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Always Remember, Clients Can Smell Fear

UPDATE #2: Someone asked in the comments about Bert's "gunslinger"-type strap. It's a R-Strap.

UPDATE #1: Bert detailed his post-production process on the shot here.


What is your reaction when one of your best clients asks you to do a huge group shot in a dark, 800-seat auditorium? As Bill Cosby once said, "First you say it, then you do it."

Then you take a moment to calm down and pray that the ceiling in the cavern is white.

Belgian photographer Bert Sephani stepped out of his comfort zone and made it happen recently. And it goes without saying that speedlights need not apply on this one. But to Bert's credit, he accomplished it with two battery-powered Elinchroms, which were expertly aimed for even lighting across the auditorium.

Which is kind of interesting, really, because in all of Belgium there is only one Elinchrom Ranger available for rent. So he had to buy the other one.

Luckily for us, he produced a video for his excellent photo website/podcast, Squeeze the LIME, which should definitely be on your RSS list if it is not already.

Related: More Bert on Strobist



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Blogger jonathan said...

"They even came up with some great suggestions.... that we didn't use"

classic! and a great image in the end... some great work there, no doubt :)

March 20, 2009 10:39 AM  
Blogger RyanM said...

Exactly what Jonathan said above ... I laughed out at the "suggestion" comment ... loved the pause :)

Fantastic image in the end - good to see the thought process and work behind the image.

March 20, 2009 11:05 AM  
Blogger Duane said...

Wow, that was REALLY cool and I am not sure I could have wrapped my head around that one. Plus to do it with just 2 lights - that was really cool. Adding that to my RSS feeds now!

March 20, 2009 11:26 AM  
Blogger Jason Bell said...

Excellent video and excellent end result.

March 20, 2009 11:27 AM  
Anonymous Victor Tavares said...

Hmmm....I don't like the fisheye effect. I find it distracting. why not stitch together multiple images so that you get nice, sharp straight lines? Panorama style, although the parallax error might be a problem as well since the camera would be fairly close to the group. Moving the camera parallel to the auditorium in front of the group would solve the parallax error but might be hard to manage. Interesting problem.

March 20, 2009 12:01 PM  
Blogger M. S. Kirk said...

Wow, this totally reminds me of a gig I did a while ago too, I was terrified, not just because I was on a small lift but because I had 10 min to do it in as well. I am glad I was not in frond of a group of 800 though, mine was a measly 600, and I like his photo better.

Thanks for letting me know I am not alone in my fears!


March 20, 2009 12:07 PM  
Blogger Giles said...

I have been subscribing to Bert's blog - Confessions of a photographer - for some time now, and most recently the Squeeze The Lime RSS. To repeat what David says - well worth checking out.

@ Victor - You're right, a stitch shot would be a possible way forward, but I think the fisheye/straightening approach was a good compromise her. I wouldn't like to the the one having to match up all those heads, arms and bodies though, given that they would be liable to move position between shots! As Bert says in the accompanying text, he had to rush this picture through very quickly... and when working to tight deadlines, all we want is to make our workflow as quick and tidy as possible.

I wonder how long, in reality, it would take to stage a 'moving the camera parallel to the auditorium' series of shots? Longer than the duration of 800 people's patience, I would imagine!

March 20, 2009 1:17 PM  
Blogger Wen Chang said...

I don't like fisheye effect as well...but, this one doesn't bother me at all...the result is excellent!!!

March 20, 2009 1:22 PM  
Anonymous Ariel said...

The "suggestion" comment made me LOL as well. I loved his "GO!" at the end as well. :)

March 20, 2009 1:29 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

The light meter lives!

March 20, 2009 1:45 PM  
Blogger David said...


I think the stitch would work great -- except for those people located in the crossover areas! Lots of aliens and mutants to be found in those areas, I'd expect...


March 20, 2009 3:28 PM  
Blogger Guided Light Photography said...

@ David

I know this is ot but this DIY look really's not mine but I thought everyone here would enjoy.

March 20, 2009 3:51 PM  
Anonymous Alex said...

Wow that was amazing especially the finished product, honestly I'm not sure if i'd take such a project on, very scary.

March 20, 2009 6:42 PM  
Blogger Alven said...

The best way to make this a stitched panorama would be to get 3 cameras set up and synced, so the whole panorama was taken simultaneously. Shouldn't be any stitching problems then and when I can afford to buy 2 more D3's with matching glass, I'd love to prove this theory!

March 20, 2009 11:30 PM  
Anonymous Wedding photographer Riviera said...

How much more powerful are those Elinchrom compared with the top speedlights?

Cumbersome things but they do seem to light quite some space!

March 21, 2009 6:46 PM  
Anonymous Neuffy said...

