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Flash Photography Crash Course

Lesson 6 of 13

Flash Basics

Pye Jirsa, SLR Lounge

Flash Photography Crash Course

Pye Jirsa, SLR Lounge

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Lesson Info

6. Flash Basics
This tutorial will give you a guide as to the practical differences between flash models while also helping you understand what you specifically need.

Lesson Info

Flash Basics

Let's talk a bit of flash basics now is where I want to dive into a little bit of the differences between all the different flashes that you saw earlier. So from the different sizes to the different brands, we're going to cover all of that here. So first, let's talk power. Remember how we had those different sizes of flashes? Right? We had these small guys, but then we had medium guys and then all the way up to this kind of a monster. Right? What we're talking about in those different sizes is power. What does that mean? Why is that important? Well, here's what we had in terms of the scale, right on the left side, you have the small guys, small flashes like a typical Nikon Sony Canon Flash. Those are 50 watt second flashes. Both of these guys are a bit more powerful. So these are 75 to 80 watt second flashes. It's like if you think about it, it's basically 50% more power than a standard hot shoe flash. Right? So when you go up to the next step, the B 10 versus the 8200, we had 200 watt...

seconds in the 8200 versus 250 watt seconds in the B 10. When you go up to that gigantic guy that I just held were up to 600 watt seconds with the flash point and the B 10 plus was 500 watt seconds. So you can really easily see just power differences between these. Right? So the middle guys are about three times more light than this and the big guys are about twice as much as the middle and six times more powerful than the little guys. But none of that helps to know what you actually need or why power makes a difference in everyday circumstances. So I want to give you a little guide to this. What this is saying is that 50 to 75 watt seconds is going to work in midday sun. It'll show up. It'll be bright enough to even overpower midday sun. As long as you're not using any modifiers, you're just using bare flash. It's relatively close to your subjects. You're zooming it in. It's enough power to overpower the sun. What's that mean? Okay, overpowering the sun is this this means that we are darkening down the exposure, which means that your subjects are going to be very dark. We're adding enough light to them to light them up brighter than the scene like in this photograph on the beach with our couple. So they're brighter than the sun. This is what it means to overpower the sun, right? You can do that with these guys just fine. You just can't use a modifier. See any time you use a modifier and I have my umbrella right here. Any time you fire a flash through a modifier, you're gonna lose light. Right? When it goes through a modifier, that's designed to enlarge a light source. What's essentially happening is let's say that we're using maximum power on this instead of firing it in this little tiny beam, all that light now is being dispersed through a gigantic umbrella, which means far less of the light is going to your subject and where you want it to go. It's going to be softer, but you're losing tons of light. Okay? So if we want to use modifiers when we're trying to overpower the sun, we need a more powerful flash. So going back to this little diagram, what it's saying is that You can use small flashes to overpower the son. You just can't use any modifiers. If you want to use a medium strobe. That was the pro photo be 10 or the 8200s. Well, you can essentially use medium sized modifiers again, keeping them relatively close to your subjects and you'll have enough light from this to still overpower the sun. If you want to use large modifiers, let's say like that umbrella or whatever it might be, you're gonna need to step up two The big guys 500 and watt second light sources to be able to power a large light source to overpower the son to give you enough light to create a dramatic portraits. Okay, let's walk through a few different scenes and see how this translates first. Let's go to this image inside of a church. What size of flash do you need for this shot? Were clearly lighting up the bride and groom quite bright. Right, all you need for this is a small flash. 50 to 75 watt second flash is totally fine. In fact, you can even modify it with a large umbrella. You'll still have enough light with these guys. Why? Because it's an indoor situation. It's a fairly dark scene to begin with. So you don't need tons of light. Small flashes are fine. Okay, next this scene in that hallway, we're again shooting this with just bare flash, right? We used a grid and that was it. Again. All you need for this is just a small flash. You can even modify it once again because we're not in bright, midday lighting conditions were in the hallway that's kind of dark. So we can even use modifiers and still get away with small lights. Guess what for this shot? We are in midday sun, we're standing in the shade and I think it was a cloudy day, but it's still very bright outside. But you can still get away with small flashes. Why? Because we're using low power if your style is more of this natural look and you're really just adding a tiny bit of flash just to correct a scene. This is again enough. So we don't need to go to the big ones, the big ones. I like that. Okay, so once we step up to this place where we're trying to kind of simulate sunlight, you can do this with a small flash with a cto gel. The issue is that you kind of have to raise your eyes so quite a bit. So what I would recommend for this are the medium guys and 8200 or a 250 watt second strobes. So you have enough power to create that sun flare. These guys are going to be kind of pushing it So it'll be a little bit harder to do. So, anywhere between 250-500 walk seconds for this kind of a look and effect. If you want this scene, once again without a modifier, you're good with these guys and you'll get something similar to what you see here. Kind of a more edgy look too light. But if you want to modify, if you want a soft light in this scene with that amount of light, You need to go to at least 250 watt seconds. That's when the flash is still close to them, ideally 500-600 watt seconds to get enough light. Okay, same thing here, once again in the scene, midday light. You notice how we're pulling down the exposure, we need to add tons of flash. I'd recommend 500-600 watt seconds of flash because we're also running it through a large light source. Okay, so that is the idea of power. So much of this depends on your style. If you shoot dramatic images and you shoot midday and you want to have that control, you need to kind of be on this side, You're at least thinking 200 to watt seconds. You're ideally thinking around 506 watt seconds if you primarily work indoors, if your outdoor lighting style is more natural, if you're mainly doing events and you like the natural aesthetic, you don't need more than these. This is going to be totally fine. So that's how you can kind of figure out which of the different models suits you based on kind of style. Style will dictate the amount of power that