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How to Take Amazing Photos with your DSLR

Lesson 28 of 31

Freezing Action with Strobe Light

Julia Kelleher

How to Take Amazing Photos with your DSLR

Julia Kelleher

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Lesson Info

28. Freezing Action with Strobe Light

Lesson Info

Freezing Action with Strobe Light

- [Julia] Let's go ahead and start working a little bit with these strobes, and I'll talk about how it works. Now, a strobe, just to show you what it looks like here. I'm going to totally be annoying and pull this off. Some strobes have bulbs in there, that you can like actually... Can you help me get this off real quick so I can... - [Adam] Do you want to use another one of the... - Oh, yeah, good call. Thank you. Huh, blonde moment. Okay. Strobes... Thank you, Adam, that was a logical explanation. I'm tired, can you tell? Okay. So some strobes have a nice flat surface like this, and the bulb is inside the housing. Sorry, that's really bright, inside the housing. Others have the bulbs sitting on the outside, you want to be careful. Like the Alien Bees have the bulb on the outside. You want to be careful not to get greasy fingers on it, because it can sometimes burst, it gets very hot, the bulb. They also have a modeling light in there. So these Profoto, everything's housed inside here...

. On the Alien Bees, you'll have the strobe bulb that wraps around, and then you put a regular light bulb in there to get what we call the modeling light. So the light that's coming out of this right now, is just a modeling light. It just kind of shows you where the light is falling. The strobe itself fires like that. It's quick, isn't it? It's a flash, it's all it does. "Sorry, don't look at the light." "But it's so beautiful," you know, A Bug's Life, the movie, these little bugs flying towards a thing, he gets zapped. Look, the light, you have to have kids to get it, I think. Sorry, "Don't look at the light." Okay. So, a strobe, basically what's taking the image is that firing of the flash, okay? So this is basically the inside of it, what it looks like. These Profoto are really nice because they're all housed in the unit. It's a very durable unit, and not easily breakable. So if you're going to go with like an Alien Bee or something like that, just be careful because the bulb is on the outside and it's a little more fragile, okay? So, now, there's all kinds of modifiers you can use with strobes. We have a five-foot octabank on this one, same as that softbox we had before, okay, no difference, it's just a different shape, okay? So, it's going to do different things, but the inside is pretty much the same. It's got this little baffle in here, which adds an extra layer of diffusion. Can you see that, Alex? It's got an extra layer of diffusion in there with that baffle. And then, it's just this diffusion panel on the outside, just like we worked with a constant lights last time, it's just a little different shape, okay? The other kinds of modifiers we have are things like shoot-through umbrellas, where you can actually stick the umbrella like this, inside, point it at your subject, and fire away. It acts as a diffusion, okay? Another type of modifier for strobes is... Where's my... There's some of these that have a black outside and a white inside, which is what I use in my studio to light the background, okay? And you basically would, same thing, put it inside the little slot where this slips in. But instead of pointing it towards... Since the outside of the modifier is black, the white bounces on to the background, okay? So, that just lights up my background really evenly and creates a really pretty look. This is also wonderful for high key. High key is when you take a white background, completely blow it out of focus, but the subject is properly exposed with the main light. It makes that really high-fashion white background look, okay, that everybody loves so much. And you can see, like, even with natural light using our mock-ups, we managed to make a beautiful white background without having to do all this fancy-schmancy, stuff, okay? Okay. So, we're going to start. Oh, yes, I want you to throw those on there because I'll end up using this while I talk. Now, one of the big... Belinda, I'm going to need you at some point. Whenever you're ready, you can bring your coffee if you want. Now, one of the big questions is, "Okay, Julia, how do I make my camera make the flash go off?" Right? Do I just stand there and go, "Click right at the same time." No. There's lots of ways to do it, okay? When you buy Profoto, you also buy what's called a remote trigger, okay? These lights communicate in an infrared signal between this unit and receive a signal in there, and that's what makes them fire. So, if you notice, I can press the test button and it doesn't work. There we go, it worked, and it fires it, okay? So, this is connected to my camera, so when I take a shot, the strobe will go off. Cool technology, right? Pretty awesome. Okay. So, now, my ISO is going to get cranked down to low 1, which is a classic Nikon thing. My shutter speed is going to stay at 1/200 of a second because I can't change that, right? So, now, what's my power at? Power on my light is six-o, so I'll move it up to eight. I'm going to have to play around a bit since I forgot my meter, which I feel really silly because I forgot my meter. And the other thing that I just did is I dumped my flash. Whenever I change the power of the flash, what happens in a flash, and a strobe, I should say, when you've set it at a certain power, fire it, it recycles its energy, its power. And it is poised now and ready to go at the, what is it, eight-o power that I have it on. If I raise that power to 10 and fire it, it's still going to be at 8, it has to recycle to 10. Does that make sense? So, I just dumped the flash to get it to recycle from six to eight, and then vice versa, you have to do the same thing on the way down. Now, I'm going to change my light position a little bit to what I