Cameras & Lighting Equipment


Introduction to Flash for Beauty Images


Lesson Info

Cameras & Lighting Equipment

So let's talk about gear. Let's talk about cameras and equipment, what are the things you need to know about when selecting that equipment. So what do you really need? You know, what are the minimums? And I'm keeping in mind the demographic and the people that are watching this and what are you after. I'm not here today to show that you need all of this stuff. I have it all here because I wanna show how each of them impact the photograph, but at a minimum, these are the things that I think you need. You need to have camera, obviously. And we'll talk about a camera in a few minutes. A lens, eh, okay. Gotta have a flash, and as I will talk about flashes in just a few minutes, just about any of these flashes will do. And we'll get into the nitty gritty, I'll talk about different brands and functions, but everything we do today will literally be from this one flash. So just get yourself a nice quality flash and that will be fine. You need some type of light modifier, so what are you gonna ...

pick? And if you're just starting out, maybe you choose an umbrella. Maybe you choose a soft box, or maybe you just choose a reflector. But I'm gonna show you how to use each of those as your primary light source to create that beauty look. And then you have to have a background, and I'll talk a lot about backgrounds, but you can see over here we've got a couple of background options available to us today, and I don't expect all of you watching to necessarily have this background roll up special cart thing. Most of us just have a wall or a sheet, and all of that will work as well. I have this here today just so I can show you the difference between what a white backdrop will look like and then quickly go to a gray backdrop. So let's get into each of these items and let's talk about cameras, first of all. So what do you need to think about with respect to a camera? Well, most of you watching or most of you who know I'm Mike Hagen, you know I'm a Nikon shooter, and that doesn't mean that Nikon is best, it's just what I've been using for many many years and so today I'm using a Nikon camera. But you notice it's an interchangeable lens camera, so I can switch out lenses and choose different focal lengths. So at a minimum I recommend that your camera have the ability to change lenses versus maybe like a point and shoot camera or even some of the higher-end point and shoots that have the zoom lenses. They will work for this but you don't have as much control. I recommend some type of DSLR, Cannon, Nikon, Sony. Or the current mirrorless cameras are fantastic. So like the Sony, the Alpha series, they're mirrorless. Olympus makes really great stuff, Fuji makes really great stuff. The key though is that your camera has to have the ability to synchronize with the flash system. Okay? So make sure your camera has some type of hot shoot or some type of way to do a radio trigger to the flash, that's key for this type of work. Because what I'm doing today, you can't really accomplish with on-camera flash. So you have to be able to control a flash that's separate from the camera body. How about lenses? Well, this type of of work, let's think about what we're doing. Well these are tight portraits right, just shoulders and head. So we don't really need to get a wider angle shot. Very rarely would we need to do a wide angle shot with beauty work. And if you do use a wide angle shot, then you're doing it purposely to distort features. Those of you watching today, those of you here in the room, you probably know that if you shoot with, let's say a 20 millimeter lens or a 24 millimeter lens, what's gonna happen is that nose is gonna be big and you're gonna get big cheeks and it's just not gonna look in the right proportions. With beauty shots the goal is to make things look skinnier and thinner and shapelier. And you usually accomplish that task with a longer lens. So what does that mean? Well longer means longer than 50 millimeter. I recommend starting with an 85 type of range, 85 millimeter focal length, so I've got that one here. Today I'll be shooting most of my images with the 85 millimeter and this is the F1.8 version of that lens, if you're shopping for this stuff you know that most camera manufacturers and lens manufacturers make a 1.4, F1.4, and an F1.8. The F1.4 is very expensive, the F1.8 is not so expensive. You know I think I paid $300 ish, $350 for this lens, whereas the F1.4 is three times that, four times that. So that's a great focal length for this type of work. And why 85? Because what that means is I can be about four, five feet away from my model. If I shoot with shorter lenses to do those headshots, well