you need. Okay, so, other differences between these models come down to usability, consistency, and quality, I'm gonna be honest, several years ago I picked up young, new and flashpoint and Botox stuff and I had a lot of difficulties just getting them to fire reliably meaning you'd be shooting and every other shot, the flash of fire and then the flash wouldn't fire. You get constant misfires in a professional environment. That is the worst thing possible because you're losing images, you're losing the ability to capture a moment when something doesn't flash and it doesn't fire properly. That said in the last couple of years, they have stepped up their game. Like all of these brands are reliable enough now to be used professionally. I still feel like there's a difference between pro photo versus those brands, but I have a lot of friends that use these brands professionally and and they swear by them. So that argument is not there anymore. What is there though? Is there's still a difference in the usability between them? There's still a difference in a little bit of consistency and just overall build, quality and reliability is still one of those things that you'll see a noticeable difference. What is that exactly translate too well on each three of these points. I would say that Pro photo kind of wins out and I'm gonna show you exactly what that means. Um, I'm gonna power on these flashes and so you guys can see from the top down view uh, a little bit the differences here. Okay, so let me make sure that this visible and we're gonna power on this guy. Okay, so in terms of usability, what we have on this side is a user interface in a system that's incredibly simple to use over here. It's telling me that we're on Channel Five. A right here, I can go and just change my Channel two, Channel five. The head is turned off. I can press this button, it will turn the head back on. It's a very simple interface. I can turn the dial. We have big large numbers. The menu is one click and you go through and choose what other other settings you want. Okay, over on this side we honestly have more features, but again, the user interface is quite a bit different. It's a little bit more difficult to understand what's going on. So here we have several different buttons and modes. I gotta figure out first what mode is this in right now? I think it's in manual. It's on radio. It's in Master actually, and it's controlling all the different groups. So I have to kind of cycle between to see like, okay, which mode you actually want to be in? I think I want this to be in slave mode there. Okay, so now it's on slave and then I got to figure out on this side, okay, I have to turn on a so I'm not super familiar with the Botox and flashpoint systems, I can figure this out, but you can tell that it's a little bit clumsy for me. Once you've mastered this, it's probably not going to be a big issue for you. But from a general usability side you can quickly see that these are easier to use. The menu systems are quite a bit more simple. A lot of what's gonna be done, you know, like finding frequencies and that kind of thing. It's automated, it does it automatically on this side it finds the best frequency for you. Whereas on this side you sometimes have to choose those things. So what we have here is kind of like trying to give you an analogy for this, It's kind of Apple vs. Pc. If you're more technology savvy and you don't mind troubleshooting and you kind of, you know, want additional options and you want most flexibility and a good price point, then go this side, that's exactly what you're getting. If you want simplicity and you just want these things to work and you just value the overall experience, then you're gonna go the pro photo side, but you're obviously gonna pay more just like you would Apple vs. Pc. So I kind of relate this to a luxury car versus a good reliable car. Okay, this is like a BMW Mercedes, it gets you to where you want to go. Both of these cars are going to get you to where you want to go. No problem. They drive you to point from point A to POINT B on this side, it's going to do it a little bit differently. It's going to do it in luxury when you show up. It's also a brand that's recognized industrywide, if, if you're doing commercial work, I know that sounds weird, but if you plan to do commercial and editorial work and work with magazines, that is something that your creative directors will notice. They know the pro photo brand, they know that that's a legitimate brand name. They know on this side that you might not be as well established. It sounds odd, but that does become a kind of a factor when you plan to go that route right? But otherwise you're talking like say Honda accord, good reliable car. It's going to get you where you want to go versus BMW Mercedes, same thing is gonna get you where you want to go, but it's going to have a little more luxury, a little more of that kind of experience in the process. So that's really what you're looking at between these two. Obviously when it comes that last piece of Flash basic, when it comes to the price point, okay, across the board Botox, flashpoint is going to win out by a large, like landslide victory. Okay, granted, part of the reason that Pro photos prices are high is because well a quality and all those kind of things, but Pro Photo is actually doing the R and D to create all of this stuff, whereas the chinese brands are actually ripping off a lot of that. So again, you can go and look up the various different lawsuits that are present, but just understand that these these branded flashes are generally not going to innovate and come out with new things until you know pro photo or brown color. One of the other companies that does the R and D. Does and then you'll see that these will kind of follow suit. So just something to kind of think about in the process, but if price is a huge factor for you and you just want to get into it, there's nothing wrong with going this route. All right. So in summary, remember that the brand that we choose kind of relates to the luxury versus just a good experience. Okay, when it comes to the model within those brands that you're choosing, remember shooting style, think of the way that you want to shoot if you don't know yet. Just wait, practice the techniques that we're going to learn throughout this course, throughout the lighting series, look at the imagery, see what resonates with, you then decide on the models if what resonates is a more natural style to everything. And you find that you're only using flash more distinctly indoors and outdoors. You wanted to simulate natural light. This is the right option, smaller flashes, if you find that you value dramatic lighting and you want more power, more control and you want to be able to do anything, then you're gonna go with the larger models depending on size. I feel like the B 10 is kind of this great sweet spot that works for almost everything that I do. I use this guy actually for my wedding's now primarily to, so this is my larger guy on, on location. I find that I don't often need a B 10 plus or that extra 501 seconds of light and I value the size this comes in because it's so small. Hopefully this helps you in making that decision. But once again, you're going to wait on that until later, so let's keep going.

