We are often asked how we can light whole groups so effectively. This is a really easy thing to do. It is especially useful for families. When we shoot families we like to have areas where we can get some good shots in safe lighting. Sure, we can play around and experiment, but getting a shot that we know the family will love in flattering light is our bread and butter.
When we are shooting families we suggest places that we know will have areas of shade with backlight. So, this is usually accomplished by light filtering through trees or bushes or in alleyways, etc. The trees create a lovely area of "open shade." The backlight filters through the trees and gives lovely hairlight and a beautiful and interesting background that helps the group to separate from the background.
The important thing to remember here that we NEVER situate our subjects deep in the shade. There are a few reasons for this. One, the further from the background our subject's can be, the better bokeh we will get. And two, at the very edge of the open shade, there is beautiful reflected light that bounces onto the family. So they will have backlight and a reflected front light. We never use reflectors for family shoots, but it looks like we do, because this is how we set up the shoot.
Below is an AMAAAAZING drawing I made. (It sucks.) But it shows how they are positioned.
Ignoring the fact Rachel has NO art skills, you can see that we have the sun behind the trees, the subject in front of the trees at the very edge where there is no sun in the frame of the camera. (I might actually be standing in the sun!) The light from the non-shaded area then reflects back onto the family/group/subject.
It is quite simple. Once you set an exposure and white balance, this light stays the same, so you don't need to change settings much. It is a very easy way to get your groups to pop out of the background.