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Gear: Modifiers

Lesson 3 from: Introduction to Outdoor Flash Photography

Mike Hagen

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Lesson Info

3. Gear: Modifiers

Lesson Info

Gear: Modifiers

Modifiers. Well, to do great flash work, you need to have some type of flash modifier. I like umbrellas and I like soft boxes. There's a ton of other stuff you can buy, you can buy Octas, you can buy beauty dishes, you can buy all of these other things, but the best bang for the buck is going to be, number one, an umbrella. You can buy an umbrella very inexpensively and it'll do great work for you. Once you graduate from the umbrella, I think your next purchase should be a soft box. Alright, so let's, I'm going to do this in reverse order because the soft box is already here. This is a soft box, this is a three foot on one edge, three feet, and then two feet on the other way. I think you should get a minimum of like a 24 inch to a 36 inch soft box. Anything smaller is just too small. It's not going to be great for outdoor flash photography. So get a three footer. These are not cheap, especially Profoto, but Profoto makes the best stuff on the market, that's my opinion. If you want, you...

can find other soft boxes that are less money, probably around 150 bucks to 200 bucks for a decent quality soft box. A Profoto soft box, multiple hundreds of dollars, $300 to $400. Let's talk about umbrellas. You should get, and purchase, an umbrella that is at least, at least 30 inches or bigger. So, how big is this one? They call this a medium, so this is a Profoto medium. But I'd guess that's about 40 inches. Bigger is mo betta, always bigger is better. You can quote me on that, 'bigger is mo betta'. Silver. Why Silver? Well, for outdoor flash photography, you need as much light from the flash to shine onto your subject because you're fighting with that sun, you're fighting with the clouds. So I like silver for outdoor flash photography. For indoors, I typically use white. But outdoor, I've gone with the silver. 41 inches. 41 inches, cool, we have it from the crew. It's a 41 incher and I think that's about minimum. It's kind of, I think it's a little bit small. Here is another Profoto, it's white. This is like a 32 inch, okay, and I think that's just too small, especially when you can't get really close. And then, I always have big, big ones, I love big umbrellas, this is a seven footer, it's gigantic, maybe it's a six footer, Yeah it's probably a six footer. So, it seems silly to go with stuff this big, but the more you do this work, the more you realize you like the big umbrellas. You can put them farther away from the subject and the light just washes over the subject. It's really fantastic. That's umbrellas and that's soft boxes. Octas. So Octa boxes, you maybe have heard of that term, they're octagonal, it's just another way to do a soft box. Octas are even more expensive. And I have a couple of them, but truth is, I use soft boxes for the majority of my portraiture and my outdoor people work. There's modifiers. Yeah, we talked about umbrellas. I kind of covered all of these, but I like the silver for outdoors. You know, you guys have probably seen this, there's a couple of types of umbrellas. There's a type you reflect off of like this, there's other umbrellas you can actually shoot through. They're white, they're translucent. And people ask me all the time, which one should I buy? I'm like, yes, you know, they all work, they all work great, so just find something that works for your style. But I think if you're focusing on outdoor, maybe start with the silver. And then, we already kinda talked about these, but get a 24 inch or larger soft box and get something, a Speedlight speedring that works with your little flash. You can buy soft boxes designed for studio lights. They're not designed for your Speedlight, so make sure the speedring works with your flash. Reflectors, you gotta have a reflector. Okay, a reflector basically doubles your lights for almost free. Well not quite, 20 or 30 bucks you get a nice reflector, so I have, this is a 5-in-1, ok. And so 5-in-1 meaning it's got white, it's got silver, and then if you unzip it there are two other colors inside, there's the gold and then there's the black, which is a light absorber. Sometimes we do, we want one side of the face to be even darker. And then you've got this, which allows the light to shine through and this works as a scrim. A scrim meaning it prevents light or it softens the light coming on to the subject. So get a 5-in-1, they're a little more expensive. Get a high quality unit that won't break down after a year's worth of use. I've made all the same mistakes you all have made. 'Oh that one's on Ebay and it's only $7.99!' And you end up paying for it at the worst time at your first wedding shoot or you know, something like that and you're like, 'oh no, it's all falling apart on me'. I had one where all the gold shedded off, so I'm photographing this bride, I remember, I was photographing the bride and the gold was like, falling off and it was landing on the bride's dress and I'm like, 'oh, this is not good'. So, spend a little bit of money on these. This is a 42 inch, I recommend 42 or larger for your reflectors. Again, bigger is better. And when I say 5-in-1's are most flexible, I don't mean like flexible like they're all bendy, I mean flexible like most useful, okay? Next, I think the next one is a scrim? Yeah, scrims. Okay, we don't suffer from too much sun where I live. We get a lotta cloudy days, but when it is sunny, that harsh sunlight can be very, the look in the final footage does not look good, to have really harsh sunlight on the subject, so I like using scrims. So I just showed you that this 5-in-1 has a scrim in it. Great, that works for little kids, you know, four and under. Maybe three and under, but if you're trying to scrim, or block the light, from a full grown person, you need a bigger unit, okay? And this is made by Lastolite, but, like everything else here, we're living in the golden era of flash gear. You can find this stuff from lots of different manufacturers. Try not to hurt myself as I open this. Okay, this is just basically a translucent, white scrim. You can see my hand there, it blocks, I'd say, at least 50% of the light coming from the sun. And typically how this would work, is you would use a little bracket, I actually have one, So you're going to need another light stand. This is the bracket here, that bracket goes right here under the light stand, and then it clips onto the scrim like this, and now it'll just stand up and you can actually move it up as high as you need to. If you get a second one of these brackets and you have two light stands, then you can put them overhead, you can put them overhead of the subject and you can block out sun at high noon with something like that. So these are very helpful, this is a six foot scrim, it's like 70 or 72 inches long, and this is the minimum size scrim I think you should buy if you're serious about outdoor flash photography. You can also use it as a reflector, you can shoot light onto it and bounce back to the subject, but these, I use this all the time. I even use it as a backdrop sometimes, you know, just putting the subject in front of it and using it as a simple backdrop, so very flexible. Alright, so that's the gear, that's the gear, techy stuff and, you know, I didn't go into too much detail on each of them, but just kind of gave you a little bit of an overview on the type of equipment you might need. At a bare minimum, you need one stand, you need one flash umbrella bracket, and you need an umbrella, okay? So that's 120 bucks for really good gear, and if you shop hard you can find what I just described there for less than 75 bucks, okay? So you don't have to spend a ton of money and most of the photos that I took today are using that basic kit that I just talked about. A lot of people are asking about how you deal with this gear outside when it's windy. So what are some additional gear things that you might bring with you? Great, sandbags are fantastic. I love using sandbags, but if you're a one person show, and most of the people watching today, you're not going to have an assistant or a team of people shelping your gear with you, you're going to have to figure out how to do this on your own. And lugging around a sandbag is not fun. Lugging around five sandbags is not fun. So, I've come up with a great solution. I'm going to walk over here and grab my camera bag. Oh, you know what? I forgot my little strap. But I have these little nylon straps. I may have got one in here, I usually travel with a nylon strap in my camera bag. Ah, I do, woohoo! I wasn't even a boy scout growing up, but I'm always prepared. So I just have a little nylon strap, like this, okay? And what I do is I loop it through the top hook on my camera bag, and then I find a little knob or something else on my light stand and I just loop that onto my light stand and hang the camera bag from the light stand. And that usually solves the problem. And typically when I'm shooting by myself, I only have one light stand. If I have two light stands, well then I'll take, I don't know, what some people do is they take a little ditty bag. I'm a rock climber and so we call them little ditty bags, a little nylon sack, and we'll take that empty and then on site we'll find rocks and throw a bunch of rocks in there and hang that from the light stand. Totally great question.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Introduction to Outdoor Flash Keynote PDF
Lighting Diagrams

