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Flash Photography Crash Course

Lesson 10 of 13

Natural vs Dramatic Imagery

Pye Jirsa, SLR Lounge

Flash Photography Crash Course

Pye Jirsa, SLR Lounge

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Lesson Info

10. Natural vs Dramatic Imagery
Before we start shooting, I want to give you one more framework for understanding how to create a dramatic portrait, versus something more natural.

Lesson Info

Natural vs Dramatic Imagery

last video and then we are shooting this is one more framework for you that I want you to keep in mind. So when it gets to the ambient light piece, you're gonna think ambient intention, This is gonna make things so much easier. Camp was one step of making things simple. This is step number two. Look, we sometimes think or the misconception that we talked about earlier was that flash couldn't look natural, right? That it was only for dramatic shots. No, this has to do with your ambient light exposure. The exposure that you set in camera, see if you want an image to look natural, you're going to expose in camera for a brighter look to your image. So if your ambient light exposure is brighter, if your subject is brighter, then naturally you're going to use less flash. So if you want a more natural look, you start with a brighter ambient light exposure, then you look and you say now do I need to modify or add light. Here's this and I'm gonna add less light because my ambient exposure is br...

ight. So you'll notice when doing that the before and the after images in each of these scenarios is quite similar. We're just adding a tiny bit of flash to kind of fill light, modify light direction, improved quality of light, that kind of stuff. Okay, what about dramatic? This is where you set your ambient light exposure in your camera to something dark. Once again, we're looking at the background, we're looking at what do we want this scene to look and feel like we're deciding that the intention is for a dramatic image. And that means that we pull the ambient exposure down as you can see in those images, the subjects in those cases are basically blacked out there completely dark. So if the subject is completely dark, then we know that we need to add a lot of light. So now when the ambient exposure drops down, flash power comes up, we're adding a lot of light, it becomes a dramatic portrait as you can see in those images below. So this slide, this is what you're gonna be thinking every time you get to. Okay, I've dialed in my composition. Now, ambient light, you're going to think of this slide is my intention? Something more natural, brighter ambient exposure, Less flash power or is my intention? Something more dramatic? Darker ambient exposure. More flash power. That's it. That's as simple as lighting can be when you use these frameworks. Now we're going to go and actually put into practice. So for our first shoot, we're gonna go and do a series of dramatic portraits and I'm gonna take you on another shoot. We're going to do a series of natural portraits using simple tools. What we talked about earlier, an umbrella, a grid. That's it. Let's go on and shoot some images.

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

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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.