CreativeLive Classes

Posted December 12th, 2016 by   |  Computers, Flash Photography, Photography, Workshops  |  Permalink

Over the last year, I’ve been working with CreativeLive to teach a wide variety of classes aimed at helping photographers become proficient shooters. The topics range from panoramas to studio photography to Nikon wireless flash and autofocus. CreativeLive is one of the premiere educational platforms available today and I’m proud to be a part of their team of high-caliber professional educators.

Here are links to the current classes posted at Be sure to check out classes from their other instructors as well!

CreativeLive Mike Hagen

Here are the classes and links.

All Classes –

Build DIY studio

Build a DIY Home Studio

Nikon flash workshop

Nikon Wireless Flash for Creative Photography

Nikon autofocus class

Using the Nikon Autofocus System

photographing panoramas

Photographing Panoramas for Large Prints

Creating panoramas

Creating Panoramas in Photoshop and Lightroom



Nikon D5, D500, SB-5000, & KeyMission 360

Posted January 6th, 2016 by   |  Photography  |  Permalink

D5-D500-SB500-KeyMission-Comp-1200pxNikon has been busy this last year developing some amazing new camera gear. They have totally knocked it out of the park with the release of two new professional cameras, the Nikon D5 and D500. While the D5 is indeed an impressive new camera, the D500 is truly the new DX flagship camera that we’ve all been waiting for.

Nikon is still innovating in the DSLR market and have so far, at least publically, ignored the mirrorless professional market. I am one photographer who really likes shooting with DSLRs because of their excellent speed and top-notch autofocus. Time will tell what Nikon intends to do with the mirrorless world.

In addition to the two new cameras, Nikon also released a new SB-5000 flash and a new sports-action camera called the KeyMission 360. Read below for more details on all these new products.


This DX (small sensor) DSLR is truly a professional camera in a smaller body. Nikon shooters have been waiting many years for a Nikon D300/D300s replacement and we now have our new DX flagship camera that is a small version of the full-frame Nikon D5.

Nikon D500

The Nikon D500 is the new DX flagship.


This smaller camera is approximately the same size as a D750 or a D810 and utilizes the same autofocus system as the Nikon D5. This new AF module incorporates 153 autofocus points for almost full coverage of the entire frame. Additionally, quite a few of the sensors (15 to be precise) will operate at f/8 effective maximum aperture.


The native ISO range has been increased to 100 – 51,200. The D500 also uses expanded ISO options of Hi-1, Hi-2, Hi-3, Hi-4, and Hi-5. Hi-5 is an equivalent of ISO 1,640,000!


In the interest of speed and high ISO performance, Nikon has chosen a 20.9 MP CMOS sensor for the D500. I would have liked to have seen more pixels, but 20.9 is perfectly adequate for almost all shooting scenarios we come across. I’ve become used to the 36 MP sensor on my D800, but I also shoot quite extensively with my 24 MP D750 and find its resolution just fine.

High Speed Continuous

Again, working to claim its title as a professional DX camera, the D500 will shoot at 10 frames per second. Nikon claims the camera will sustain 10 FPS for a total of 79 shots in a row while shooting 14-bit compressed RAW using an XQD card. That’s unheard of in a camera this size. Truly amazing. Kudos to Nikon.

Tilting Touch Screen

The D500 incorporates one of my favorite features of the Nikon D750; the tilting screen. The screen allows me to place the camera in awkward positions while still being able to compose during live view. The D500 monitor adds touch screen capability, a first in the DSLR world.

D500 touch screen

The new tilt screen on the D500 is touch sensitive.

Light Meter

Nikon has created a new light meter, increasing the resolution of the light sensor to 180,000 pixels. As many of you know, Nikon uses the light meter to work in tandem with the focus system, so this new light meter will be better suited for subject tracking and facial recognition.

Automatic AF Fine Tune

Nikon has created an internal automatic AF fine tune utility. Supposedly, it compares a live image on the CMOS sensor with a captured image, then fine tunes the focus for each specific lens.

