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How to Shoot with your First Flash

Lesson 23 of 28

Cable and Triggering Q&A

Mike Hagen

How to Shoot with your First Flash

Mike Hagen

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Lesson Info

23. Cable and Triggering Q&A

Lesson Info

Cable and Triggering Q&A

Yeah, question. Where do you find the groups, in the camera, on the flash they're just, you just toggle, right? With respect to this system, you mean? Yeah. Yeah, so with this one, it's just these, it's really hard to see what I'm doing here but there's these little groups, or I'm sorry, I call them groups, it's channel. Channel, channel, channel, so 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. And then groups A, B, C, D, E, F. And so just through the different combinations of button pushings, you can pick and choose your groups and your channels. So if you aren't having competing photographers then would you pick like-- 1A. A1, or something like that, and then you have to go set it in the camera some place. No, Or no. No reason to set it in the, I think what you mean is set it over here on the flash. Yeah, so these two things are called transceivers, and what that means is they can transmit and they can both, and they can receive. So it can do both ways. So we'll call this one, this one righ...

t now is the transmitter and this one's the receiver. So what we're gonna do is we're gonna set the transmitter up for 1A, just like you said, and then we'll set the receiver up for 1A as well. In fact, I don't know if the camera can see this but it says A on there. Yeah, and that's it. It's really that simple, there's really, no other pairing to do cause it's just like turning your radio into whatever the local rock station is. Question. So you can only use that with manual, you can't use TTL with the radio. Exactly, for this young NUUO, only manual mode. PocketWizard has the technology that allows you to go in interface with full TTL. Yeah, you know what? There are other radio triggers now, that are manufactured in China that do allow TTL. I'm thinking, I'm having a hard time remembering the exact name, something like Odin, I think there's Odin triggers and there's another of other manufacturers that do allow TTL control. And they're relatively expensive. But if you just want the best, go PocketWizard. Question. You're still having to move back and forth between the flash and the camera, to do the, settings for how bright you want the flash to go off and everything with this system, right? Yeah, exactly. So I have to go up here, I have to make a change, I'm in manual mode, have to push the power button, go up and down, come back here, take the picture, oh that was wrong. So you see, sometimes even though the stuff isn't too expensive, and you're like ooh I'm saving some money, in the long run, you have to think through, well how much of an effort is it gonna take for me to always be running back and forth to the gear? Yeah, so at that point it would probably be worth it if you were going to do a lot of running back and forth to get the upgraded portion. Yeah, exactly. What I would recommend is start, maybe just start out with something relatively inexpensive like this, and practice in your living room, practice in the kitchen, maybe take a few jobs, you know, if you're wanting to do this professionally, go work with a couple clients. It's really not that complicated to go run up to the flash and make a change. It's just as time goes on and you get better and more proficient, you know, it's these little issues, you know, it just takes more time. And it kinda takes you out of your creative mode, sometimes it's nice to just be standing here, make your change. It's less disruptive for your client, maybe it's a dog or a pet as well, you're not always approaching and going away. Good question. I thought they had a more expensive version where you can just switch it, maybe? You mean the power? No, not the TTL, your settings, so you don't have to run back and forth. Do they have a more expensive-- Yes, yes and so, here with the line of questioning and the technology I'm talking about, you're absolutely right. There are radio triggers that you can buy that allow you to control the output from your remote flash, in manual mode, yes, that does exist. And you know, really we're at this, what I would call this golden age of flash technology now, pretty much anything you wanna do you can do with wireless flash. You can do it the old school way with just this little, tiny, little slave trigger thing, all the way up to full-on TTL radio control. And so finding the product that works with your flash, I think that's the most important, you know, what do you want? Do you want TTL control? Wireless? With radio? Then you're gonna go with, like the new Nikon system, or you're gonna go with the PocketWizard system. Do you want manual, radio, wireless control? Well PocketWizard will do that as will, I think the Odin and something along those lines will do it. Do you want only Nikon-type stuff, you know? Do you want to mix and match all of your stuff? Do you want to be able to use $30 flashes, with your Nikon system? Well that's a different technology, so. Real quick, did you see how it just complicated it got real quick? I mean, sometimes that's the frustrating part about when you start to go wireless, is trying to figure out what makes the most sense for you in your shooting style. The most basic and most reliable way is to go with a cable, a TTL cable, cause then there's really no more technology and it's always gonna fire, and it's always gonna do exactly what you want it to do. Cool. So, questions from the internet, Kenna? Lots of questions coming in Mike, ha-ha. I think, and lot's of conversation about the TTL and using these different types of trigger systems. I did wanna actually clarify something that somebody had asked a while back when talking about TTL-- Yeah. And they had asked about, what's the difference between ETTL, ITTL, and TTL itself? Alright, right on, I love that because it's a super techy answer, I like techy. So ETTL is the Canon TTL system. ITTL is the Nikon TTL system. TTL is just through-the-lens metering. So manufacturers like Canon and Nikon will sometimes put their own little, moniker on the front. So I don't exactly remember what the Canon side is, what the E actually means, but in Nikon parlance, I means intelligent. So like, intelligent TTL. And it's part of what they call their creative lighting system, and so it's, kind of a little bit of the marketing type of thing. So, you know, is ETTL better than ITTL? No, the key is to understand how your camera's thinking and how it's working. They all work the same, seriously, I would not hesitate for one moment, to