Ratings and Reviews

Brandon Couch

This is the second class I've taken with Mike and it was amazing! So easy to understand even when you get into the "tech" side of how flashes work but especially when using them outside and how easy it is. I would totally recommend this class to anyone wanting to take amazing images outside with one flash. He even makes bare bulb flash look awesome. Such a great course!


Mike Hagen has become one of favorite instructors. His instruction and question answers are clear and concise and he has a real world approach. He has a friendly and approachable personality. Best of all during this course he works by himself which makes you feel you too can accomplish the shoot on your own. Mike demonstrates a practical approach with affordable equipment as he is aware many photographers starting off do not have a huge budget. In his other course on using your first flash he also had several gear set suggestions based on budget which was so thoughtful and helpful. I hope Mike does some more advanced courses as well and I will keep watch for his name on the course schedule. A definite thumbs up for photographers starting off using flash.

Laura K.

I have watched a couple of Mike Hagen's classes, and hope Creative Live will bring him back to teach more. He is a fantastic, thorough, easy-to-understand instructor. He doesn't assume viewers already know certain things. He is humble and diligent and truly wants students to understand and learn the things he is teaching. He breaks things down and explains things better than most, and he doesn't hold back on details. Mike also provides helpful handouts/written materials to supplement his videos. I really like his classes and teaching style, and hope to be seeing more from him in the future.

Student Work