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How to Shoot with your First Flash

Lesson 28 of 28

Shoot: Using a Beauty Dish

Mike Hagen

How to Shoot with your First Flash

Mike Hagen

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Lesson Info

28. Shoot: Using a Beauty Dish

Lesson Info

Shoot: Using a Beauty Dish

Beauty dishes. Hey camera, take a shot of the back of this beauty dish. Whatdya notice? Tape. So, I brought the wrong connecting hardware for this beauty dish today and so I'm running a do-it-yourself class also for CreativeLive. So I had a bunch of tape and I have an engineer's brain and so I figured out how to actually attach the beauty dish to the equipment that I have. So that's why all this tape is on there. Most of the beauty dishes that you buy, whoops, somethin' fell. Most of the beauty dishes that you buy actually have a way to connect the dish to the flash. In my case, I just brought the wrong hardware, but I found a way to make it work. Let me just quickly attach the flash to this, and then I'll talk about what a beauty dish is and why we want to use them. So, same trigger, just going to screw it onto here. See that? We run into his problem. I tested this earlier without this trigger on there. So, what I'm gonna do... Let's see. Let's find a way. I know, shorter flash. This ...

is perfect, because you're always having these issues when you buy equipment. Does it interface with the gear that I have? Let's see if that one's gonna work. Yah, that one's gonna work. Okay. So I just chose a shorter flash. Still manual output. Still 1/16th power. Okay, so that said, turn this around. So, there's a beauty dish. And the way that a beauty dish works is basically light comes out of the flash hits this little panel here, reflects back into the beauty dish and then back towards the subject. So light's going bomp, bomp, bomp. Beauty dish is a smaller light. Right? It's not as big as a softbox or even as an umbrella. So what you're going to find here is that the beauty dish tends to be, you have to be a little bit more precise with the arrangement. Otherwise you get harsh shadows. And if we're using this rule about how far away should the beauty dish be or how should the light be from the subject, technically, you're going to have to be this close, but this is really uncomfortable, isn't it? Yeah, you're used to it. Yeah. But it really is. Something that close is not going to work. So beauty dishes, you have my permission to move them back a little bit. And also with beauty dishes, a lot of times you're using them on a boom arm, because they have to a lot of times kinda be right in front of the subject. So if you don't have a boom arm, you're kinda like trying to shoot around the post. Alright. So we're gonna try that, right there. Imagine again the po -- remember the umbrella, you're always trying to get the post to get to the subject right on the nose. So if there was a post on this, right now the post would be over his head a little bit so I wanna aim that down. And the idea is when you're doing the beauty dishes, you want the shadow of the nose to fall just above the top lip. Okay? So a little shadow there. Mustache shadow type of thing. You don't always have to do it that way, but I kinda like that look. So we'll see. You have a mustache so we might not be able to see your shadow. Okay. Placement matters. Positioning matters. We may have to take a shot and take a look. We may have to do this multiple times. Alright. Okay, back list review. I'm still at F5.6. I'm still at ISO 400. I'm still at 2/50th of a second. And now, I'm at 1/16th power in the beauty dish. My gut tells me it's gonna be too bright. Let's find out. I'm gonna have to move it ever so slightly, and shoot around it. Cool. Look right at the camera. One, two, three Nice smile, man. Okay, yeah, it's a little bright. Little bright. Let's look here at the shadow just see if we have to move it forward or backward or higher. Looks like the shadow is fallin' right between his nose and his lip. That's cool. Huh. It's actually pretty good. I'm gonna reduce the power though. Oh shoot. Yeah, you see? Now you can see the advantage of going with a TTL Pocketwizards or the TTL control with the wireless systems. Alright, so I was at 1/16th. I'm gonna drop it down one stop which makes it at 32nd power. And power adjustment, go to 32nd, Actually, I'm gonna go to 32nd and another third down. Why? Because I want to. I feel good about that. Okay. Cool. Take that shot again. Nice smile. One, two, three. Cool. I'm gonna take one more. One, two, three Yeah. Okay. A little bit, I probably shouldn'tve gone down that far but it was just a guess. Still a little dark. This one's a little bit dark. It's okay. Looks good. You get the feeling. You get the idea for a beauty dish. Nice catch light in the eyes. You notice the shadows on his face are a little bit harsher, harder. So beauty dishes can be difficult to use for