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Flash Photography Crash Course

Lesson 8 of 13

Understanding Flash Radio Systems

Pye Jirsa, SLR Lounge

Flash Photography Crash Course

Pye Jirsa, SLR Lounge

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Lesson Info

8. Understanding Flash Radio Systems
Flash radios are easier than you might think. This video offers you a quick guide in understanding how to control off-camera flashes via the built-in radio systems.

Lesson Info

Understanding Flash Radio Systems

Now let's talk radios and how to control your off camera flashes again. I want to make this process very simple. Give you some easy frameworks. The good news is that, you know, previously we used to use external radios, like those pocket wizards. Now they're built into our flashes. Good thing is they use the exact same technology and the same approach. The only difference is just the buttons are in different places and some of the features might slightly be different. So let's cover the basics. I have this little diagram here and what it shows is two different classrooms. Okay, so you have classroom A on the left side and classroom be on the right side. In each classroom. I've divided out the students into different teams so you can think of them as like a grouping of desks or just a team of students. Team, A, B, C and D. I want you guys to relate this to. Well, the classroom itself is like channels on the remote and the teams are the groupings. What this simply means is classroom A's ...

teacher can't speak with classroom B. None of them can. The students can't, the teacher can't classroom aides, teacher can only speak with the students that are in the same classroom. It's the exact same way that flashes work with channels. You can only speak to other flashes when they're on the same channel. Okay. Within that channel you have the option of different groupings. And what you see in those groupings is what you see in our teams. So group A is equivalent to Team A and group B is equivalent to Team B. The teacher could say, okay, class, I want you all to do something, right? This is equivalent to your remote speaking to all the groups within that channel. So inside of Channel one, I would tell all the groups, I would tell all my flashes in whatever group there in. I want all the flashes to go up in power or down in power. Okay? So you're speaking to all of them at once. But the teacher could also say okay, Team A. I want you guys to do this and Team B. I want you guys to do this. So the teacher could designate specific assignments to each team in the same way inside of one channel with different groupings. You can tell each group to do something different. I can say groups. Flash A. Every every every flash that's placed into group A. I want you guys to go up in power bi. Two stops by to measurements. Okay. In group C. The flashes that are there, I want you to turn off and in group B. I want you guys to come down and power. So this is how we're gonna control our off camera remotes or off camera flashes through the on camera remote. So we first make sure that we're talking to the same channel where we have all the flashes, the remote everything on the same channel. Then we can designate groups and assign specific functions to each. So let's go with just that for now. And I'm gonna do this on both the pro photo and I'm gonna eat my way through on the on the flashpoint side and try and figure it out. So on the Pro photo, let me make sure my top down, you guys can see everything nicely. You'll notice that it says head is off. That means that this flash has turned off, right? So it's set to one be currently but my remote right here. If I actually press, let's just press this button so you can see it light up. It's set to Channel five. So if I press the test button, this would be the same. If I actually press the shutter, right? If I press the test button, nothing happens why we're in different classrooms. We can't speak to each other when we're in different classrooms. Right. We need the channel to be the same. So I have a couple options. I can either change the channel on the remote by just pressing the channel button and toggle in channel one. Or let's say I don't want to change this guy. Let's say I want to change it here. I would go right into the menu by pressing the center button and go to channel And then select two. Okay, So now the two flashes are in the same channel. Okay, So I pressed test I think happens again the heads off. Right? So this is on channel to be So what I can do here now is I'm the teacher and I'm now talking to Group B. Team B. So be I want you to turn on I press the head button and now the head turns on B. I want to test you to make sure that you're flashing. I press test and now it's flashing. Okay? We have the ability to change sync speed or synchronization, which is first curtain, second curtain or high speed sync, which is what we're gonna be using in this course, whenever, whenever our shutter speed goes above 200 we're going to use high speed sync. I don't want you guys to worry about anything else right now, generally going to keep it on first curtain sync or on high speed sync depending on if your shutter goes up or down. Okay. And we're always gonna be working with the flash in manual meaning I want you guys just to get comfortable controlling the flash power manually and not using this. This is through the lens function through the lens means that it's going to try and get a reading of what you want. But the thing is it can't know what you want, it doesn't know the intention of your photographs. So it's just gonna dial in something, right? This is where I want you guys to just go manual, dial in the flash power. If it's too high, bring it down. If it's too low, bring it up, I'm gonna give you a system for that. When we talk about intention, we're going to go through the camp framework. It'll be easy peasy. Don't worry. I like that phrase. Easy peasy. Okay, so now if I select group C and I turn on the head or turn off, they had nothing happens here because I'm only speaking to groups. See if I go back to Group B. I can turn up the power right here and it'll go up on the remote if I go to Group A and I turn up and down the power, nothing happens because this is Group B again, so I can give each channel. Or sorry, I can give each group independent functions, independent assignments within the same channel. Okay, exact same principles over here. I know there's tons of buttons. It's a little more crazy, but it's still the same. Now, I'm going to show you despite being unfamiliar with this. So let's go ahead and make sure these are on. Okay, so first step I'm going to press the test button. That's this flash button over here on this side. Let me make sure you guys can see so nothing's happening. Well, I got to make sure that this isn't the right mode. Okay, so over here on the pro photo side, you'll notice that if I go into settings air, that means the radio. Okay. If air is on the radios on, if air is off the radios off, so I need to make sure my radio is always turned on on the flash here, I need to do the same thing, but it's controlled modes. So to flip the mode, I press this little lightning button over here on the right side. Now it goes to this is radio and we're set to master where I can control off camera flashes. Actually don't want that. This becomes your remote. So if you're using this on your camera then you would use this mode. But if you're using a remote on your camera, this is controlling everything. So you need to set