Skip to main content

photo & video

How to Shoot with your First Flash

Lesson 10 of 28

Flash Settings: Manual

Mike Hagen

How to Shoot with your First Flash

Mike Hagen

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2000+ more >

Lesson Info

10. Flash Settings: Manual

Lesson Info

Flash Settings: Manual

So I love manual flash setting. I like it because I'm in full control. Not that I have control issues, but I like being in control. Especially when the client is paying me money. Or like this grandfather I was talking about just a few days ago. He's gonna photograph this family, it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And he wants to make sure he gets it. So in those cases, when it's your butt on the line, use manual mode. So manual mode requires iteration. Manual flash mode requires that you take a picture and you take a look. There's ways around it. You can use a light meter and all that. But my guess is, most of you watching today don't have light meters. So I'm not even gonna really go into light meter usage. I'm gonna show you that you can just take a picture and take a look. Literally, it's that easy a lot of times. Oh, look on the back of my camera. My subject's too bright. Well then we just reduce the brightness on the flash. Manual mode is repeatable, it's consistent, and in my...

opinion, it's the best way to learn flash photography. If you really wanna learn this, be shooting in manual mode. All right, so let me show you how we set up the flash in manual mode. In manual mode, the flash has multiple power output levels. And almost every flash is the same. Canon, Nikon, inexpensive third-party flash, they almost all work the same here. Okay, so here's a test. How do I get to manual mode? Push the Mode button. Good. (laughs) All right, so I push the Mode button and there we go, I'm now in manual mode. Okay. Next, most flashes have a little plus and minus button or like a little lightning bolt button, or something along those lines. So in this case, this flash says lightning bolt, plus and minus, M. Oh, That means I can change the compensation of the flash output by pushing that button. All right, cool. So now, I rotate. Some flashes you rotate, other flashes you push up and down. Other flashes you push left and right. But here you can see there on the very top, it says 1/8. 1/8. A 1/8 of what? Well, that's 1/8 of full power. Okay, so what's full power? In most flashes, full power is one over one. Gotta push that button again. There we go. So there's one over one. One over one means all the power that the flash can produce will be shot when I take the photo. (clicking) Pow, full power. All the energy, out. So your job as a photographer is to wrangle that. So we're gonna take a picture, you're gonna look at it on the back of your camera, and you're gonna go huh, that's way too bright. So what do I do? Reduce the power. Well, by how much? I don't know, let's take a guess. So, here we go. That was full power. Let's take another shot here and we'll go down to half power. So again, take another shot. Oh, it's still blasted out. Still too much. How much should I reduce it from there? Over time you're gonna really quickly go, oh, I get a feel for this. I know that I need to be down to a 16th. So I'm just gonna pick that. 16th. Quarter, eighth, 16th. Take that picture. And we look at that. Oh, cool. I know this is not a great photo here, but I can see the flowers, I can see the wall, the wall is white, the flowers look illuminated. And another tool that you have available to you, does anyone see the blinky screen? That screen on your cameras that blinks at you? That's a great tool for flash photographers. If you can find that screen, it's called the highlights screen. Here we go, this is the highlights screen. So there's the previous shot, and you can see that the whole screen is blinking at me. That means you've blown out those highlights. It's probably too much flash. Just guessing. And then I re-took the picture at a 16th power, and now we don't have any blinkys or any highlights. So that little highlights screen is actually a very useful tool for you to learn how to make the settings for flash power. Yeah, question? Is the FP flash power? There's an M and then the FP. Yeah, I knew someone was gonna ask me about that. I didn't want to talk about it. No. Sorry. FP stands for focal plane shutter, FP focal plane shutter. Focal plane, actually. And in the Nikon world, it's a synchronization mode. And so what this means is it allows me to actually shoot at a much faster shutter speed, rather than being limited to a 250th of a second in the Nikon cameras. If I turn on FP, I can now shoot up to an 8000th of a second. And I don't have to worry about the shutter speed sync thing. So, it's just a super high-level answer to your question, but that's what FP means. When you were scrolling through though to get either a manual mode or aperture mode, is that something that you want on or off? Is that a separate thing that you'd scroll through? That is actually set in the camera body. Yeah, so that FP thing is, you set that in the camera body. And so you need to decide, do I wanna limit myself to a 250th of a second, or do I want to allow the system to work up to an 8000th of a second for shutter speed sync. It gets into high-speed sync flash photography, and I don't really have time in today's event to talk about that. It's more for sports and action. But I turn mine on, I just leave it on.

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

Related Classes


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.