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Build a DIY Home Studio

Lesson 18 of 20

Live Shoot: Natural Lighting With Modifiers Part 2

Mike Hagen

Build a DIY Home Studio

Mike Hagen

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Lesson Info

18. Live Shoot: Natural Lighting With Modifiers Part 2

Lesson Info

Live Shoot: Natural Lighting With Modifiers Part 2

Let's do one more shot Jake, and this one I think what we're gonna do is we're gonna get really close to the window. There's a little alcove over, a tiny little alcove next to that brick over there. I'll have you stand up and just walk over there, and I'm just gonna have you lean up against the wall. So I'm gonna have you turn like this, yeah, and just like maybe put one foot up against the back, yeah something like that. Like that. You're waitin' for the girl to come by, hey, how you doin'? Somethin' like that, okay cool. A little lean against the wall, yeah. Yeah, somethin' like that, that's great. So what I'm looking at now, again I'm looking at the light and the quality of light. So I'm looking at the catch lights in his eye, and so go ahead and look over this way a little bit. You see when he looks this way, we get a nice catch light, really beautiful. Now bring your nose over here, go ahead and look at me actually. And you see the catch light goes away. So that's one of t...

he things I'm thinking through. I'm thinkin' am I gonna photograph it from this angle? (clicks tongue) Real tight against the wall, great. Or am I gonna photograph it from this angle? I'm gonna try both. So I'm gonna shoot from here, but I also see a nice shadow on this side, so I wanna fill in that shadow. I'm gonna grab my white board, and this one, I'm not gonna use any augmented lighting. I'm just gonna use poster board and reflectors. Okay, I gotta raise it up a bit, 'cause he's standing up now. Yeah, about that. I like to kinda split the difference, you know, a little bit above his head, a little bit below his head. Okay, now, you don't want the reflector to be behind him, right? Because that's not really solving any problems. Rather, you generally have the reflector kind of in front of the person like that. Oh my goodness, that catch light is gorgeous! Gorgeous! Okay. I am such a photo nerd. Okay, hopefully this is all gonna work. And I'm just gonna hand hold this, otherwise I think it would be too difficult to get everything over there. Cables, cords. The fun thing about this class is it's reality. It's really what we go through in the studio. Okay. Cool. Alright, what do you think about white balance? Well I know what I think about white balance, so I'm gonna tell ya. Really don't need to make any changes. Basically before, we did the white balance with over here, it's the same basic light, so no new white balance exposure. I'm still good on my exposure, I'm in aperture priority mode, I'm shooting at f2.8. I think I'm gonna take a couple shots here at f2. and then we'll try another one at f1.8. I'm doin' a couple things here, one is I'm including, there's this really cool window behind him, one's I'm gonna include the window and then the next one I'm going to exclude it. Alright, here we go, okay. (camera clicks) Nice. (camera clicks) 'Kay, serious look. (camera clicks) Great. (camera clicks) And this one I'm gonna shoot horizontal. (camera clicks) Cool man. You're kinda tall. Here's something to think about. Doing portrait work, if you shoot from below the person, a lot of times that makes their nose and their chin a little bit more prominent, so sometimes it's nice to shoot from a little bit higher perspective, so I'm gonna go up on my tippy toes here. Cool. (camera clicks) Alright, let's look at that photo. Cool. It's a really nice look. Nice catch light in the eyes. Yeah, fantastic. And I'm gonna shoot another one without that window over his shoulder. (camera clicks) Nice. Good smile. (camera clicks) Alright man, good job. (camera clicks) Cool, did I get you with blinkin'? Probably. Maybe. Okay, I'll take a closer look at these photos. Oh yeah, that's a real nice shot. I was gonna use the word pretty, but you don't often use that term with men, so nice, handsome image. Great light quality, very diffused, and you know, this is the ultimate in do it yourself home studio. It's like almost no cost associated with this. So if you're shooting this type of thing at home, just find the biggest window in your house, make sure the sun is not streaming through the window. If the sun does stream through the window, just put a light covering over the window like a translucent fabric, something like that, just to diffuse the light as much as you can. So yeah, that's it, this is great. So, I think, Kenna do you have anything else before I move to the next topic? Let's see. What lens were you using in this scenario again? This is the 85 millimeter f1.8. Really low cost, Nikon and Canon both have this, Sigma has it, Tamron has it, almost everybody has a f1.8 model, and they all produce great results. And a couple questions had come in about DIY beauty dishes, is that something that you are gonna cover today, or could just talk to, even if you don't have anything? Yeah, you know, as I was preparing for this class, I thought, you know, I should make a DIY beauty dish, but I didn't. So I apologize for that. If you guys, anybody go online, just Google DIY beauty dish, you'll find lots and lots of plans for 'em. A beauty dish takes a lot of skill to use well. Basically what a beauty dish is, hold on one second, Jake, I'm done with ya, so I just wanna let ya go, you don't have to stand there for the rest of the day. Thank you Jake. DIY beauty dish, basically what it is, it's like a 22 inch or a 24 inch dish, and you poke a flash through the back, and then in the front of it, you put this little reflector panel. The reflector panel sends the light back to the dish, and then it all goes forward to the subject. They're great, they produce a nice, shadow underneath the person's nose and if they're looking up at the beauty dish, it's a nice slimming effect. It's a really cool product to use, but they do take a lot of skill, and a lot of times you actually have to have some type of a boom arm or some type of way to hold it out over the subject. So I like 'em, we're not gonna shoot with 'em today, but we can try to simulate it if there's enough time, I can kind of give you an example, just using a reflector board actually up high would simulate that look. I really appreciated that you just said about using this natural window lights, and oftentimes, people might presume that they should just be having that window light come onto their subject, but you showed us here how you're actually using that as the key light to go back onto the subject matter, not looking straight into the window light. Are there any other considerations in home with using that natural light? What you should avoid? Yeah, great, I'm gonna walk over there, and maybe if this camera stays where you're at, this would be a good example of what's goin' on here. If you photograph this direction, from this camera angle, you'll notice that what we have here is a silhouetted scenario. It's a very difficult photo to take, and it's a very difficult photo to solve the problem, 'cause there's such stark and dramatic shadows. So I generally don't recommend shooting into the window, with the window behind you. If you do, well then you need to really bring in a lot of, I was gonna use the word subsequent, but a lot of support lighting, there we go. You have to bring in a lot of lighting to make it work. So try not to shoot into the window with the window in the backdrop. We get that, I see this all the time at a wedding. I don't see the wedding photographer making this mistake, but I see families making this mistake where, oh yeah, cousin Larry's here and aunt Jeannette, and all these people are here, let's all get together and take a photo. So what do they do? They stand in front of the window, because it's like the only clear and free space in the dance hall. Well it's the worst place to take a photo, you know, unless you really know what you're doin'. Also, if you try to fill it with flash, you have to deal with reflections coming off the window. So that was a great question, and it's something I generally try to avoid. Use the light from the window, don't use the physical window in the photo. I did take one photo of Jake there, I had a widow over his shoulder, but I think that's different, that wasn't the source of the light, that was a little bit more of a sense of place. It helped him kind of be positioned in a location that people can identify. Oh that's an actual location, there's a window over his shoulder, it must be a living room, something like that.