XQD and SD Cards

Further tipping its hat to professional photographers, the D500 utilizes both XQD cards and SD cards. The XQD format is blazingly fast and allows transfer speeds of 400 MB/s write and 350 MB/s read. That’s over twice as fast as the current super-speed CF cards of 160 MB/s.

4K Video

For the video enthusiasts in the crowd, the D500 can shoot 4K video at 30p. It also shoots 1080p at a variety of frame rates. While shooting video, it has the ability to send 4K video to the memory card and an HDMI simultaneously.

Cost and Availability

The D500 is set to retail for $1,999.95 and should start shipping March 15, 2016.

More Information

D500 PDF Brochure


D500 at


D500 at


D500 Sample Photos


Pre-Order D500 at Adorama



The Nikon D5 is a professional FX (full-frame sensor) camera. At a price point of $6,500 USD, it is out of reach for most casual shooters, but does things that no other camera before it has done.

Nikon D5

The D5 is Nikon’s new professional flagship camera designed for ultimate performance.


The brand-new autofocus module is shared with the D500 and boasts 153 AF points. 99 of those are cross-type sensors. The center sensor will that operate down to EV -4, which allows full autofocus on moonlit nights.


The native ISO range of the D5 is 100 to 102,400. With an expanded ISO up to Hi-5, the system will take pictures at an ISO equivalent to 3,276,800. Yes, that’s ISO three million. Unbelievable.

Nikon D5 back

Nikon carries on its tradition of excellent ergonomics and a logical button layout.


The FX (full-frame) sensor comes in at 20.8 MP. This is a modest increase in pixel count from the D4s’ 16.2 MP sensor, but is sufficient for most everything a professional sports or action photographer might need.

High Speed Continuous

The D5 will shoot 12 frames per second with full AF and AE tracking. The frame rate increases to 14 FPS with the mirror locked up. In that scenario, the camera won’t track autofocus or exposure. The camera has a 200-frame buffer when shooting at 12 frames per second. With this performance, you can shoot for almost 17 seconds straight without stopping.

4K UHD Video

Along with the D500, the D5 offers 4K Ultra High Definition (UHD) video at 30/25/24p. It uses dot-by-dot readout, which means it doesn’t use the full frame when recording 4K video, so the crop factor ends up being about 1.5x. When shooting 1080p, the camera does use the full frame.

The great thing about video with this camera is that you are able to use the full range of ISO sensitivities while recording. This will allow ISO ranges from 100 to 3 million. Imaging shooting video in almost complete darkeness!

Light Meter

Nikon created a brand-new 180,000 pixel light meter for the D5 and D500 cameras. Coupled with the EXPEED 5 engine, this camera’s metering performance should be the best in Nikon’s history.

Touch Screen

The D5 uses a new touch screen monitor on the back of the camera. This LCD is 3.2 inches diagonal and 2.4 million dots of resolution. Unlike the D500, the screen doesn’t pivot, but the new touch functionality will dramatically improve navigation through pictures.

Memory Cards

The camera ships with one of two options for memory cards; either dual CF cards or dual XQD cards. Most professionals will probably opt for the dual XQD cards due to the increased speed they provide over CF cards. Nikon says the card slots are modular, so I’m guessing that you’ll be able to send the camera back to Nikon and swap out one module for the other.

Pricing and Availability

The D5 will retail at $6,500 USD and will be available March 15, 2016.

More Information

D5 at


D5 PDF Brochure


D5 Sample Photos


Pre-Order at Adorama CF Version


Pre-Order at Adorama XQD Version



This new flash packs more power than the SB-910 into a smaller form factor. Also, it adds radio control in addition to the standard infrared light-pulse system of the legacy creative lighting system (CLS).


The SB-5000 is more powerful and smaller than the SB-910.


More Groups

The cool thing about the new SB-5000 is it will now work with up to six groups while the previous CLS allowed three groups. It allows control up to 18 flashes within those 6 groups, so you’ll have no more excuses for not having enough flash control.

