flash on manual mode because I seemingly can't use automatic flashes (must remember to learn this one day) and fired some test shots to see how we were looking. Finally I ended up giving it all my flash had a full power.

Check the result

My historgram looked good, sky was exposed and I could see my subjects. In hindsight, I should have doubled my ISO to expose the subjects better and worry about the details of the sky in post processing, but I was on my third glass of bubbles. Let that be a lesson for you all.

In short, check the result with your camera screen and historgram to ensure you've got something to work with in post.

Post Processing

The original file, unprocessed

So, first things first, we need to expose the subjects more. Remember I said I should have doubled my ISO, well, let's do that (by increasing the overall exposure by 1 stop.

Exposure increased by 1 stop

I still think the exposure can go up, so I actually increased it by 1.43 stops in the final image. This exposes the subjects' faces properly, as that is the most important thing to expose correctly in this type of image.

Next I pushed the shadows as much as I could. Remember, this image isn't fine art but a snapshot of a birthday party. I pushed them to 83% and the garden and the background start to show themselves.

Shadows pushed

After this was done, it was a matter of adjusting the saturation and temperature to taste to get a nice warm evening feeling. Add a bit of contrast and we're getting somewhere.

Saturation and temperature modified to warm image

Next, I used a graduated filter on the sky to make it appear as I wanted and last, I added a bit of sharpness to bring out any extra detail I could find.

And that's that. Final image above and below.

Final Image