Class Description

Getting started in photography and looking to go beyond natural light? Not every piece of equipment needs to hurt your wallet. Join Mike Hagen as he shows you how to create your own do it yourself home studio. He’ll show you to create a $10,000 DIY photography studio on a budget and how to utilize and still create quality looking images. 

 You’ll learn:

  • How to find and create grip equipment by shopping at your local hardware store 
  • How to create a tabletop studio in your home 
  • How to put together and light a portrait studio on a budget.
You don’t have to have your own studio space or purchase thousands of dollars worth of equipment to build your portfolio of images. Join Mike as he gets you expanding your portfolio so you can gain the clients to eventually purchase the gear you want to own!

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

DIY Schematics

Lighting Diagrams

Product List for DIY Home Studio

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes



I was so glad to see Mike! He taught my first DSLR class (Nikon D70 - then Nikon D300). I love his presentation style. It is so clear and he takes care of showing details that get in the way of actually 'doing it'. And I like the way he emphasizes good manners when dealing with a model. Well done Mike!


I've watched this class a few times when it's been on-air and I realized I really need to just buy it. I find Mike so likable and engaging, and I love how he talks you through the shoot while experimenting. Sometimes the experts show you the perfect way to do it the first time but it leaves you not really able to troubleshoot when you are doing it yourself. I already own a lot of gear that his DIY equipment is emulating, but it's really artistically inspiring to see his creative approaches.


This course is fantastic! You don't need a lot of money to start a studio or go on location. Mike shows some great easy hacks anyone can use to create a studio and create professional photographs that will earn you the money to then purchase more pro equipment. I got some great ideas I'll be using on my next shoot!