use... I like this light stands, I've got to get a couple these. To what I use at home. I tend to put [inaudible]. And the reason for this is because I do a lot of compositing. I'll shoot someone in studio, and then put them outside in a scene, like in a field or grassy field. You saw the image earlier of the mama with the little girl and the sheep behind her, that purple, she was shot in studio on a gray background and then thrown into that later. So, when I put my light up here, it acts like a big northern light. It gives that same impression because the light in a natural environment rarely comes from below, right? It usually comes from the sky. So I want my light overhead as if it was the sky, okay? So I'm not going to use the background lights for now, I just want you to see what it looks like to just do a simple, single, overhead-light in a portrait. Now, I'm going to have to get my exposure right because I have no meter. We'll try f/8 and see what happens. This could totally blow up. Now, my meter in the camera won't work, okay? It's right now saying I'm completely under expose, okay? Because it hasn't seen the flash go off, that's why an incident meter is so important. But what you can do is fire your light, and then, of course, chimp and see if you got it, which is not the best method. Oh, it's actually not bad, it's a little overexposed, we've got some hot spots. See how we got some little hot spots right there, and it may just be...Can I look at it on here? Is that okay? Sorry, I may give you 500 tasks at once. It's actually not bad, I'm going to stop down just a little bit. Okay. Let's try it one more time. I just up my aperture a little bit. There we go, that's a little better. I can even go more. Okay. So, in other words, for me to control exposure, shutter speed is set, ISO is as low as it's going to go, right? If I make it any higher, I'm going to blast it with overexposure, right? I'm currently sitting at ISO 50, okay? That's as low as my Nikon will go. 1/200th of a second, because that's my sync speed. Now, let's show you what a bad sync speed is. This is what happens when you don't use the right sync speed. Oops, okay? So, your camera can only do a certain sync speed because of the way the flash fires and the speed of the shutter. So, if you're too fast, the shutter closes before the flash can fully dump, okay? I'm going to move back to 200. And I'm at f10, so the only factor I can use to control exposure is my aperture, because I've got such a powerful light. So, that's all I'm worried about. And once I got it nailed, I'm good, the entire session. I'm at f10 right now, I could shoot this till the cows come home, okay? Now, the only thing that's going to change my exposure is the distance to the light, or the power in the light, right? Okay. So, if I move the light closer to her, clearly that's going to change my exposure, or if I move it further away, right? Or if I added more power to this light or took it away. So, let's go ahead and remove power. I'm not going to change anything else with the power of the light. So, let's drop it down to five, just for, you know, six. No, let's do five. Five for effect, dump it. Okay. It doesn't look any different, does it? Modeling light didn't change, but the power change, so trust me, it's going to look different. And I'm not going to change anything, so we're still going to shoot at f10. It's going to be a lot more underexposed. See, okay? So, in order to adjust with that, I just got to change with aperture, right? So, I'll drop down to like a five, six, see what happens. My battery light is blinking, "Blink, blink, blink." No photos, uh-oh. It's a little better. I could still go lower. At 4.5, I think that's about as low as I can go. Okay? There we go, that's better. You can look at your histogram, see where you're at, okay? It might even be a little bit underexposed. Yup, just slightly. We could open that up just a little bit more. Wow, I can't believe I can get down to 3.5 on this thing. Woo-hoo, it's pretty good. Okay. So you can look at your histogram if you need to because you can see your histogram inside your panel as well. And that will help you if you don't have a meter to determine exposure, okay? But now, this is a single light. We could add a reflector in here to get the exact same effect we did earlier. So, I'll use a helper. Who wants to help me? You want to help me? It's Kalila, right? - [Kalia] Kalia. - Kalia. Kalila, too many Ls. Kalia. Kahlua but with an A. Kalia. Kahlua is awesome. Yeah. Oh, yes. Kalia. Do you know that she remembers like every single baby we've ever done and what date they were born? It's a little freaky. It's a little freaky. Okay. So, here, now, remember, we've got opposite conditions going on. But you can already see, with the modeling light, how it's bouncing light into her face. Do you see that? So, let's just hold that. We can hold that on her hand, she can help hold it. I'm still working at a low power. Okay. I want your nose straight. Hey, girl, lean forward. Perfect. Chin forward and down. Beautiful girl. Awesome. And put your elbows together. There we go, beautiful. That's what I want. Gorgeous, also it's so pretty. Okay. And then watch the shadows, okay? Again, you fill the shadows pop up that beautiful light in her face, and it's the exact same thing we did before with natural light, okay? Yet, catch lights are a little stronger, things are a little sharper. So, now, let's play around, okay? Now, I'm going to show you why... You can have a seat, honey, you did a great job. Thank you, I appreciate it. Now, I'm going to show you why strobes are incredible for catching children in action, okay? So, yeah, we're going to need to get that out of the way and I'm going to need to power up. I'm powering up to 10, okay? Dump it. Okay. You're going to be terrible because you're taller than most children. - Yeah. What do you want me to do? - Just kind of jump and lift your legs at the same time. Do you know what I mean? Don't jump high. Just kind of that. Like don't like try to go up. - Jump