I gotta be in really close to the model, and I better have brushed my teeth this morning, and she better have nice perfume on, otherwise we're getting a little bit too close for comfort. So I like working with the longer lenses 'cause I can back up a little bit and have some working space. How about a couple of other options? These two lenses I love for portraiture. One of them is the 70 to 200 F2.8, it's a really fantastic portrait lens because you can zoom in and out and it's all around the focal length it makes very nice looking beauty shots and portrait shots. The other one that I really like working with is 105 millimeter lens, and a lot of manufacturers think these are macro lenses, typically. And so this is the Nikon 105 F2.8, Cannon makes these, Sony makes these, almost everybody makes something like this. You can buy them inexpensively from third-party manufacturers as well. Less expensive I should say, you know the Sigmas, the Tamrons, the Tokinas, they're also excellent portrait lenses. These lenses here, the 85, the 105, and the 70 to 200, these are really my lenses of choice for this type of work. Notice I'm not using, let's say... I'll pull out the ones that I'm not using. I'm not using the 50 millimeter, okay, this is the Fast 50, everybody's... Everybody's got a Fast 50, right? You can buy them for 150 bucks or something like that. And they're a great lens but not so great for portraiture. I ideally recommend a longer. And also I'm not using like a 24 to 70. So... Those are lens choices and my recommendations. I have a question, what's the difference between a beauty image and a glamour image? Hm, yeah it's a good distinction. In my... So there's really no official designation between those, but in my mind this is what I think. A glamour image to me I would say is a little bit more of a heavy on the makeup, heavy on the hairstyling, a little bit more flashy and glitzy, whereas a beauty image to me is a little bit more muted, and a little bit more clean. You know tight hair, perfect makeup but not like a lot of flash, not bright lipstick. So... Does that work? Yep. Cool. Would you guys agree? Yeah. So just to confirm, you would use your.... Yeah, yep we're good. You would use your beauty image for traditional headshots for actors, or business headshots, it would be all in the same category. Yeah, absolutely, you could do beauty shots for headshots for actors, you can use 'em... You know in terms of the final use, it's really sometimes like I say it's to illustrate a concept or an idea for a client, sometimes it's to illustrate some type of makeup product. But as a photographer who's shooting for other people, it's nice to be able to provide that option for your clients, to say, "Hey let's do a beauty shot "for your portfolio," and it's a nice clean image that they can produce, and everything looks just about perfect. And then one more question, when shooting with a 24 70, you wouldn't recommend that even at the 70 millimeter? Yeah so that's a great question. Yeah you can get away with 70, and the idea again is the longer the lens, the more flattering it is to the face and the features. So, if I did shoot with my 24 to 70, I'm all the way out at 70, and just being careful with my angle so the nose doesn't look too big. But you know 70 is slightly telephoto, and that's all good. Cool. Thank you. Colleen asked, are the qualities for the F1.8 lens as good or comparable to the 1.4? Obviously the cost is better for the 1.8, but is it worth the investment for the 1.4? So say you could afford it, should you put, is that money better spent on other gear? Is is really gonna make a huge difference? Yeah it's the famous question. It's like, "I've got $2500 to spend on a lens, "should I get that F1.4 or should I get the F1. "and a bunch of lighting modifiers?" What I say is if you're early in this game, if you're just building your kit out, I would go with the F1.8 for two reasons. A, it costs a lot less and you can spend that money on other lighting equipment which I think actually is a little bit more important, and then B, it's a lot lighter weight. The F1.8 lens is a lot smaller and a lot lighter. And sometimes, you know, when you're shooting in the studio all day long, your wrists can hurt, it's just more weight to carry around, your belts and everything is just heavier. So I would generally recommend the F1.8, and that's how I operated myself as a pro, most of my stuff in the primes, they're all the F1.8 primes, just 'cause I like the smaller size. And then I think the first part of her question was optical quality, no issues. Yeah, they're super sharp, in fact today you're gonna see my images, I'm gonna zoom into the eye, and you're all gonna see every little bit of detail there. The