Backwards Compatable

The SB-5000 is backward compatible with the previous CLS control system, allowing it to use three groups in legacy CLS control with three groups in the new radio CLS control.

Radio Control

The operation of the new wireless radio control requires a Nikon D5 or D500 to send the signal with the optional WR-R10 wireless transceiver. Radio control allows the off-camera flashes to be positioned around corners and even outside the room. The previous system was IR light controlled, so all flashes had to be line of sight in order for the system to operate.


SB-5000 mounted on the Nikon D5.

Cooling System

Because the flash is smaller and more powerful, Nikon designed an internal cooling system to prevent overheating. Previous flashes like the SB-800, SB-900, and SB-910 would overheat or even shut down after firing multiple flashes in a row. Now, Nikon says the SB-5000 will shoot 120 continuous frames at 5-second intervals without overheating.

Price and Availability

The SB-5000 will retail for about $600 and will be available in March of 2016.

More Information

SB-5000 at


Pre-order at Adorama


KeyMission 360

This is an action camera built in a similar form factor as a GoPro, but with significant differences. The KeyMission 360 uses two cameras pointed in opposite directions. Each camera has a super-wide-angle lens so that the system captures a full 360 degrees of coverage while recording in 4K. You can edit the video so you have continuous spherical coverage of the action.

KeyMission 360

The KeyMission 360 action camera shoots spherical 4K video.

The camera is waterproof to 30 meters (100 feet) and shockproof to 2 meters (7 feet). It also has in-camera electronic image stabilization.


More Information


KeyMission at NikonUSA


Pre-order KeyMission 360 at Adorama


Reader Questions on Wireless Flash

Posted July 10th, 2012 by   |  Photography  |  Permalink

I’ve received lots of questions over this last week from readers regarding details on the Nikon wireless flash system. As most of you know, RockyNook and I recently released the 2nd Edition of our best-selling book The Nikon Creative Lighting System.

The Nikon Creative Lighting System

As people work their way through the book, they are generating many questions. Below are questions from three photographers about using the Nikon CLS (creative lighting system).

Mark’s Questions: 

Q: Mike, I just finished your book except for the section on the sb-700 and sb-800 since I bought the sb-910 along with the sc-29 cable.

Is there any reason if I don’t have those two flashes that I would benefit from reading those sections?

A: There’s no reason to read the sections on the SB-700 and SB-800 since the info in those chapters only pertains to those flashes.

Q: I went to the web site you mentioned in your book for chargeable batteries and chargers at Thomas distributors and I spoke to Eugene the owner who was very helpful. I would like your opinion on the batteries and charger I am considering buying, the bible states there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors and even though experience is a good teacher it is a hard and expensive one.

Since I am not sure how much I will be using the speedlight I was considering the Sanyo XX 2500 mAh enloope low discharging vs the Maha PowerEX 2700 mAh (which is not slow discharging).

a. Do you see any negatives in using the sanyo batteries, is 200 mAh that much of a difference in power?

b. Do you recommend any other battery or power rating than mentioned above?

A:  a. Both the Eneloops and the Imedion batteries are good choices. I’ve used them both and remain happy with both. Don’t buy the PoweEX 2700 mAh batteries as you’ll be disappointed with them over time due to the steady discharge.

b. Nope. Buy either of these.

PowerEx MH C9000 AA and AAA charger

Q: I was also considering the Maha PowerEx MH C9000 charger; it charges 4 batteries at a time and what I like about it compared to its 8 battery MH- C801D you reference in your book is that it actually shows what each batteries mAh number is. I thought this would be helpful after buying new batteries and charging them that I could pair them up with as close as possible Mah numbers to be more balanced in power, plus you can see if a particular battery is losing it’s maximum mAh more rapidly than the other batteries in the set.

a. What do you think about my reasoning above is it valid?

b. If a battery in a set goes from 2500 mAh to say 2000 mAh ( the other 3 batteries are all around 2500 mAh) does it make sense if I have an extra battery with a 2500 mAh rating to swap them out even if the extra battery is newer or older?

c. What difference in mAh would you recommend changing out a battery?