Elinchrom power vs. speedlights:

SB800 ~~ 75 watt seconds.
Elinchrom Ranger packs vary. I had a quick look at the video, but couldn't find which packs were used. Somewhere between 400 and 1100 watt seconds each, most likely.

March 21, 2009 10:10 PM  
Blogger Giles said...

The Elinchroms are indeed more cumbersome than speedlights but the argument is, of course, that the results far outweigh the logistics required to produce them.

I frequently use 'continuous' lights for such large areas, as well as for portraits where I don't want my subjects to have the distraction of flashes firing (for example in board meetings). My current setup comprises a number of 1000-watt halogen lamps which, bounced off walls/ceilings and colour-correct in post, give a very nice natural, flattering light.

March 21, 2009 10:28 PM  
OpenID joshidaniel said...

that was just great!

March 22, 2009 5:06 AM  
Anonymous Andi said...

Does anyone know the camera strap Bert Stephani is using? Is it homemade?

March 23, 2009 6:19 AM  
Anonymous dreadboy said...

it's nice no one replied when i posted the link to the video in the group discussions on flickr.

March 23, 2009 10:44 AM  
Anonymous dreadboy said... , forgot the link

March 23, 2009 10:45 AM  
Blogger Giles said...

@ Andi - Bert uses Optech USA straps (according to a comment he made in one of his podcasts). I use them myself and have yet to find anything better. They are well made, long lasting and incredible versatile, thanks to the quick release mechanism which allows you to remove the bulk of the strap at times when it might get in the way. However, I gather that Bert does not actually use this feature though.

I never use the straps which come with cameras - I much prefer the neoprene of the Optechs, which distribute the weight much better and cut that weight by at least 50%.

Check out their website and look at the Pro models - these are what I would recommend as they are much wider than the 'regular' models.

Hope that helps :)

March 23, 2009 11:29 AM  
Blogger David said...

Actually, I think Bert is using a new R-Strap, from CSB. I will check and update if that is incorrect.

March 23, 2009 11:52 AM  
Blogger Delane said...

I love the final product and I'm glad the client sees value in excellent photography.

I'm wondering why the selection of the Elinchrom Rangers (battery)...was there some other issue plugging a set of mono-blocks into the wall? Just wondering...

March 24, 2009 5:02 PM  
Blogger Billy@JB Photos said...

+1 on the R-Strap from Blackrapid. Or +4 - I ordered one to test it out, then promptly ordered three more - one for my backup/second camera and two for my partner. They are the easiest, quickest strap I have ever used. And I'm 6'4". Well worth the $45 or so USD.

March 24, 2009 11:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think using a wide Tilt-Shift lens on a tripod, with three images stitched together would have worked well. The 24 TSE lens perhaps. I use TSE lens for panos and its a great solution.

The new Canon 17mm TSE lens would be the absolute bomb for this assignment.


March 29, 2009 1:25 PM  
Anonymous Sebastiaen D. said...

I found this video very interesting.
I am quite new to photography with strobes, and had my first remunerated photos shoot yesterday: One picture with about 200 people in it.
The ceiling wasn't white! haha
Here's a picture of the final result and a description of the setup!
You can leave a comment on the flickr page to let me know what you think!

I liked the final result of both pictures (his' and mine), and the fisheye effect is very cool!
Thanks for uploading this video :)

March 29, 2009 5:23 PM  
Blogger Allen said...

I really love how he executed this. I love Bert Stephanie's videos! I found him on YouTube with his "Confessions of a Photographer"

I was amazed by his quality and appalled by his humour (and accent sometimes)

He's a great guy doing great work! I think more people should support him!

Other than that,
I really love how even the lighting is, I would've used at least 4 flashes. but since I'm not him, the result won't be a good.

Those rangers are amazing! and amazing 'range' haha!

I wish I had one. (well any studio flash) in that case.

Thanks Guys,

April 05, 2009 5:04 PM  
Anonymous Andrew Doran said...

Great video showing how to work through the process, and solve the problems of a challenging shoot. I did one of these once, a huge challenge! The ceiling however was not white, and the group count was 1200 people. In the end we did use the help of the resident technicians who aimed their blinders, and their HMI's at the audience, and we shot it tungsten! Oh Yeah, the group was all Japanese, and didn't understand a word of english, and the stage had to be cleared from a symphony performance before the shot could take place without losing any of the guests. We brought in a Japanese speaking comedian to tell jokes until the stage was ready. After it was all over, 6 of us spent most of the night running back an forth to the lab to pick up prints, and stuffing 1200 11x14's into easels for an 8am delivery. Working through challenges is what photography is really about. Thank to Bert for some great insight into his process!

April 13, 2009 1:40 PM  
Blogger said...

Wow, I'm impressed with the final effect.

October 09, 2009 6:44 PM  

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