people who have skin that's a little pockmarked or even guys who have five o' clock shadow. Sometimes that beauty dish can really bring out the texture on their face. You don't always want that, so be careful with beauty dish usage. Make sure that maybe the person does nice good-looking makeup. If you're doing professional photography, you may want to hire a makeup artist to help. And if your model is good with makeup, then make sure she does a nice job of, I don't even know the terms, foundation? Rouge? I'm being silly. Alright cool. I'm gonna get to the question in one second. I wanna do one more shot with the beauty dish, and that is, use the reflector underneath, just to show, most photographers use a reflector and the beauty dish. Yeah, you know the drill. Here's a case where we couldn't actually use a big reflector. Let's go right there. Nice! Clamshell lighting. Right? Clamshell. That's what it's called. Clamshell lighting. And here we go, last one. I'll move my mouse out of the screen. Oh yeah. Good. Rather than take another shot and bring that thing back down, I'm just gonna brighten it up a little. The beauty of Lightroom. Cool. So, simple beauty dish shot. Looks cool, eh? Alright. So question. The question was around the lighting that is going on of the background in this particular scenario. Mmhmm. And it not being like the falloff. Is that something that concerned you? Or that you would, is there a reason to change that? Yeah, great question. Yeah, I'm really concerned about the lighting on the background. Just because, I'm always thinking about it. Do I want it to be a part of the photo? Do I want to exclude it from being a part of the photo? You always need to be making that decision. Well, in this case, it just so happens that we have a pretty cool looking backdrop. It's brick, it's white, and it looks good. We only have one light to work with, one flash, and so, do I want the bricks to be really bright? If I do, then I actually have to move my whole kit closer to the brick, so that maybe he's like one foot away rather than four feet away. On the other hand, do I want the bricks to be as dark as possible? Well, then I have to move him way out here, because really what I can't do is, you know, I only have one light here, so I can't really prevent that light from shining out back behind him. So to do that, I have to move him farther away. Another thing, backdrops. Someone had asked a question about backdrops, that was you. You were asking the question about backdrops. You know, I'm not showing backdrops at all in this class, but if you end up wanting to buy a backdrop, get a black sheet, and a white sheet. Those two things will cover 90% of your studio flash needs. Just a black sheet and a white sheet. You can also buy a muslin. Muslins are really big. They're like 12 feet wide by 24 feet long. Those are cool, but you can actually, everything we did today you can do with a simple bed sheet, Like a king size bed sheet. And that's actually a very inexpensive way to get a nice backdrop. You can literally tape it on the wall. Now, she bought some stands, and she paid, what'dya say, like 100 bucks or something for the stands? Great! Just buy $100 backdrop stand, clamp that sheet there on the background. And if it's a white backdrop, you're gonna get stuff just like we see here today. And if it's a black backdrop, then it will just basically fade away into nothing. Yeah, I'm always thinking about the background. Yeah, question. I have a question sort of kinda going backwards, back to the softboxes. Sure. I did get one, and it came with a grid. Ooh! Grid! Hey, can we go to the keynote? This is a good segue to the last couple slides of the keynote. I forgot to talk about grids. I didn't bring any grids with me today, but let me describe what they do. Basically a grid will go in front of your softbox, and I know this is not a softbox, but I'll pretend it is. A grid is designed, oops, duct tape control. There we go. A grid is designed to go in front of this and basically even further collimate or direct the light. So it prevents, basically prevents the light from spreading around. So let's say, for example, I was shooting a shot like this, where I'm coming off of his shoulder. And I want the light just to hit him, and I don't want any light to hit the background, a grid would prevent light from splashing off into where I don't want it to go. Also, to the orange wall paint question, or the yellow paint, grids help prevent light from bouncing off of that odd colored walls. So grids are good, but they further direct and control the light. And actually you can get grids for beauty dishes, you can get grids for softboxes, grids for Octas. Almost all of them come with a grid. How do they attach? Typically, they attach with velcro, and you just velcro em into the inside or the front of the grid, or the front face of the product. So, let me really quickly talk about the well, we did, we talked