A. a. Your reasoning is perfect. My wish is that Maha would make the MH C9000 in an 8-cell charger. I’m a tech nerd and would love to have the power rating in the 8-cell pack. The reason why I went with the MC-C801D is that I’m often charging lots of batteries at once and I needed the extra capacity.

b. Yes, this technically this is the right choice. Keep the batteries matched for best performance. If a battery has low capacity after a while, then discard that battery and replace it with a new one so the entire group is consistent in power and performance.

c. 500mAh is probably about the right difference.

Hot Shoe Diaries

Q: I am reading Joe McNally’s book – The Hot Shoe Diaries and he refers to the speedlights pre-flash as – Monitor Pre-Flash, I don’t recall you referring to it that way. Is that terminology correct and if it is please explain what the word Monitor refers to?

A: Love Joe McNally‘s book and have it myself. He’s a great inspiration for us all. Yes, when using the flashes in TTL mode, the camera and flash work together to determine correct exposure of the scene. The way this is accomplished is by sending out a monitor pre-flash from the strobe a few milliseconds before the exposure. This monitor pre-flash reflects off the surface of the subject and back through the lens to the camera’s light meter. At this point, the camera determines how much light to send out in the “real” flash when the camera takes the photo. This all happens faster than the blink of an eye and is pretty ingenious.

Q: When I compare the Canon 580EXII speedlight with a GN rating of 190 at ISO-100 at 105mm and when I translate the Nikon SB-910 which is rated with a GN of 146 at ISO -100 at 105mm it appears Canon is a much more powerful flash do you agree?

If two photographers both with similar cameras but one has a Canon with a 580EX11 speedlight and the other a Nikon with the SB-910, with a difference of 44 in guide number, what advantage does the Canon photographer have over the Nikon photographer?

A: Yes, the GN on the Canon is more than the Nikon. However, it isn’t something to really worry about. For example, even in the Nikon flash lineup, there is a wide variation in power between the SB-600, SB-700, SB-800, SB-900 and SB-910 strobes. However, I use these flashes together in my system all the time without even a second thought. All have approximately the same power and reach. The Canon flash’s advantage would be that it can shoot at a lower ISO or higher F-stop or further distance.

Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions Mike. 

Maybe in the future I can take one of your photo tours.

– Mark

Gaffer tape over pop-up flash

Gary’s Questions: 

Q: Hi Mike,

I’ve been reading heavily in your CLS book, the Ken Rockwell website and other places about the danger of letting my Nikon D7000 set shutter speed and Auto Iso when using the pop-up flash or a shoe flash on the camera.

The notion of the pop-up as a fill flash is really growing on me. In the days of film I often used this little acorn flash bulbs in outdoor photography and drew “oohs & ahhs” for my work. Here’s my question in a nutshell:

When using the pop up, is it faster or easier to use flash compensation by holding the flash button and turning the front wheel. Or to use the menu system of Custom>flash/bracketing controls?

A: The best way to use the pop-up flash is to tape it shut. Seriously. You can do better with off-camera flash, or even by using your camera-mounted SB-800 with a diffusion dome. However, if you are going to use the pop-up (gasp), then adjust the power on the flash by pressing the flash button and rotating the front command dial.

Q: With a shoe-mount strobe such as the SB-800 is it quicker to use the flash menu system to adjust flash intensity, or the camera controls? I like the way a strobe brightens faces shot outdoors. And I want to develop habits that are quick and repeatable with my hands and fingers.

A: Use the buttons on your SB-800 to adjust flash power rather than the camera’s buttons. The reason for this is that the camera’s adjustments are additive (or subtractive) to whatever you have set on the flash. If you have the flash set to +1 and the camera flash compensation set to -1, then the net result is 0. You’ll forget the camera’s settings, but you can always see what the SB-800 is set to by looking at the back LCD panel on the flash.

Thanks Mike!

– Gary

Nikon SB-600 Flash Compensation Buttons

Huan’s Questions:

Q: Mike, I have a follow up to my previous question, and my neophyte flash user status….

