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Flash Photography Crash Course

Lesson 3 of 13

Flash Technology Made Easy

Pye Jirsa, SLR Lounge

Flash Photography Crash Course

Pye Jirsa, SLR Lounge

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Lesson Info

3. Flash Technology Made Easy
We’re going to briefly look into flash gear of the past, and I’m going to show you how simple flash technology has become!

Lesson Info

Flash Technology Made Easy

lighting gear and Flash technology is what makes the subject kind of daunting and a bit intimidating to pick up. So, I want to make the tech easy to understand and what we're gonna be talking about a little bit of it kind of applies to gear that we used in the past. And then I'm gonna show you essentially what we're using today. I'm gonna do this for two reasons. Number one, it's kind of fun to know what this gear was like 10 years ago. Okay, number two, if you guys are going into lighting one through lighting four, Well, some of those videos were actually recorded a few years back. Some of them are quite new, so you'll see the gear and technology changed quite a bit through the series, the techniques, they are identical, but the gear has shifted quite a bit and for the better it's gotten a lot more simple. So not only is it fun to kind of look back and see where this technology has come from and where it is today, but this will also give you an idea of kind of going into the lighting ...

series, which pieces have kind of been simplified and made a lot easier. And that's pretty much every single piece. But let's do this. Let's talk first about manual versus full feature flashes. So these are terms that you might hear when it comes to lighting technology, specifically flashes in the past. So some of the slides in lighting one and lighting to we're actually these slides, we kind of talked about our favorite full feature flashes and our favorite manual flashes. Why? Well, a full feature flash is essentially a flash that has advanced capabilities. Okay, today, these are flashes that have built in radios. They have the ability to be able to kind of measure readings through the it's called T T L through the lens. So it'll measure flash output, has digital zoom functionality. It has the ability to infrared and all these different things. Right, so that's a full feature flash now on the flip side. Emmanuel flash has none of that. Emmanuel flash is literally just a light with the ability to manually control how much light the flash puts out. It has no radio, it has no infrared, it has nothing else. No bells, no whistles. Just the ability to fire the flash. That was it. In the past, we differentiated these because full feature flashes were $600,700 and manual flashes were 100 bucks and that meant that. Well if you had to pick up four of these or five of these, it got real expensive, real quick. So if you can get a manual flash and figure out a way to get them to work, then it was a really inexpensive option today. It doesn't really matter anymore. This is a beautiful thing today. We have and we're going to talk about this as we get to the actual gear setups. I'm gonna give you full feature set ups that are both in the high end range. So if you want to spend the money and you want to have something a little bit nicer, we'll have a full featured flash on that side that's great and reliable and it's kind of the professional choice. And if you want to save money, we still have a full feature flash, that's a fraction of the price. That's still good and reliable and something that professionals use. So the beautiful thing today is everything is a full featured flash. They all come with everything and we have it at different price points. So this is a wonderful thing. And if you hear people talking about like manual flash is just kind of walk the other way, you don't you don't need to go there anymore. Okay, now let's move on. Let's talk about a different piece of flash tech. We're gonna talk about wired versus infrared versus radio. What the heck are we talking about? Well, look, what we're really getting at is getting the flash off the camera. See when your flashes on your camera's hot shoe. Well, it can communicate directly, right? Because the flash is connected right here through that hot you port. So when you fire and you you press the shutter, your flash fires. But as soon as you take the flash off the camera, which is important because that's how we're gonna get to another layer of light control. Then we have to have a way for the flash to communicate with the camera, meaning when I press the shutter, this camera has to tell the flash to fire at the same time. So previously and built into kind of the lighting one and lighting to series slides. Was this where we talked about wired versus infrared versus radio technologies and we talked about radio was really the ultimate place to go today. That's all you gotta worry about. You're not gonna worry about wired, you're not gonna worry about infrared, but just for the sake of conversation and once again, kind of understanding what we used to deal with in the past, wired was just a wired connector that you can see in the image that would sit on the hot shoe of your camera and connect to the hot shoe. The flash when you fire it sends the signal and it's connected through that wire. As you can imagine, this is not very simple or easy because those cables have a length so you're limited where you can put the flash, you can also only control one flash off camera. So there's inherent limitations there, even though it was a reliable way of firing those flashes. The other way was those built in infrared. And in fact, I think most, most of these flashes today still have infrared functionality, but there's no point in using it. Infrared is a kind of a technology that would allow a flash on camera to communicate with one off camera through this little infrared beam. The problem was the beam can't go through anything. So if anything is between that flash and whatever's off camera it doesn't fire. So it was very unreliable technology and at best it could be used in the studio. But even in the studio wasn't very reliable. It's what we called line of sight technology now, radios which have been around for quite a while. Radio technologies are forever. But when it comes to controlling flash with radios, it's been around for a long time. So with a radio, we're using a radio signal to actually communicate from one side to the other. So when you press the shutter, a radio is carrying that signal and saying flash, you're gonna fire. Now in the past, we had to have extra devices for those radios. They weren't built into the flashes today. Both options, the budget and the high end option that I'm gonna give you guys already has a built in radio. And this is a beautiful thing because it kind of brings me to this piece of Pocket Wizard versus internal radio. Once again, a fun piece of kind of history to look at in the past, we used these guys, Well, there were other types of radios as well. But Pocket Wizard was the most well known. You had the Plus X. You had the plus three. These are the different models that they had available and there were several more. But these were common ones. As you can see, these radios were about $100 to $150 each. Which means that if you wanted to control four flashes, you had to have the flashes which have their own price tag. And then the radios as well. So you needed a radio on your camera and then four additional flashes or one for each flash you wanted to use. This was not only expensive, it was cumbersome because, well, it led to all sorts of nightmares. See we we used to do this whole thing of like how do you troubleshoot radios? Is it the radio itself? Is it the cable between the radio and the flash? Is the batteries? Is it the setup, is it this? And if you're using three of those, you had to test this with all. It was the most convoluted, cumbersome thing ever. Well a few years ago, companies like Pro Photo, like Canon Nikon, all the flash makers essentially go docks flashpoint. They basically said this is dumb. Why are we you know, having a radio outside the flash, let's just build it in. I mean I wish they listened to photographer a little bit earlier because we were saying it was done like years ago, 15 years ago. It was done back then. But anyway a few years ago it finally landed and we started getting flashes that had built in radios today. They all do. So once again that's something that's been kind of taken care of. You have everything that you need with just the basic tools that will be suggesting here. You have everything you need to control your off camera flashes. Now, going back to why I'm bringing all this up rumor, I said there was two points. One of them was, it's fun to kind of know where gear has come from and kind of where it is today. And the second one was prepping you for those that do want to go deeper into the lighting series from lighting 12 lighting for you'll see Gear is gonna shift from lighting one to lighting for because they were filmed over the span of 6, 7 years. The purpose is to understand this, the techniques that are taught the techniques of lighting itself, They don't change. Technology will change, but the techniques will last forever. So all the techniques in lighting one and lighting too, they are just as applicable today as they were back then, even though the way that we connect things and the way that we might use those flashes has gotten easier. The techniques still apply. So that's the important thing here is I want you guys to not only understand that from the lighting series, but as you watch any video, it could be, you know, something from the 70s, you might see a video or a shoot that's going on. You know, 10, 20 years ago. It doesn't matter what technology they were using at the time. What matters are the principles because everything they're doing still applies today. You simply need less gear to get there. So that's it. Let's go on to the next video.

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.