use the Canon ETTL system. It's very good, it's very reliable, and it has reached par with what I would say, the Nikon system. For years Nikon had always kinda been known as the trend-setter in flash technology, and now we're at this golden age now, where all the other manufacturers have pretty much caught up. And you can do wireless flash control from just about any platform using multiple technologies. Primarily do a lot of video, but my question was, how much sense does it make to hold onto the gear I have with LED lighting systems and softboxes that I already use in conjunction with using flashes if I wanna set up like a constant light on a subject? Aright, cool. Yeah, so let me translate and then expand. This, most of us have, some type of continuous lighting, right? So maybe that's an LED system, maybe it's a compact fluorescent set-up, I know I do, I have four compact fluorescent softboxes that I bought a few years ago, and they work well, but that's using what's called continuous lighting, okay? Continuous lighting. That just means that they're on, and they're not really necessarily controllable, they're just on continuously. So just like the stage lights here in the studio, this is continuous lighting. And so, I'm gonna rephrase your question a little bit, can you utilize continuous lighting with strobes? And the answer is yes, but the key, is just like I said, it's like the first thing I said today, the first learning point. You have two exposures to balance, right? You got your ambient light exposure, in other words, your continuous light exposure. And your strobe exposure, so yes you can, and I encourage you to use those LEDs. I use my continuous fluorescent lights all the time. But you want your flash now to kind of be at the same resulting power output as those continuous lights. So how would I do it? I would set up my first exposure, just for the continuous lights, so set up an LED here, set up and LED there, maybe an LED for the background, you know those types of things? And then, decided how your flash is going to be involved in that. Once those LEDs are set up, you take your shot, click, you look at it, you're like, okay, I like how bright those LED lights are, and now start bringing your flash in. You could do TTL flash but I might choose manual flash for that scenario. Manual flash, a little bit brighter, manual flash, a little bit darker. Yeah, integrate 'em. Don't throw away those LEDs. You can use them for hairlights, background lights, you can put colored gels in front, and change the colors. It's a really good mix of lighting technologies. That does remind me one more thing you have to think about is color temperature, right? What color temperature are those LEDs? Maybe they're really yellow, maybe they're really blue. You just wanna make sure your flash color is maybe similar to those LEDs. So, this is from CJ who says, I have problems with my trigger not supporting high-speed sync, even though my Nikon flashes can do it, will the cable allow me to shoot in high-speed sync? Okay, good. Yes, the answer is yes. The cable will allow you to do high-speed sync. But I want to expand on that and, this is a great, we have a little bit of extra time, so I'm gonna take a moment with that. Such a great question. And I'll just get my props ready to go. Cause I like talking with props. So, the cables they're again, remember what the camera's thinking, when you're using a cable and a flash, the camera is actually thinking that the flash is mounted right there, okay? So that's cool. And then when your flash is mounted, maybe over here in a light stand, high-speed sync will trigger and it will integrate perfectly as long as you have this thing called high-speed sync, turned on. Earlier today, someone asked, what is that FP mean? Remember FP? FP, on the Nikon world, means focal plane shutter synchronization, or to say the whole thing, high-speed sync focal plane shutter synchronization. That's too many words. It'll shoot at really fast shutter speeds, that's what it means. Okay, so. I mentioned that your camera has the two shutters, right? You got your front curtain shutter, and your rear curtain shutter. And your flash has to fire at some point in time when those two curtains are away from the sensor. Okay, that's called like, a normal sync speed. Up to a 250th of a second, you can shoot with just a single pulse of light. So this guy, who, I forget his name, whoever asked on the internet, thank you. What about high-speed sync? Let's say I wanna shoot on a really sunny day, at a 1000th of a second. Or maybe a 2000th of a second. Well here, remember the shutter goes like this, and then the rear one closes right behind it. K, so it's like (imitates buzzing noise), and then resets. So your flash can't do one pulse of light, rather your flash has to change, has to change how it outputs light. It then changes to this, da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da, kind of pulsing light almost like a machine gun of light. Or maybe a fire hose, or whatever example. So it just goes, front curtain starts to come up, the rear one starts going right behind it, and the flash goes, da-da-da-da-da-da, to basically illuminate the whole entire sensor. So the reason why he wasn't getting high-speed sync with maybe an optical trigger, is cause the flash cannot figure out that it's supposed to change it's nature to this pulsating. The only way that it can change, is if it gets the information from a cable, cause that's a dedicated cable, it's sending the information through the cable. Or through the Nikon brand or the Canon brand triggering system. And then also, sometimes PocketWizards and Odins and some of the other products do it as well, but it has to have the technology built into the communicator. So that was a great question. I would recommend if you are doing high-speed sync, use the cable. You can also do the wireless, but it takes a little bit of fidgeting and finessing to make that work well. Can a flash be used to aid focus? Good. Not through the pulse of the flash, but, let me throw one of these flashes on here. Most of the, let's say the Nikon and Canon brand flashes, and a few of the higher-end, let's say, like the Adorama, B&H, some of those higher end flashes, they have this red zone here in the front. This. That red area has nothing to do with flash metering, but everything to do with autofocus performance. And so, if the room is dark, and we won't be able to see it in here, it's just too bright, but if the room is dark, you can, and when you want to focus, this will send out a grid, a focusing grid. And that grid will then shine on the subject, I won't aim it at me, it shines on the subject and puts the grid on the face so that the autofocus sensors can actually