Is i-TTL Flash really reliable?   90% of time I’m either having to quickly adjust and manually punch +/- exposure compensation on D7000 or flash unit… so not even sure if my flash settings are correct.

Like I said, maybe need to take a class.  User-error seems to prevail.

A: Every photo I’ve ever taken with iTTL flash requires +/- flash compensation of some sort. Just like every photo I’ve taken in matrix meter requires exposure compensation. The reason why is that all scenes and subjects have different brightnesses. Someone with a white shirt requires additional compensation. Someone with a black shirt requires negative compensation. That’s just the nature of TTL.

 Thanks Mike!

– Huan

The Nikon Creative Lighting System – 2nd Edition

Posted March 14th, 2012 by   |  Flash Photography, Photography  |  Permalink

Our newest book, the 2nd Edition of the very popular The Nikon Creative Lighting System, is about to hit the shelves. The update includes brand-new chapter content on the SB-700 and SB-910 flashes. Of course, the book also has excellent chapters on using the SB-600, SB-800, SB-900, and R1C1 Flashes. At almost 300 pages, the it is chock full of detailed information that will help you understand your Nikon wireless flash system.


The Nikon Creative Lighting System book was designed to help Nikon flash users wrap their heads around the amazing capabilities of Nikon’s new breed of flashes. The writing style is simple and straight forward, while still providing detailed instruction on setting up features such as wireless mode, SU-4 mode, TTL BL mode and much, much more. One entire chapter is dedicated to setups in the field, showing you flash and camera settings so you’ll be able to duplicate the results for yourself. There are 17 chapters covering topics such as flash operation, camera settings for flash, flash theory, batteries, beeps, buttons and everything in-between!

Order an autographed copy here: Out There Images Book Webpage

Here’s a link to the RockyNook press release: The Nikon Creative Lighting System


Photoflex Dual Flash Hardware

Posted October 9th, 2009 by   |  Flash Photography, Photography  |  Permalink

Have you ever needed more power in your wireless flash setups? I do all the time. In fact, just the other day I was photographing a soccer team’s photos on a sunny day and found myself under-powered with only one SB-900 flash in my umbrella. I was shooting at 1/500 second (i.e. high speed sync) and I needed more power! Scotty?

So, to remedy the situation, I hooked up my new Photoflex Dual Shoe flash mount to my light stand and plunked down an additional SB-800 and viola! More power.

Photoflex Dual Shoe Flash Mounting Hardware

Photoflex Dual Shoe Flash Mounting Hardware

The new Photoflex Dual Flash mount is designed to be used with two flashes mounted side by side on the front of the t-bracket. If you use it with Pocket Wizards (or some other type of flash trigger), then then extra two cold shoes are for mounting the triggers while the front two are for mounting the strobes. If you are using your flashes in a wireless flash mode like the Nikon CLS or Canon wireless system, then the assembly will  actually hold up to three flashes in an umbrella setup.

Here's the hardware mounted on a light stand and umbrella.

Here's the hardware mounted on a light stand and umbrella.

The Photoflex equipment on location at the soccer field.

The Photoflex equipment on location at the soccer field.

The kit includes a heavy duty metal swivel stand mount, an upper and lower umbrella mount and a tough T-shape adapter for the flashes. This T-adapter ships with a total of four cold shoes for mounting the strobes, Pocket Wizards, etc. The swivel mount will attach to any existing light stand out there, so you don’t necessarily have to have a Photoflex light stand to make it work. I mounted it on my Bogen stands and it worked just fine.

The bright sunny day, fast shutter speed and smaller aperture required the use of a second flash to fill in the shadows..

The bright sunny day, fast shutter speed and smaller aperture required the use of a second flash to fill in the shadows..

I found using the setup in the field was pretty simple and straight forward. I mounted my Nikon wireless flashes on the cold shoes, pointed them into the umbrella and started taking pictures in less than 5 minutes. That’s what I like. Simple design. Fast execution.

