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How to Shoot with your First Flash

Lesson 20 of 28

Shoot: Event Photography

Mike Hagen

How to Shoot with your First Flash

Mike Hagen

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Lesson Info

20. Shoot: Event Photography

Lesson Info

Shoot: Event Photography

Let's say that you are the photographer for an event. Now, you are gonna be our rock star, okay? So, how we're gonna set this up is, you're gonna be in the background and we'll pretend that you're singing into the microphone, and we've got three people in our audience who volunteered to help me out with this. They're gonna be the groupies, right? They're gonna be like, yeah, we're at this party! So what I wanna do is I wanna take a picture at en event and show you how I would work that as a one-man band, as a one-person show. We get assigned to this as photographers, 'cause you're the GWC. The girl with a camera or the guy with a camera. Your friends go, oh, you have a camera, would you photograph this event? It's just a little fundraiser, but we want really great photos. No, we're not gonna pay you for it, but we want it to be awesome. Okay. And then you're like, oh shoot, that means I have to shoot flash, how can I do this and do it well? So, in just about a minute, I'll call the peo...

ple up, but I wanna show you what my rig looks like for event photography. Okay, so actually, I'm gonna have you move back towards the wall, if you would, just take the chair back there. And I want the cameras in the room to able to see. Yeah, just off to the side. We'll end up not using it. So, you know, we already know this, we know that off-camera flash is important, especially after lunch, we're gonna get there, but this is one way to get your flash even further off the camera, while still being manageable, so you can walk around. This is called a flash bracket, and you'll find these flash brackets in a variety of sizes and shapes and costs. I recommend, if you are gonna be an event photographer, buy a nice, tough aluminum anodized durable flash bracket, don't get a cheap one, don't pay 20 dollars. I'd rather you pay maybe more, like 75 to 100 dollars for a nice flash bracket. Cool. So, what I'm gonna do, I have to screw this on to the bottom of my camera. Gonna take my regular mounting plate off. It's kind of fun to see how this all works together. And then, screw this on to here. Trying to keep my tether cable from getting twisted. Okay, there we go. In general, I recommend mounting the handle of the flash bracket on the left side, because, in the course of your event, if you try to spend the whole event holding this camera with your right hand, your arm is gonna be really sore and really tired, so this just gives you another way to hold the system, by putting that on the left side. Also gives you a nice way to kind of frame it all up. The next thing is you need some way to trigger the flash when it's not mounted on the camera body. This is a cable, it's called the TTL cable. You can buy these from the camera manufacturer. Nikon, Canon, Fuji, everybody sells a TTL cable. This one I bought on Amazon, and it's made by a company called Velo, it was maybe half the price. You can find these anywhere from maybe 10 bucks to 100 bucks. Just buy one that works, and remember, you get what you pay for in this business. Whatever your budget is, you should buy that one, okay? It just mounts here on the camera's hot shoe, and then goes up here to the flash mounting point. Now we gotta mount the flash up here. We'll use my SB5000. So I'm just gonna mount that on there. Super important. Lock it. I've never done this before, but I've heard of photographers who've dropped their flash onto the floor. So there you go. So now, we can shoot horizontal. And then, if we shoot vertical, we go like this. And basically, you bounce your flash up in the air, like that. So now you're gonna choose your diffuser of choice. So, group vote, what diffuser would you like me to use, bender or light dome? Bender hands. Flash bender, okay. Light dome? Two, you guys lose. Alright. So, we'll use flash bender, great. And we're just gonna mount that on there like this. Just like you saw before. Oops. Get in there. Okay, cool. So there is my event photography rig. So what have we done? Well, we've increased the distance that the flash is away from the lens. That means our shadows are gonna drop down even farther behind the subject. It also gives us a little bit more of a model look, the modeling of the light. If I go vertical, eh, the flash bender's not exactly perfect for going vertical, because when I rotate the head up like that, you can see it's a little bit of an issue. So that's why sometimes I go with the diffusion boxes or the domes, because the light will still sometimes go forward. So, for this we'll just shoot horizontal, to make things easy. That's the idea. Alright, my friends. You guys ready? So let's say you guys are at the party. Now, you're the rock star. I dunno, you can do whatever you want. You can pretend you're playing the guitar, you can act silly. Yeah, cool. I'll have you stand a little bit over here, pretend you're on stage. Cool. You three, you're up here, you're at the party. So, one stand here. Yeah, and you're gonna be facing this way, towards me. Yeah, cool. I'm gonna put you on the other side, 'cause you're kinda tall. Yeah, right on. Now, you guys are best friends, 'kay? You're totally best friends, and so what I want is some love. I want, like, yeah, we're here together! I want your arms around each-other, I want, like, peace symbols or hang loose or whatever it is. Whatever hand signal works. No gang symbols. Alright. Now, before I take this shot, we can shoot this in manual mode, we can shoot it in TTL mode. So why don't I start in TTL mode, because really, that's what we're doing a lot of time at events, 'cause things are moving so fast, you guys do this move, that move, so TTL means I can move forward and back and the camera's gonna try to pick up the slack for me. So I got to manual, sorry, I go to TTL. And I'm gonna start out at 0.0. Just to remind you where I'm at for my camera exposure, I'm at ISO, I'm still at ISO800. To make this a little more difficult, why don't I go down to 400? But what does 400 do? Well, that cuts out some of the house lights. Makes the house lights go darker. I'm at F56, and I'm at a 250th of a second. Alright, so, I want you all to be like best friends. Rock on, yeah baby! Guitar in the background. Okay, look at the camera. Alright, cool. Don't go anywhere. Oh yeah! Look at that, woohoo! That's really cool, I like it, actually, it turned out really well. Surprise. When you're teaching, you never know how this stuff is actually gonna come out in the end, but let's look through some of the images. I shot in fairly rapid succession, so let's start at the beginning. Alright, here's the first one we took. Look at the exposure. Look at the light on the subjects. Guitar man. Jimi, we'll call him Jimi. Yeah, this is good. And then I started taking them fairly rapidly, click click click. Watch what happens with the brightness of light. Ah. Why was that last one darker? What'd you say? (audience member speaking unclearly) Couldn't catch up. Battery. The little thing just couldn't keep up. I was in TTL mode, my ISO was 400, I'm at F56, a fairly small hole, so if you want to be able to shoot in rapid succession, you may have to use higher ISOs. 800, 1600. That is awesome. That one right there, high five. Thank you, awesome, right on. Good job, Jimi. Cool, man. Alright, I'm done with you for now, you can take a seat back there. So event photography, before we wrap up this little segment, event photography's fun, it's very stressful. It is very stressful because you just don't want to miss the shot, and what I just showed you with this series is you can actually do good-looking work if you put some thought into it. I could have taken that same thing in manual mode, manual exposure mode, I could have taken it in TTL mode. TTL allows me to be a little bit more mobile, a little bit more here versus there. Manual mode, I always have to think through my distance. You guys can't move and I can't move. We have to stay at the same distance all the time. So, manual mode's a little bit too restrictive, I think, for event photography. Go with TTL, and then just get really comfortable with increasing power or decreasing power as necessary.

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.