glom on to focus. So, the only way that really works well is if you're shooting on camera flash, right? Now the grid shines on you, I'm able to focus. Let's say I'm doing off camera flash. Well maybe that flash, maybe it's aimed at you. Maybe it's aimed that way, you know, maybe it's in a softbox. Well, it doesn't, you can see real quick, it doesn't really work if it's off camera cause maybe your flash is pointed off that way. There are cables, to answer his question, there are cables you can buy that actually has a little focusing grid on the cable. In the Nikon world, that's the SC- TTL cable, and Canon has the same thing, I don't remember the model number for the Canon, but it allows you to focus, but still do off camera cabled flash. Love that question. Cool? Great. Can you just clarify again or summarize for, this is for sunrise, what about mixing brands of flashes and triggers? Can you just, talk to that again, and how we approach that? Yeah, that's, you know, that's one of the most complicated things is if you have a young NUUO and a Nikon, and an Odin, and a Pocketwizard, you know, you start thinking through, it starts getting very complicated very fast. What you need to understand is what is the technology that's triggering the flash? And what's the technology that the camera is using to communicate with those flashes. Whatever that technology is, you have to stay in that world. So, if it's just optical slaves, like this one, if it's just simply one pulse of light from the camera, and then everything out there in your photo scene is receiving one pulse of light, then it's easy. Everything can communicate with everything. In fact, this flash has an optical trigger, all of the, well not all of them but most of the Nikon and Canon flashes have an optical trigger mode. So in that case, it's really easy. You can have any brand, and it all receives the optical trigger commands. Let's say you go to radio trigger. Well then you have to stay within the radio trigger units, like this little Yongnuo, or the, whatever that other one was, Pocketwizard, thank you. Yeah, you have to stay within that radio technology cause they all kinda use different radio frequencies and different communication protocols. So, you know, I hear, to riff off of that question, I hear all the time from people like, oh, well I want to use the Nikon wireless system with my old, you know, whatever flash from 1978, but I can't ever get it to work, why? It's because they're using different communication technologies. So, you basically have to go to the lowest combination denominator of your flash, whatever the least techy of your flashes, you have to communicate that way and bring everything else down to that level. Cool, right. Thank you. And maybe one more, that I don't think we've addressed yet in the class, somebody had asked about zoom consideration. So when you're working through those options on the flash, when do you change those? What do you use them for? Love it, perfect question. Okay, so every flash, again, most, I should never say every, I've been married a long time, my wife, I know you never say always, you always do it this way! Most flashes have a head that zooms forward and backward, a flash head, so inside of this little enclosure here the flash head moves forward and backwards. It actually physically moves forward and backward which is pretty cool. And depending on your flash it actually will track your lens. And so I know you can't hear this out in the room, maybe you can hear it on my mic. It's like (imitates buzzing noise). Moving forward and backward. So as I go wide-angle, the flash head goes wide-angle, to cover that. As I go telephoto, the flash head zooms telephoto to cover that. So that's all well and good for on camera flash. But after today, you're probably not gonna ever shoot again like this, right? So the flash zoom settings aren't that useful, for most flashes, in most scenarios. But, as you go into, let's say, setting up a softbox, the way that I use the flash zoom is I want the flash to actually fill the entire inside of my modifier. So in that case, I will actually push the zoom button, and every, not, again every, most flashes have the zoom function. So you push the zoom function and it'll say something like, 50 millimeters. Or 75 millimeters, or 24 millimeters. Well the concept, it was, you know, it covered like a 24 millimeter lens. In a softbox, I honestly, I don't care what focal length I'm shooting with my camera, I care, does it cover the inside of the umbrella? And so I think we could probably show this on the studio cameras. Let's say I've got this umbrella, like this, got my flash. Most flashes have a flash button and you can actually configure that button to fire one time. Some of them you can also configure it to be, what I would call a modeling light. But basically, what I want to do, is I want to look and see, am I spilling out? Eh, people in the studio can see this. Am I spilling out and causing a shadow outside of the modifier? If so, I wanna zoom the flash more telephoto, so I fill up the inside of the modifier. Okay? So that's how I use zoom. I zoom it wider or more telephoto so I take up a larger, the most surface area possible of that modifier. Cool, right on. Oh, we have one more. Another question. How would you do that outside? Like if you were, if you didn't have something like that to see if the light was flashing? Okay, how I would do it is, I'm not gonna change that one, let me try this one. I'm gonna find one that I've already set up to be... nope. Bear with me, talk amongst yourselves. What I'm doing is I'm finding one that I've got set up to be the, oh there we go. Sorry to blast you all. Now it's more like a, a modeling light. So, most flashes have a menu item, you can go into that menu, and you can change the behavior of this button, and change it from what's called the flash button, to the modeling light button. And so, now when I push the modeling light, if I shine it at me, you can see, I can kinda get a feel for the look, what that's gonna look like. Well I also use that modeling light, for my diffusion product like this. We'll do this. Push that button, can you see that? So that's what I do when I'm outside as well. So let's say I've got this on a light stand. So it's on a light stand and I've got basically an assistant holding this, and let's say it's that far away, I push the modeling light and I'm like, oh, well, actually that coverage looks pretty good, or maybe it doesn't. And then I push my zoom button, zoom, and then maybe make it smaller or bigger. Cool? Cool, cool, cool. Yeah that modeling light is a very valuable tool. If you can figure out how to adjust that on your flash, I guarantee you'll use it in your light setups all the time. So.