and lift your legs at the same time, do you realize how funny that statement is? - It is really, I'm sorry. Jump and lift your legs at the same time? Oh, my goodness. Oh, she loves to point out. Okay, anyway. Let me get my exposure correct first because I did just power up my lights. It might be above 10, let me see where I'm at. I just took a quick test shot, oh, too much, let's go up to f16. Yee-haw, we love that power. You're awesome, thank you. That's a little better. Okay. So, this is where strobes rock with moving children. And these strobes in particular, can recycle, I believe, in less than half a second, if I'm not mistaken. I'll have to look at the specifications on the Profoto, but they can recycle super-fast, okay? So, I'm going to have Belinda jump up in the air. I'm focusing on her face, okay? I'm literally got my focus point up high because I know she's not going to jump too high. And on the count of three, I want you to jump. One, two, three. Okay. They freeze action. I'm sorry, do you want to do it again? Let's do it again so you don't feel really silly. Okay, let's do it again. One, two, three. There we go. I always try to get them on the way down because then, the hair is flying. Look at how cute she is, she's so awesome. But if we zoom into this image, and maybe I can do that for me, it should be sharp. It should be sharp as a tack. Yeah, look how sharp that is. Even her necklace is flying in the air, is sharp, okay? So, eyelashes, all that good stuff, everything is just frozen action. I'm sorry to show your face like that close, hon, I'm sorry. If we had done this, and I wish when we did the little girl froggy jump, if you zoomed-in close to those images, they'd be a little soft. Because it's the thing with natural light and trying to shoot fast shutter speeds like that. If there's not enough light, it's going to be really hard. Whereas with a strobe, that flash freezes the action, okay? And that's why it's so powerful with children running around like this. You could do lifestyle photography with them having a heyday and throwing stuff everywhere, and capture that action and parents love it. And then, of course, you're shooting at ISO 50, and that allows you to want to, on a raw, which allows you to blow up the file to like 60, 80-inch print no problem, okay? There's a question on the internet. - Well, Sean had asked you if you were moving the camera with her jumping. So, when you were showing us the little froggy pose, I think you were moving up and down. Are you doing that as well with the strobe? - Not as much here. I don't need to because I'm shooting at f16. Excuse me, there I was shooting at what? F2.5 at the most, maybe. So, my focal plane is much deeper here. My area of focus within the image is much deeper. So, I know most of it is going to be sharp. So, I was actually focusing, like, on her lips area. Now, ideally, if I'm being a perfectionist, I should focus on her eyes, make sure those eyes are the sharpest part of the image. But I know that using f16, I'm going to get a decent focal width, and most of everything is going to be sharp, okay? And this monitor, of course, doesn't fully show it here in the studio, but on the computer, it's probably pretty darn sharp. Yeah, it's almost tack. A little bit of sharpening in there in Photoshop and it'll be almost over sharp, okay? So, that's the beauty of strobes, no other thing can do that. Is capture motion, quickly and sharply, without any shutter shake, okay? Yeah? - So do you have to turn the strobe up or can you get the same stopping of the action at a lower power of the strobe? - Yes, you can get the same stopping because you know how you...I'll try to give you an analogy that'll explain this. And I'm going to give you an analogy that's the opposite of what I'm trying to explain, in the hope that you will get it. Have you ever taken a camera, open up the shutter speed to like five seconds, in pitch-black, and take in a firecracker or a sparkler and draw on your name? Have you ever done that? That's because you're opening the shutter for so long and that light is just moving through and creating that drawing. It's almost the exact opposite with strobe. The strobe is going so fast that that one instantaneous moment is being captured, and then everything is going dark. Do you see what I'm saying? So, that one flash moment is recorded, and then gone. With natural light, the light is always there. Because you got to remember, if I took this six... Let's try something here. Okay, I just turned off my trigger. So, the strobes will not go off. Yeah, I know. Okay? Under-exposed black, look at that histogram, it's cranked, okay? But because the strobe is flashing that one moment to light up the scene and going away, it freezes the action. Do you see what I'm saying? It's the opposite with the firecracker name thing, okay? You're letting your shutter stay open for a long time, and then you're taking your light and going, "Mm-hmm," and making a pretty design. Do you see the difference? So, if I took a picture with the exposure the way it is now, it's just going to be black. But that strobe, like, lights up the scene for a second and disappears. But that's not the same way when you're using natural light, it's not as fast. Even though your shutter speed may be at 1/5000th of a second, it still isn't quite fast enough to avoid the shutter shake. When you have the strobe flash it for an instant of a second, everything stops in that moment, to the visual eye. Do you see that? Does that explain it okay? Okay. Yeah. Judith, did I answer your question? - Well, I'm going to ask a continuation... - Okay. Maybe we'll clarify. She looks still confused, I want to make sure she doesn't get confused. - I don't understand, unless it's because of the strobe and the connection. But there is a light there, but it's black there. - Yeah, it's because my... - It's because of that. - ...ISO is down. - I'm at ISO 50, 200th of a second at f16... - Okay. - There is not enough light in this room to be able to... - To take care of