The studio was asked to do a group photo of the judges of the NYS Supreme Court Appellate Division in Rochester. Like they say in the movies, "it was an offer I couldn't refuse". So we took the Luke Photography show on the road to the courthouse.
I imaging my time with them was much like a Hollywood photographer having 8 minutes of time to shoot portraits of a celebrity. Their time is important and limited, so I had a minimal amount of time with them in the room, and once their put their robes on, the clock was ticking.
At a time like this, preparation is key. You don't want to be fumbling around with lighting and camera settings with them standing there watching, judging every move you make. We arrived an hour early to scout out locations and settled on a traditional location for their group photo, where I could also set up for individual head shots of each judge.
I went with a fairly simple lighting setup with two umbrellas on my strobe heads. The umbrellas were pointed straight forward, and not tilted down. With groups...and especially big, deep groups,you don't want to point the umbrellas down towards the front row. In doing that, the strongest light coming from the center of the umbrella is going towards the people closest to the camera, and the weaker light coming from the edges of the umbrella is going towards the people that are farthest from the camera. You want the strongest light going towards the people furthest from the camera so that the exposure across the whole group,...front to back...is even. In this case, with only two rows of people it wasn't quite as critical, but it's a good habit to do it all the time.
I always meter the light from front to back and left to right across the whole scene, to ensure as even light as possible. Having an assistant...and best case you have two clones of that assistant...helps to see that and correct it before your subjects even enter the room.