this to slave again. This kind of does all that automatically on this side you have to choose. So I'm going to press the button again. Now it says I'm using through the lens slave. Actually want manual slave. Let's see if it no that's just through the lens. Without radio. This is radio master. This is radio with through the lens. So I think I have to control the mode from the radio. Okay It's set to Channel seven slave a. Let's go ahead and just press the test button. Nothing's happening. Why? Well the classroom Channel 10, Channel seven. So I got to change the channel. I'm gonna try to do that on the remote. Actually I'm gonna try to do that on the flash because I think it's easier. So let's go flash. I can press that ch button right there so I'm pressing this to get to CH and then I'm just gonna go to channel 10. This is set to a now if I test ah ha we got it to flash. So now they're speaking on the same channel Now a is set to manual 128th power and we didn't kind of talk about this. You'll notice that a lot of flash units use I think what the standard is to use fractions so 1/1 right here is full power Pro photo uses 10, they use 1-10 So 10 is full power nine is half power. Okay so you adjust power over here I'd select this and then dial it down so you'll see that there's in between. So this is half power plus 0.7 this is half power plus 0.3 and that's half power. So this is equivalent to nine over here and I have 10 little adjustments in between on the pro photo side whereas you have third increments on this side. Okay so one quarter power is right here And I would get there by going to eight 1/8 power Right here, I would get there by going to seven and you just kind of keep going down. Right so each one of these points I can press the test button it should fire. Um I can also switch the mode so I believe if I press mode here Yes so with a selected I can press mode and that switches it from T. T. L. Two manual to off so I can go to manual, that's where I want you guys to be manually controlling your flashes. Okay. I also have my other functions like high speed sync is over here on the right side, this is rear curtain sync. So it's just a different icon. This is that second curtain sync. This is normal which is first curtain sync. Again. Worry about sinks later. Well if you're going into the lighting series it'll be covered in depth. It's a little bit beyond what you need right now. So high speed sync is what we're going to be using on this side. Same functionality, just getting comfortable with different menu systems and a little more options and buttons on this side. Hopefully that all makes sense. Now let's talk about some of the different modes available. This is more of a I kind of want you guys to only change this if you know why and what you're doing okay, you have different modes on these radios. One is to transmit and receive. Which means that when this flash is told to fire its going to send off a signal that tells all the other flashes to do the same thing. If they're in the same basically this will send a signal, this will receive and send a signal out as well. You generally want that because if you're using multiple flashes then you kind of increase your range by having all of them act like a receiving and sending signals. Okay, all you really need to know is just leave it as is there is a way to control that on this side. Okay. So if I go to the menu and I go down to air that is the radio function. It actually says off, I don't want you to receive a signal, I don't want you to do anything on which is the default and on transmit only. That means that it's gonna send off a signal but it's not going to receive one. Okay. So some of these radios have different functions. One is receive only one is transmit only in general. You're just going to leave it on transmit and receive cool troubleshooting. If your flash isn't firing, I want you to work backwards to the exact same steps that we did here. Number one are the remote is the remote and the flashes in the same channel. That's step one. This is going to solve your issues most of the time. The second piece of that is are you talking to the right group? They might be in the same channel, but maybe you've selected the wrong group if I'm selecting group A and I'm trying to control the power and nothing's happening here because I haven't selected the right group. So I got a select group B before I can affect this. This is nine out of 10 issues. The next most common radio mode. That was the issue over here where this flash wasn't set to the right mode, right? So we had to click mode to get it over to a slave. Okay thing to change those terms. By the way, we really need Master Slave a separate issue. Let's talk frequency. So, think of this. Lots of things use radio technology, right from phones to actual radios to everything in between. There's tons, I'm not a scientific person. So I'm just gonna say there's tons of stuff using radio technology when you get to a location, if you notice that you are on the right channel and the right group and you start shooting and you notice that your flashes firing intermittently. It's not firing every single time. It's very likely because you're encountering radio interference. That means that there's a lot of other radio systems that are using the same frequency as your flash setup. Cool thing is on this side, it's all figured out for you. It'll automatically switch frequency on this side though. If you notice that issue, you have an actual search function where you can actually search for the cleanest frequency in an area and then switch everything over to that frequency. It is manual, but it gives you a little more control to next. One of the main causes for flash is not firing your off camera flashes, not firing is low battery power in both the remote as well as the flashes. So anytime the battery power starts to get low, it does diminish the radio's ability to transmit and receive a signal. So fresh batteries can often fix the issue. Last piece is interference, interference is kind of one of the things we talked about with that frequency thing, right? There's other radios in the area. The other thing to understand here is steel, concrete and especially water are not friendly when it comes to radio signals. It's the same reason that when you go into an elevator, your phones usually don't work because you have so much steel around you so much concrete that a signal can't get in. So in those type of environments, if you're in a concrete parking structure, don't expect your flashes to be able to work over the same distance that they would when you're an open field, When you're an open field, you can probably get the flash to work over several 100 ft or anywhere where there's clear kind of nothing between you, right? Your flash will work over long distances, but inside of a parking structure you might only get 50 ft or 100 ft of reliable use before it starts kind of acting weird. That's interference. The other side of that is water. So if you're near the beach or by a pool and you set the flash down near a body of water that pretty much stops a radio signal. So the fix to it is to try to get the flash up off the ground or a bit away from the water. So that way the water doesn't interfere with your signal. All right, So that's radios and how to control your off camera flashes. Not that bad. I'm going to go through a couple other techniques and frameworks, then I'm gonna take you on location. So let's go and do the camp framework.

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.