that. - take care of that. Now, if I opened up to f1.4 and try to get the exposure right, we could get a good scene out because there is light in the scene, right? But what I'm doing is basically telling the camera to take black, and then blasting the scene with light, in that one instantaneous moment, and that's what's being recorded on the screen. - I think her original question was why did you move it up to 10 versus leaving it at a lower number. - Oh. - At a lower power. - Okay, I misunderstood your question. See, she's way smarter than I am. Oh, I'm sorry, I misunderstood your question. - I speaking non-photographer. - She totally does. All right. She's like, "I speak non-photographer." I love you, Belinda, you're so awesome. Well, I powered up my light to 10 because I wanted just lots of power so I could get a strong depth of field. I wanted to be able to go up to f16 or a higher number, just so I increased my plane of focus, okay? So, here's how a plane of focus...let me describe to you how this works. This is f1.4, okay? Big-old opening to my lens, right? I want you to imagine a line here, going down to the floor, and a line here, crossing and going up to the top of the backdrop, okay? Where they cross is my depth of field, where it's going to be sharp. Because it's wider here, that depth of field, the cross... I get very passionate about this stuff. Okay. Because it's wide, where they cross is going to be very deep so that the X is going to be wider here. Do you see that? Okay. So where they X, yeah, so just put your hands on an X like. I think you were doing good. I'm sorry, you don't speak photographer lingo. Hands together. Now, split your elbows. Yeah. So, the X is wider here because we've got wider distance here. Do you see that? Now, when I go down to a smaller aperture, okay? They're closer together as it is, so they're skinnier here for a longer period of time. So, in other words, my focal plane is wider, both front and back. Do you see that? Whereas when I have an open aperture, they slam to a focal point in a smaller range. Do you see that? I wish I could like draw this on a diagram, I should have put it in my program. Okay. But you see what I'm saying? So, when I say, "I want to shoot down at f/16," this is making sure, especially when I'm far away, that focal plane is going to be skinny, where it meets an X, is going to be skinny for a long time, front and back, which means I got a lot more in focus. You see that? Is that explaining it? Okay. - I have a question. - Yes. - So, kind of, related to that, then, if you want to blow out the background using the strobe, you would need to be at a lower, like, f5 or something. Is that possible to blow it out? - You mean out of focus background? - Yeah. - You'll need to be at a lower aperture, so a wider open aperture. Which means, the only way you can do that is to power down your light. Because you'd need less light coming in because right now, my ISO is at 50, my shutter speed has to stay at 1/200th of a second. So, the only thing I can adjust is the power of my light, or my aperture, to bring in more light, okay? So, if I want to be able to open up, the only thing I can do is power down that light. And some of these lights only go so low. So, you may be hindered by how low your light can go. Now, I know that you bought the Alien Bee 2400, I used to be able to go down to f2 with those, so that's really nice. And on the other spectrum, you may not be able to go as high, which means you might not be able to get a huge depth of field with that. But that may not be important to you, you may like the out-of-focus backgrounds, okay? So, it just depends on what you're trying to achieve. Makes sense? Okay. - So, yesterday, you talked a lot about how you love doing low aperture. - Mm-hmm, in natural light. - In natural light. So, you consider this as a totally different category? - Yes. Yes, I do. You can shoot strobes in low aperture, like I was telling her, if you get a strobe that powers down enough. These Profoto D500 Airs are too powerful, okay? A D1000s are even way more powerful, okay? It just depends on the look you're after and what kind of work you do as a photographer. It's just like, you know how no camera bag is absolutely perfect? You know, like, no, you cannot find a camera bag or like... Well, you guys aren't pros yet, but it's 2D management software like accounting software, is the same way. We're both doing that right now. You cannot find the perfect software that will do everything for you. It's the same thing with gear, there is no one gear that will answer all of your problems. You have to figure out what you want to do, what's going to be the most conducive to your style, and then work with that. Or you buy lots of equipment. I have constant lights, like those Profoto HMIs, in my studio that I use for [inaudible]. And that will allow me to stop down and get nice wide-open bokeh till here to high heaven. I also choose studio strobes. If I use those constant lights with little kids running around, I'm not going to get super sharp and get a little shutter shake going on. So, for my kids running around, my baby planners, my one-year-olds, my two-year-olds, my young kids, doing the real kids thing, dressed up like they are, you know, like we did with the cute skirt, that is all done in strobe because they move fast and I want to make sure I can fully capture them, okay? And not lose an image to sharpness, that's the big thing. The minute we started doing that, we were like having to soften skin because it was so sharp. We were like, "Oh, that's too sharp." Do you know what I mean? It's just too, you can see every single pore, okay? So, someone was asking about high key. No, if you want to blow the background out of focus, I'm mistaken. If you want to blow the background out of focus, light-wise, like with light, that's where here... Let's give you a chair, sweetie, so you could sit down. I'm not done with you yet. Are you kidding? She's the subject of, like, all my competition prints and all kinds of stuff going on.

