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Overview: Strobe Lights

Lesson 27 from: How to Take Amazing Photos with your DSLR

Julia Kelleher

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Lesson Info

27. Overview: Strobe Lights

Lesson Info

Overview: Strobe Lights

We're going to talk about Studio Strobes, right? Again, another favorite client of mine they did their Christmas card this year with these images that you're seeing on the screen. Apparently these two run around like this every morning with their superhero capes on, and that to me that's just awesome when kids are being real kids. And of course we made a Christmas card for them that was also basically, like a comic book strip with boom, and flash, and all kinds of cool graphics around it. It was really fun. So Studious Strobes, okay, this is now taking DSLR work to the next level. It's one thing to work with your DSLR with natural light, it's another thing to work with flash or what we call a strobe, okay? Really flash and strobe are interchangeable words, strobe is a fancier word that we happen to use for studio flash, but ultimately don't let the two terms confuse you. They both mean essentially the same thing where you have a strobe or a flash of light going off that acts as your ma...

in and your fill of light sources. It is the ultimate control, okay? This is me working with the...I shouldn't say quint because they're not quint. Oops, I went backwards too far. In my studio space, this is actually my temporary studio space right now because mine is currently ripped apart down to the studs as we remodel it. But this is me working with a set of triplets and twins that you see in this image on the right. A little bit of a different set up we're using the chairs instead of the stools, but that is my exact set up at home and what we've recreated here in Creative Live to show you how you can kind of take things to the next level. Well, there are some rules when it comes to shooting with strobes and we're going to talk about these rules first before we actually get into doing it here. But I'll reiterate these rules as we shoot, okay? So don't...I mean, write these down, but at the same time just know that I'm going to repeat it several times so that you get it in your head, okay? So first of all, you have to shoot manual and I know that's scary, but you do, okay? Your sync speed is sacred. How many of you know what a sync speed is? Oh, it's a scary word, yeah. Sync speed. A sync speed is the maximum speed your shutter can handle to sync with your flash, okay? Your flash fires at a certain rate. If your sync speed is too fast...if your shutter speed is too fast the shutter will close before it's let in enough light for the flash to go off. Because that flash happened so fast or at a speed, and then it's not there anymore, if your sync speed is too fast, then you'll get a nice black line across your image because your shutter has closed before the flash can fully go off, okay? So what you want to do is look at your camera manufacturer specifications. For most cameras, it's between one-two-hundredth to one-two-fiftieth of a second. Some go a little higher than that some are lower, okay? But what this truly means is that your shutter speed must not be touched when you're shooting Studio Strobe. Remember the black closet? We got to wear black. We got to shoot at one-two-hundredth or one-two-fiftieth of a second, okay? As simple as that. We cannot change the all of a sudden one part of the exposure triangle has been locked, we cannot move it, okay? You can go down in speed, slower, but you can't go up. So my golden rule is to just stay at your sync speed, don't touch it, lock it down, and that' can't play with shutter speed anymore, okay? So what does that mean? That means that aperture and ISO are what control your exposure. Aperture and Flash work is king, okay? Aperture is what controls exposure, so you will be shoving your aperture up and down, left and right to get the right exposure. The other thing that can control exposure is the power of the light, okay? So on the back of these things these are the Profoto D1 Airs, okay? When you turn it on there's a little dial back here so you can change the power of the light. So if I need less light because I want to open up my aperture more or vice versa, or whatever, I can dial this down or up. So it's important to note because I can't touch my shutter speed. The only thing I got going for me is my ISO, the power of my light, and my aperture, right? Okay, so strobes are so strong you will find yourself shooting at an F8 to F16 with them or higher. Now, there are some strobes out there like the AlienBee 400 series that will let you drop down to a wider aperture for some out of focus backgrounds. But for the most part, most strobes are so strong and don't have wide enough power range, in other words, I can't go low enough on these strobes to shoot at F1.4, 1.8. It's too much light, it'll blow it out, okay? Since I can't adjust my shutter speed I will have my ISO cranked down to one, the power on these things cranked all the way down and I still can't go lower than a certain aperture on my camera because there's just too much light, okay? But on the other hand, this is incredibly powerful because I can shoot at F16, F18 and get killer depth of field, okay? Everything shot front to back, and I can freeze my action. Now, this limits your artistic capability with strobe, but if you know those parameters then you'll use them to their advantage not because they limit you, okay? Getting exposure right. I always recommend using a meter, okay? And an incident meter will nail this each time. Now, I'm really bummed out because I think I actually forgot my meter. Now I can do this by what I do in my camera, but unfortunately it's not going to be the best teaching moment. So I apologize in advance for doing that, but it'll be a good learning moment because you'll be able to figure out your exposure without actually using the meter, okay? But if you use an incident meter to fire a strobe, okay? Pointing the meter at the light...clearly I'm not pointing the light at anything, but the wall right now. With an incident meter and you fire your strobe it will tell you the exact exposure you need to set your camera at. Because you can tell the meter to keep a certain shutter speed, you can put it in what's called flash mode, okay? You'll set your shutter speed and your ISO, you'll hit it, let it fire and it will trigger the meter and tell you what aperture you need to set your camera at, okay? That's the beauty of an incident meter. Incident meters can be used for natural light outside, any kind of light. They can also be set to what's called flash mode, okay? So what happens is some meters are radio connected to the light so when you press the button that says measure trigger it, it'll fire the light. Some meters you have to trigger the meter and then fire the flash with your camera and then it will read it within 60 to 90 seconds, okay? So correct exposure is brilliant with an incident meter and it will serve you not only natural light, but also using strobes, okay? Light placement. Light placement is...this was shot with my iPhone so forgive the quality of the image, but again, that's the little Christianson kids. Light placement is critical with strobes, strobes tend to be a little less forgiving than natural or constant lights like we had before, okay? It's really important to of course remember that inverse square law, the distance and angle of the light on the subject is crucial to achieving the look you want, and of course as you get further and further away from the light the falloff is less.

Ratings and Reviews


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....

Student Work