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Flash Photography Crash Course

Lesson 12 of 13

Natural Portrait Session

Pye Jirsa, SLR Lounge

Flash Photography Crash Course

Pye Jirsa, SLR Lounge

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Lesson Info

12. Natural Portrait Session
We’re going on location to demonstrate how to use our CAMP framework to create a natural portrait.

Lesson Info

Natural Portrait Session

All right. She also in this video, we're going to aim for a more natural kind of a look with flash. So, my model is ELISA. You can find her, we will link her up. And what we're gonna do here is I want to use a longer lens. We're gonna use kind of like a telephoto focal length and we're going to compress the rails, kind of make a cool background out of this area. That is seemingly not that great, but it is kind of cool because we have this white wall right here, which is bouncing direct sunlight. And all we're really gonna do is we're gonna use flashes to add a tiny bit of light to it. Let's go ahead and dive straight into this. I'm gonna have a lisa you're gonna sit about right here. Yeah. And this will allow me to place the flash kind of right here in this doorway. So, let's go ahead and set up a flash. We're only going to use the flash here for a little bit of Phil you're gonna understand this better in just a second, we're going to get back to kind of setting the intention with our ...

ambient light exposure, but let's begin with the same process, the camp framework, Right? So what I want to do is really decide on the kind of shot that I want to take, and the shot that I want is actually right down here against these rails. What I'm gonna do is kind of lean into those rails and use it as part of this foreground and kind of frame ELISA about right here. So, we're at like 100, I'm gonna go ahead and bring the exposure, Let's do 1/1000 of a second. Okay, and just to get an idea of the overall composition. So this is the composition that I'm aiming for, and I love this shot, it looks really cool, in fact, is a natural light shot. It's really nice as well. What I'm gonna do though is I'm gonna set my intention. I'm gonna set the Amulet Explorer. So I know the composition. Now the amulet though, I feel like I kind of want to make it just a little bit more dark. Okay, not a lot. We're just gonna go one stop. So we're still leaving this image on the bright side. But I'm gonna go to 1 2000 of a second. F 2.8 and low. I s so it gets us this shot here, which it's bright enough. But what we're gonna do is fill a little bit of light in just to bring our subject out in the scene a little bit more so from this, I want you to see two examples of the first video where we kind of use flash for dramatic effect. You clearly know that the images lit here. We're almost using it as a reflector now. Why would you not just use a reflector? After all, we have a wall that's kind of reflecting light in. Why not just add a reflector there? The reason is that a reflector is going to be really difficult to keep your eyes open. This wall is already bright enough. If I put a silver reflector in and add a lot of light to her, ELISA is going to have a really difficult time keeping your eyes open so we can put a flash in and the flash is not going to affect her eyes at all. It's just going to go off when we need it. Right. So there's a lot of reasons we can also control the light better, everything like that. Once again, I hope all of you take that leap into the lighting series because you're going to learn so much more what I want this course to be though is that entryway to get into lighting to get you guys often practicing and hopefully you take that dive into the rabbit hole of lighting and go through the lighting series because you're gonna learn so much in the four workshops, but enough talking. Let's go ahead and set up our light. We're going to aim for a similar setup because we are using the flash. We are in direct sunlight, right? And I kind of talked about how in direct sunlight if you want to overpower the sun, you need a high power flash but we're not trying to overpower the sun. So we're just gonna use the umbrella and a standard flash for this. So at my standard head, this is the pro photo A. 10. Okay, This is set to Channel five a. So I'm just gonna make sure that I sink that up on my remote. Let's pop that under the mag shoe. Let's bring this right over. I love umbrellas. You think they're 20 bucks if that there's such handy modifiers? Yeah. Yeah now we do have a little bit of wind here so let's just see if this is gonna stand and it's not. So what we're gonna do is go ahead and use the backpack as a support at least. Do you mind putting a hand on this just for a minute? Mhm. Mhm. Mhm. There we go. You're good now. So what I'll probably need to do is just make sure that the flash is not actually in the frame, pull this back just a bit where to turn on the remote, make sure it pops. It does. We're on channel five A. So I have that set up. I'm at 1 2000 of a second. F 2.8 and low I. S. So this does mean remember that I have to use high speed sync again. Pretty much any flash that you get today is gonna have high speed sync. And pretty much any flash will have that same amount of power. This is a 75 watt second flash at about full power. So you will notice that right now if I shoot a wide angle image or a wider shot of ELISA that you are going to see the light in the shot right? But I do want you just to compare what the shot looks like without and with that light firing. So let's take a baseline shot just without it. And now let's take the exact same shot with flash. So looking at those two, what you see is this beautiful amount of feel like that's coming into the scene. It's not only kind of bring up her overall brightness, it's also cleaning up the light on the skin. Normally, we would get like kind of bouncing from this white wall as well as from that tan wall and it's going to add additional color of the skin. But that flash is going to help us to clean it up. So we get a really great look. And now, because of where the flashes, I'm gonna shoot a little bit tighter first. Then I'm gonna move the flash a bit and we'll go out to a bit of a wider shot. So let's go in a little bit closer, we're gonna use the rail as part of the composition. I love that ELISA beautiful lisa. Your hand is actually blocking a little bit of light. So use the other hand and then brush the hair off your shoulder. There we go, that's perfect. And then lean into the leg a little bit right there. I love it, beautiful. Mhm. I love these. Beautiful, that looks so gorgeous. I love those shots. Now we could spend a whole bunch of time in post dodging and burning to get that same look or we just add a flash and do it in camera and then you're working post is so much easier. Now the only thing I'm gonna do is just adjust the position of that flash just a little bit. I'm gonna pull it back so I can get a little bit more of a wide angle shot. Okay. You know what the other thing we can do is actually just move ELISA down a little bit so why don't we just do that? Maybe I'll do a little bit of both. Now this does change the light direction a little bit, so it's gonna be a little bit of a flatter light goat. Let's go around, but we can get a little bit wider on the scene. ELISA, can you stick out one leg? There? It is. I love that. We still get just enough feel like coming in, that looks great. Beautiful. I love it where you're kind of like leaning into the legs, keeping the back kind of straight. Yes. And then keep your right foot kind of down on the ground. Yeah, and then lean into a little bit. That's it, beautiful. Yeah, love it, relax the right arm, those are fantastic. I love that. Okay, so this is a great lesson here because right now that flash is about six ft from ELISA, right? We're in bright midday, some conditions that's a full power at high speed sync and I can barely see what it's doing right now. It's just barely having the effect that I want. Which means that if we want to really go much more beyond this, if we want to overpower the sunlight, if you want to darken the exposure down more, we need a much more powerful strobe. If we're going to be firing it through an umbrella. So You have seen right here, kind of the limitation of a small light that's being modified. So, your options are, well, don't modify, use direct flash or if you want to modify step into a medium strobe, something that's 200 or 250 watts or above. And then you can modify and still have quite a bit of power. But I'm loving these shots. I think we've got a really cool natural light effect. And hopefully from these two videos, you guys get a good idea of a couple different ways of incorporating flash into your work. Flash can be dramatic, it can be natural, it can be anything in between. It's whatever you want it to be. But ultimately, it's like control. It allows you to create any kind of light, any kind of effect in any scene.

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.