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How to Shoot with your First Flash

Lesson 1 of 28

Class Introduction

Mike Hagen

How to Shoot with your First Flash

Mike Hagen

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Lesson Info

1. Class Introduction

Lesson Info

Class Introduction

Hey CreativeLive audience, welcome to those in the studio. I'm happy to be here today. My name is Mike Hagen and I love flash photography, and I know that a lot of you are here today to learn flash photography. Flash photography can be hard, it can be scary, it can be daunting, but I'm here to tell you it's not that bad. It's not super hard. It's not something, it's something that everyone here can learn. And so today, you know today's class is all about learning the nitty gritty. There's a lot of buttons and knobs and menus and ISOs and white balances and all that good stuff today. So today is really a hands-on class, and I'm going to teach the class in a way that it's kind of independent of cameras. You know, I'm a Nikon shooter, but I fully well recognize there's a lot of Canon shooters out there, and Fuji and Olympus, and so I want to teach the class today in a way that will help everybody learn their flash. So I may be talking about things like TTL and things like manual flash con...

trol. I mean, talking about nice, expensive flashes and we're gonna be talking about inexpensive flashes that you can buy from Amazon for like 30 bucks, and I'm gonna show how all of that can be integrated together to create beautiful photographs. So, you know, whether you're maybe you're someone who's wanting to get better with your flash maybe, or photographing your kids and you just want to document their life. Maybe you're a grandparent and you've got grandkids growing up and you want to take great photos of them. Or maybe you're a professional available light photographer, and you know who you are, you know. I hear people say, hey I'm an available light portrait photographer. Well what that is really is that's code word for, I'm kind of afraid of my flash, and I don't always get consistent results. And so I want to show you if you're an aspiring pro, or you just want to take your photography to the next level, I want to show you how to use that flash so you can be, so you can get reliable, good, high-quality imagery wherever you are. You know, back to that fear thing, a lot of us are fearful of flash. You know, we bought the flash when we bought the camera, and we took a couple of pictures, and one photo came out like really bright, and then the next photo came out really dark, and you're like, ew. And then it didn't look that good, right, and so maybe got the shine off the forehead and you showed the zit and it didn't look all that great, and you're like, aw, I am just not really good at this. So you put your flash away, and them you didn't take it out for a long time, and so you're a little bit afraid of it. And this week, actually a couple of days ago, I was down in San Diego and I was leaving, I was running a conference at a photo festival and I was talking to one of the guys and he came up to me and he said, hey, you know, I'm a grandfather. He was about, I'm gonna guess, 65 or seven years old, and he said, I'm photographing in the next week, a big family reunion. And he said, this is really important to our family. My aunt, or I forget exactly who it was, but one of his relatives asked him to do a big portrait session with all of his family. He said, you know, there's people there who are well into their 90s and quite literally, this is the last time I'm gonna be able to photograph these people. And then we've got all these babies, and we got nieces and nephews, and he says, this is the words right out of his mouth, "I am terrified I'm gonna screw it up." This is a once in a lifetime opportunity I have to document my family. He says, "I am terrified I'm gonna screw it up." And so he hands me his flash, he says, help me. Help me set this up in way that I won't screw up this important life moment. So I recognize that photography for us is a lot more than buttons and knobs and pixels. There's an emotional attachment and there's a reason why we do this. And so today, I want to help you solve the flash photography issue. So, to that end, let me talk through what we're gonna cover in the class. Um, oh, first of all, I just want to say, you know what I was doing while Kenna was talking is I was back here. I was kind of prepping for the class, and I was shooting off-camera flash with the cable, and we just did that to kind of pique the interest of those watching. We just want to show kind of where we're headed later in the day. So this morning is all about getting started. The first segment, we're gonna spend about an hour, hour and a half, somewhere around there, literally going through menus and ISOs and flash settings and buttons, and I'm gonna show close-ups of the flash, and then I'll translate that to Canon-speak (laughs), and all the other cameras and flashes out there. Hotshoe and on-camera flash. You have all heard this. People tell you, you can't take a great photo if the flash is on the camera. It's just impossible. Don't even try it, don't go there. And although I subscribe to that sometimes, I wanna show you that you can take great photos with your flash on your camera, but I'm gonna show you how not to do it. How to do it in a way that makes your subject look good, not like a deer in headlights, alright? Next we're gonna talk about off-camera flash. This is where your production values are gonna really increase, and although you can shoot on-camera, I'm gonna really be pushing you towards the off-camera flash photography. It's not as hard as it first may seem. And I'm gonna show you all kinds of really cool gear to do that. Some really simple ways to do off-camera flash, all the way up to the very complicated way, and hopefully I'll simplify it all so you can just kind of pick your technology that you want to use. I'm gonna grab, let me just pull this up here. I'm gonna show you guys how to use softboxes and octoboxes and umbrellas and big ol' light stands, but while still using your little Nikon or Canon speed light. It's amazing. You can use this three foot you know, softbox and it'll look, nice look. It'll look like you're using the big ol' studio strobes. There's some limitations to that, and I'll talk through those, but really, this afternoon in the fourth segment, that's where we really get very creative. And we'll have a model today as well. We'll have a guy in here and he'll be our model all throughout the day, especially when we get to the on-camera flash section.

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

Bonus Materials with RSVP

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.