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers.

Every photographer encounters situations where the light on their subject is less than ideal. A small flash can have a huge impact on your photos and is easier to use than you think! Photographer Mike Hagen joins CreativeLive to show you how to use your external flash quickly and comfortably. Mike will walk through the different flash options available and how to sync your camera and flash. He’ll walk you through different scenarios and demonstrate how your flash can improve your shots. After this class you’ll walk away knowing: 
  • How to set up your flash with your camera and what to look for when shooting 
  • How to use a flash in scenarios like event photography, portraits, and tabletop photography 
  • Which light shapers work best for your work and how to utilize them 
  • How to use your flash off-camera, working with TTL cables, wireless triggers, and other gear
  • Techniques for using modifiers like umbrellas, softboxes, and reflectors with your off-camera flash 
Don’t get stuck in a low light scenario without the confidence and tools you need to produce an amazing image. 

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Single Flash Lighting Diagrams

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Single Flash Gear List 100 dollars

Single Flash Gear List 250 dollars

Single Flash Gear List 1000 dollars

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

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Yasemin Soyen

First of all I am very happy to discover Creative Live and since then I learned, enjoyed many classes! This week for the first time I was in the live audience and their sincerity, hospitality made the experience even more valuable. About this class, it was a pleasure to meet Mike Hagen. Besides his wide knowledge, creative thinking and information sharing, he was a very humble, nice teacher, with great positive energy. Thanks everyone!


Fantastic course - Mike is an engaging and entertaining teacher and this course was just what I needed to start using my external flash with confidence. I have had my external flash for a few years but have rarely used it as mastering all the settings was daunting and the results I got were inconsistent. This excellent course changed all that and I'm having great fun taking much better shots with my flash. I highly recommend!

Candy Smith

This class was fantastic. Mike is excellent under pressure when things don't go perfectly, love his style and grace and how encouraging he is to his models, great mentor. I learned so much about using flash, and my pictures are so much better.