Class Description


  • Use flash to create dramatic portraits.
  • Use flash to create natural portraits.
  • Balance flash with ambient light.
  • Use and understand off-camera flash.
  • Understand off-camera flash gear and setups.


Let’s be honest, flash photography is intimidating. Many photographers never learn the power of flash because at first glance it looks complicated and overwhelming. This course is the exact opposite. In around 90 minutes, you will walk away not only understanding flash gear, but also having a simple framework to immediately begin using flash in your own work.

I’m going to show you how easy flash can be. From creating dramatic portraits straight out of camera, to using flash for a more natural and soft look. You will walk away from this course with everything you need to get started using flash. Should you choose to dive deeper down the rabbit hole of lighting, this course will also prepare you for the Lighting Series, a four workshop intensive that covers the ins and outs of location lighting for portraiture.


  • Beginners that understand their camera
  • Beginners that want to start learning flash
  • Beginners that want to learn how to use flash for portrait


LPye Jirsa is a photographer, educator, author, podcaster and lifelong learner. He has made a career out of creating frameworks that simplify complex subjects. Frameworks that have helped millions of people learn languages, creativity, photography, lighting, business, communication and even relationships.

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

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Gary Hook

Pye is a talented instructor with a wealth of knowledge. He has an excellent technique of brining out the learning points and does an excellent job at the end of the sessions through summary. He provides some handy tools to assist the beginner to get out and shooting pictures with simple, easy to remember steps, e.g. CAMP. While I am a huge fan of building a foundation of theoretical knowledge, the majority of the first 8 sessions was more on an informercial for Profoto to the point of being painful. A few examples if I may. Pye tells us he is not familiar with the Godox menu system but then sings the praises of Profoto because it is so easy to use? Mmmm, maybe if you actually understood the Godox system you would find it easier to use? When it comes to modifiers, you stress that the Profoto is so much better because of its portability even though it takes more time to set-up than the competition; however when it comes to Menu systems the GoDox is not as good because it takes more time. So one is okay even though it takes more time but one is NOT good because it takes more time? No paradox here right I appreciated his chart to demonstrate the differences between Groups and Channels; however, when using the same identifier for both, e.g. letters, it can be confusing. From my perspective identifying Groups as Teachers using a # and Channels as students using letters (A,B,C,D) would reduce the risk of confusion. Instruction 101: if you are going to demonstrate something, learn it before you take up screen time! Profoto has the most counter-intuitive number system for power. How does 9 out of 10 make one think of 50% power? Session 8 – 2 minutes of actual information crammed into 15:40! With respect to terminology, Pye asks do we really need Master/Slave? I’d ask do we really need “Air” versus “Radio”? good tips on Trouble Shooting Overall the last four sessions made the whole session worth it. The simplified and structured approach of CAMP was brought out nicely with the dramatic and natural on-location shoots. Well done

Kriss Ward

This has been one of my favorite courses so far on Creative Live. A great starting point for OCF. I really enjoy Pye's teaching methods as I have seen them on other platforms so I was excited to find this here. Not only does he explain things in digestible bites, but also his demos are helpful too! Will definitely be watching the more in depth series that follows!

Angie Martin

This is a wonderful class! I was able to apply these concepts right away for a senior portrait shoot. i was like, "Wow! Pye was right!" I have learned not to tweak 100 different things at once and get confused. His CAMP system makes SO much sense...clarifies everything. Thank you, Pye, for this. You're a wonderful teacher! Marry me! I'll wait.