These team photos in the sun really required the extra flash to fill in the shadow detail.

These team photos in the sun really required the extra flash to fill in the shadow detail.

The obligatory silly team photo. Imagine doing this with only one flash. Oh, the pain!

The obligatory silly team photo. Imagine doing this with only one flash. Oh, the pain!

More soccer fun made possible by the Photoflex Dual Shoe mount.

More soccer fun made possible by the Photoflex Dual Shoe mount.

All the knobs and control levers are sized for easy access. The knobs are knurled and easy to turn. They also cinch down nice and tight, so you don’t have to worry about things randomly falling off of the rig.

Photoflex has also created an easy way for the Dual Flash Mount to fit into a soft box using a speed ring. This allows much more flexibility with your existing Photoflex products such as their Octodomes, soft boxes and light strips. I’ll be testing this piece of equipment out in the next week.

You can buy the Dual Show Flash Mounting Hardware at They have a sale price on right now for a super blowout deal of $59.95 during October. Their regular MSRP is $159, so this is a steal.

Using FV Lock for Flash Photography

Posted June 8th, 2009 by   |  Flash Photography, Photography  |  Permalink

Ever had people or pets blink when you take flash photographs of them? The Nikon CLS (Creative Lighting System) uses pulses of light to communicate to the remote flashes in your lighting arrangement. These pulses of light are sent out before the shutter opens, so if the subject has fast reflexes, they will often blink from the pre-flashes and your photographs will suffer from a terrible condition called “Preflash blinkosis”. The solution to Preflash blinkosis is to use the FV Lock function on your camera.


Here's a photo of someone blinking from the pre-flashes in the Nikon CLS. One solution to fix the problem is to use your camera's FV Lock function.

Here's a photo of someone blinking from the pre-flashes in the Nikon CLS. One solution to fix the problem is to use your camera's FV Lock function.



Before I get to the details, here’s an email I received a couple days ago from a reader of my recent book on the Nikon CLS.

Hi Mike.  I just bought your excellent book on “The Nikon Creative Lighting System” and have a question which I hope you can answer for me.  I use a D700 and D3, and 4 SB-800 strobes. In trying to photograph dogs, I have run into a “blinking eye” problem. Finally I figured it out:  the preflashes cause the blinking

Question: can I disable the preflash and use this set-up as the old time “TTL” metering?  Or if I hold the shutter at 1/2, will the preflash fire and not fire the main flash?  Then perhaps the dogs will reopen their eyes. 

Any help or ideas would be most appreciated. Thanks, Morton, Arizona, USA.


The answer to Morton’s question is to use the FV Lock function built into your Nikon dSLR. Everyone needs to know that using Nikon flashes in TTL or TTL BL or even Manual will always result in pre flashes if you are operating in the Nikon CLS. What I mean is that if you have an SB-800 Commander (or a camera’s pop-up Commander like the D90, D300, D700) communicating with the remote flashes in channels/groups, then the preflashes are used to communicate between Commander/Remotes and can’t be turned off.

However, there is a great workaround solution that is called FV Lock. You can program one of your camera’s buttons to activate the FV Lock function so that when you press the button, it causes all the flashes in the system to do the preflash at that moment. Then, the camera remembers the Flash Value (FV) and allows you to take the real shot without the preflashes. I do this when photographing pets or kids with fast reflexes who are prone to blinking. 

To program the FV-Lock capability into your camera, you’ll need to go to your Custom Settings Menu (the pencil icon) and find the FV Lock menu item. On some Nikon models like the D70/D80/D90 you can program the AE-L/AF-L button to activate FV Lock. On other Nikon models like the D300/D700/D3/D90, you can program the Func button or the AE-L/AF-L button to activate FV Lock. 


Here's where the Func button is located on the Nikon D300.

Here's where the Func button is located on the Nikon D300.


This is the AE-L/AF-L button on the Nikon D80.

This is the AE-L/AF-L button on the Nikon D80.

Most photographers don’t ever have a need to use FV Lock, but I find that pet photographers run into this issue more often than people photographers. 



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