one thing that I would say is autofocus speed is a little bit slower on the F1.8s, I've noticed that, versus the F1.4s. You know we're not really shooting action here in the studio so it's not that really big a deal in the studio, but if you were to use this maybe for basketball or some other event, then go with the F1.4 where you need the AF speed and you need the extra, what is that, almost a stop of brightness, then it makes sense. For this, go with F1.8. Save the money. I am a Nikon shooter, two or three of my books are on the Nikon flash system, so I know Nikon flashes really really well, and I love Nikon flashes. I'm a guru on Nikon flashes, but they cost a lot of money. I know that, you know. So this one here that I'm holding up, so this is the Nikon, it's called the SP5000, and this thing is like 500 and something dollars, I forget the exact price, but it's like 550, somewhere around there. And then in order to do full wireless triggering on this I have to buy some other gizmos which kinda jacks the price up to about $650, almost $700 to be able to shoot this thing off camera, with a camera like my D850 here. So you gotta think, wow, $800 to have a single flash that's off camera. That's a lot of money to spend. It's good, it's reliable, it's an excellent product. So the question that people ask a lot of times is, "Well can I get that same quality of image by going "with a different brand or a different manufacturer?" And the answer is absolutely yes. If you're a Cannon or Nikon shooter or Sony, you can still use other brands and other manufacturers to accomplish a similar type of lighting. This one that I have over here is made by a company called Phottix, this is their newest flash called the Juno, and I'm gonna be using these today, so full disclosure they sent me out a couple of units to try and I've been working with them and I love them. So these Phottix flashes are in the couple hundred dollar range, okay? And the cool thing about these is that they have a radio receiver built into the flash, just like the Nikons do, okay? So you can trigger these with a transmitter, and if you look over here on this camera you can see right here on top I've got a radio transmitter up here, and you just have to program it so this is speaking in the right channel and group as this. So right now I've got them both on channel one group A, channel one group A. The next thing I would say is if you know, if you're in the world of wireless flash you know that Nikon and Cannon also have wireless flashes too, and they operate in channels and groups, but the speaking technology is different. So just because it uses the same terminology doesn't mean that I can trigger my Nikon flash with the Phottix trigger, so they're separate. So that's one of the things that you gotta keep in mind is your system, whatever system you put together has to be able to communicate with all the flashes in your system. So the Phottix setup, great, that whole kit right there I'm gonna say is around $300 for that. What are some other options? Let me show you. I've got a couple of other flashes here that you might consider, one of them is called an apper light, I think I bought it off of eBay, maybe Amazon, I don't remember. I paid about $70 for this one and it works great. How is this triggered? Well it's triggered with a pulse of light, it's called a slave trigger. So in here there's a mode called S1 and I set it up for S1, and now whenever it sees a pulse of light, it fires. So it's like the lowest level technology to get off-camera flash, it's a very inexpensive way. And really all you care about with you flash is that is has enough power, that's one thing, and then well, you're gonna put it into some type of modifier, and so the modifier is gonna really be what produces the nice look for you. The next one that I have that you might consider is the Amazon Basics, 27 bucks. $27. You could buy ten of these. You could buy 20 of them, you know? You could buy ten of these and you're into it for less than $300, and you've got an amazing studio lighting setup. What's the upside? Well the upside is they're cheap, and if it fails, if it breaks, well okay you just throw it in the garbage and pull your other one out. The other upside is that they're fairly powerful. They put out basically the same amount of light as any of these other flashes that I have over here on the table. Another upside is it has that traditional slave mode, S1, they even call it the same S1, and there's another one called S2, I won't go into the details yet, but they work just fine, and for 27 bucks, you can create these photos that I'm doing today with this $27 flash. So what do you, how do you trigger this? Well you have to have a camera now that can produce a single