about the Octas and the beauty dishes. I kinda put these two things in the same category because they're very similar, the difference being that the Octas are typically a lot bigger, and the beauty dishes, they're kind of designed for this specific shadow the specific shape design. I think these take much more skill to use, the beauty dishes, they take a lot more skill. You have to place it precisely. If you're off on the angle a little bit, you miss the sweet spot, the pretty part of the look. Like if I shot it and I just skimmed it past him, it wouldn't look good. So you have be really good and precise about the positioning. A question had come in from Amelia Blondette, who says, "What do you think is the greatest challenge "and the most common mistake that a newbie faces "when starting to learn how to use a flash?" Hm. Yeah, great question, Amelia. I think that new photographers struggle, I'd say they struggle with three things, and we've touched on all of these three things today. One thing that new flash photographers struggle with is just power, output. Like how to wrangle the energy from the flash. You know, we were taking photos of him today, and some are bright and some are dark, so it's like understanding what that difference is between 0.0 EV and 1/2 power in manual mode. Just getting your brain wrapped around that, that's difficult. So understand how to adjust your flash power. That's number one. Number two, consistency. How do you get consistency from shot to shot? Seriously, almost every week I get emails from people who've read my books or people who read my website and they're like, ah, it's frustrating! I take this photo and one picture's too bright and the next picture's too dark. I can't get consistency. And so it's all about understanding what is TTL doing and what is manual doing. Is the person moving away from me or closer to me? So it's managing consistency. And the other thing is, I'd say camera settings. All of the settings and the functions. Just all of this vernacular that you have to learn, like this whole new world of vernacular, flash photography. So today I tried to boil it down and simplify it as much as possible. I think every flash has like six modes, or even more. Even that cheapo, don't use that words ... The less expensive flash that I purchased on Ebay, even that flash has five modes. And really you don't need all those modes. You just need TTL and manual mode. That's really it. So just kind of boiling down all the vernacular and simplifying it. That's the third challenge. And now, we can overcome all of those challenges with this class, right Mike? Yeah! Fantastic. Let's see. Just so that people do understand here, we are reusing one flash and there's multiple flashes. But for folks who are new, a question had come in from Denise. What is the difference between Speedlights and Alien Bees or Einsteins. What are we talking about there? Yeah, great. Okay, I own a ton of Nikon Speedlights. That's what I do. That's the book that I wrote. And that's kind of where I came from. I like the size and the portability of these little guys. You know, I can fit four, five, six in a bag. I can go someplace. I understand it all, so I can kinda make the lights do what I wanna do. So the advantage of the little speedlights, is they're small and they're portable. The disadvantage is they're not very powerful. Again, back to why I'm shooting at F5.6 versus F11. Again, back to why I'm shooting at ISO 400 versus 100, okay? So, let's say that I want to become a full-on studio photographer. And when I say studio photographer, I mean I'm doing like full body shots of models maybe I'm bringing in a motorcycle. Seriously. Bicycles, cars. Oh, well now I can't shoot it at five six anymore. Maybe I'm shooting groups of people, like families. You can't shoot it at five six. You gotta be F11, F16. Well, how many of these little flashes do I need to have to be able to shoot F16 for this big group? I need a bunch of them. So that's where the Pro Photos come in and that's where the Alien Bees come in. So in the tier of of cost, Alien Bees, in my opinion, are the very best value. Seriously, Alien Bees are fantastic. Paul C. Buff, he was the designer of all these. He passed away recently, but he created this great product for photographers. And honestly, I think he created a service for us. He gave his heart to these fairly powerful, but low-cost flashes. They're studio strobes. Then we go up to something like Pro Photo or the Elinchroms, and they're very expensive. Each flash head is typcially $800 to maybe $ depending on the model, but man, they got oomph. They got power and they got juice. So those would light a shoot F16, F22, ISO 100, big cars, full body shots. It's just a matter of how much money you wanna spend and how much weight do you wanna pull around with you.

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. 


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.