Class Description

Understanding how your camera functions is a start, but in order to capture the best images, you need to know more than what buttons to push.  Julia Kelleher will walk you through some likely beginner photographer scenarios to show how to work in multiple situations, compose your image and get the most from your subjects. Whether you purchased your camera to take photos of your children, your friends or even products you are hoping to sell, Julia will show you how to feel comfortable in any environment. In this class Julia will show you: 
  • Taking pictures of children: how to work with energetic subjects, what compositions are safest as well as poses and ideas to keep them engaged 
  • Taking pictures of groups: be it your friends, coworkers or clients- learn the best approaches for group photos so you can capture people looking their best 
  • Products: If you’re starting a business or selling your belongings online, a great picture goes a long way in helping a buyer choose your product 
  • Headshots or banner photos: learn techniques to get professional headshots or captivating banner photos for your social media or website 
  • How to work with natural light and control it in your favor, as well as inexpensive options to help improve your lighting quality 
 If you’re new to working with a professional camera, this class will give you the confidence to capture an image in any scenario with your expensive purchase. Make the most out of every situation by learning to compose, pose, direct and light your subjects.  

Ratings and Reviews

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Julia is an amazing teacher!!!! Funny, go with the flow, honest, and obviously so gifted at what she does. That came through and also inspired those feelings in me as a novice photographer. I left her class feeling excited to play with my camera and appreciate that she encouraged me to use what I have now and get good before spending tons of money on fancier stuff. I also love that she showed how everyday materials from Home Depot can make for great images. I particularly appreciated the 2nd day on product photography, social media images and the short demos in PhotoShop. Please do a full class on just this Julia/Creative Live!!!!!

Brandon Couch

So first off I've been doing photography for a little bit now and only shot in manual 20% of the time and was okay with it. Since coming to this class and seeing how manual mode isn't scary, it is everything you need and want in the life of photography, I now will not use anything else. The team at Creative Live is amazing and Julia's love for other starting and even professional photographers is amazing. She would sit and talk to us together and individually and really loves those who love photography. I would recommend this class and any other one of Julia's classes here on CreativeLive. I can't wait to come back. Was AMAZING!!! LIFE CHANGING!!!

a Creativelive Student

What an awesome class! I am not a beginner and am currently making a living as a photographer and was interested in this class because #1 Julia is such a great teacher with such talent and #2 I was expecting to take away some valuable information to pass along to my little after school beinning photo club. I am happy to report Julia did not disappoint:-) What actually happened was that I learned so many things that I probably should have known being a seasoned professional that I lost track of my original intention of why I was there. I couldn't wait to pull out my camera and try all of the new things that I had just learned. The color balancing and the little dot showing when your camera (Nikon) was manually focused alone was worth the price. I enjoyed every minute of this course. Thanks Julia! Anyone would benefit from this course....