pulse of light. So somehow you have to like, you know, a little pulse of light. So this camera that I have from Nikon doesn't actually have pop-up flash, so this camera can't actually trigger my Amazon Basics flash. So sometimes what we do is we go out and we buy maybe a really inexpensive tiny little dinky flash, and that's our pulse flash that sends out the pulse of light so that the Amazon or whatever other system that you have can see that pulse of light and actually fire, okay. So one of the classes we do with CreativeLive was all on all of these triggering systems, and I'm not gonna go into the nitty gritty today, but just know that you have to have way to trigger it remotely. Today what I'll be using is this Phottix setup, and it's a radio trigger, one other tip for you. Actually two other tips for you, with respect to these triggers. There's some really inexpensive ways to trigger that are not OEM, meaning not like Nikon and Cannon. So let's say you have an old flash, like I have an old Nikon SP26 over here, it's probably 20 years old, maybe even older than that, 25 years old. And it doesn't have any way internal to the flash to trigger remotely, so you can get these little, I call them peanuts, that was an old term for them, but they're basically slave triggers, and you can see in the front of it, when that sees a pulse of lot, it'll tell the flash to fire. So just about any flash in our system if you set it for manual output, this will cause that flash to fire. And this is like ten bucks, you can find them on any of the internet shopping sites. And another way to trigger your flash is to buy some little transceivers like I have here, I always say this wrong, Yongnuo? (laughs) Everybody laughs. I am not Chinese, but these are Chinese, and they work just fine. And you can find these types of products all over the place, everywhere. Every online shopping store, every camera store, all those New York stores, they all sell something like this. And they're around 25 to 25 bucks a piece, so you have the one for the camera and one for the flash. Let's go to the next slide, and I've probably covered everything I want to cover here... We'll let's talk batteries. Batteries are a big deal. When using one flash, you're really gonna put that flash through a lot of effort, because it's gonna be the only flash lighting the whole scene, and so typically you're gonna be shooting at the higher end of the power scale for that flash, so you have to think about recycle time. And these flashes recycle fastest with high milliampere batteries. And so if you go online or you go to your local camera store or even Ikea, Ikea has a new line of batteries out there and they're very inexpensive, I love them. They're the cheapest batteries that I've ever seen and I've just read some tests in the last few weeks, they're as good as most of the other higher-end batteries that we're buying for a couple bucks per cell, only Ikea's are a lot less. So just get a nice set of nickel metal hydride batteries. If you are doing a lot of studio work you might consider one of these. This is an accessory battery pack, and it holds six batteries. So the way this works is, you put six batteries, or eight, depending on the brand in here. Your flash still has the four double A's, alright, and then you plug this little cord into the front of your flash and this powers the flash and greatly reduces overall recycle time. I bought this online, it's from a company called Neewer, N-E-E-W-E-R. And it was like, I don't know, 40 bucks? 30 bucks? Compared to the Nikon or Cannon model which is very expensive. I'm sure Nikon and Cannon are watching like, "Quit telling them to buy other stuff!" But hey, it's reality, you know? The world is changing, we can find stuff for a lot less expensive than we used to.

Class Description

When your client requests a beautiful image to mimic a fashion look, you’ll need the lighting skills to take on the challenge. Join photographer Mike Hagen as he helps you grow your flash lighting toolkit to create that glamorous look. Mike will teach:

  • How to incorporate flash in order to create the mood
  • Using light shapers
  • Various modifiers like softboxes, reflectors and umbrellas

Learning to use flash allows you to control your environment and be more experimental with the images you create. Expand your portrait business and make your client happy by mastering your flash.



Practical, informative, affordable instruction that’s easy to understand and leaves you excited to jump into the studio with a single flash and whatever you have on hand .. soft boxes, umbrellas, v flats or even a bunch of cheap reflectors. Mike is a superb instructor. Highly recommend.


Really good. Superb teacher. Bought it. Worth the money.