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Flash Photography Crash Course

Lesson 2 of 13

Why Learn Flash?

Pye Jirsa, SLR Lounge

Flash Photography Crash Course

Pye Jirsa, SLR Lounge

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Lesson Info

2. Why Learn Flash?
We tend to think flash is about creating a particular type of image. In reality, flash is all about light control. It’s about opening up any possibility when it comes to your creative vision.


  Class Trailer
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2 Why Learn Flash? Duration:09:27
3 Flash Technology Made Easy Duration:09:24
4 Two Flash Setups Duration:09:56
5 Understanding Modifiers Duration:21:50
6 Flash Basics Duration:15:04
7 Setting Up Your Flashes Duration:11:55
9 CAMP Framework Duration:03:07
10 Natural vs Dramatic Imagery Duration:02:56
11 Dramatic Portrait Session Duration:17:27
12 Natural Portrait Session Duration:08:45
13 The Road Ahead Duration:03:52

Lesson Info

Why Learn Flash?

Okay, so why learn flash? I get this question a lot. And honestly I get it, especially when it's coming from a natural life photographer who already has a good understanding, someone who is already creating the work that they want to create. Just using natural light, they might look at this and go, why? It's additional gear. It's complicated. What's the point in learning it? Let me cover that base here when it comes down to why learn flash photography. What I really dialed back to is control its control specifically over five different things. Obviously number one is control of light itself. We can change transform, do whatever we want to that light, we can add light. We can also control the amount of light so we can choose where we want additional light to be in a scene. We can even subtract that light from other areas. We can also control light direction. So if we don't like the existing light direction, we can create our own light direction and completely transform it. We also get t...

o control quality of light. We want to use a harder light to chisel out our subjects or use something soft to have more of a natural feel. We can use that light and the light quality to help us craft the story that we're trying to tell on top of this. We can control the light color. I'm gonna give you examples of all of this because I don't expect you to really, I know exactly what I'm speaking of yet, but ultimately what this all boils down to is control. Now, what I want to show you is a few examples of this beginning with kind of some misconceptions about flash. Well, misconception number one is when we typically think of flash photography, especially if we haven't seen good flash photography, we think of somebody firing a flash directly into the face, getting red eye washed out colors, all that kind of stuff. That's not any part of this course. That's not really any part of what we're discussing when we talk about using flash photography. So, let's begin with the kind of typical idea of what we think of when it comes to good flash photography. So when we think of good flash photography, what we're typically thinking of is dramatic images like this one. Images where we kind of pulled down the background a bit, you can see the sky, you can see the sun and we know it's not natural light because the subjects are clearly lit up in the frame. We think of images like this where once again, I'm going to show you that behind the scenes. And as you can see, we're shooting this midday. Okay, so midday, bright sun. But what we've done is we've darkened the overall exposure. Once again, we're kind of subtracting light from the entire scene and then adding it back to just are subject to create these dramatic kind of an editorial portrait. In this shot here, we're kind of doing a few things were in this little hallway using the natural light in the background to kind of create these highlights along the brick. We're shifting color a bit as well with a gel on a flash that's lighting his face. So we're kind of again getting to a dramatic look. But these are the these are the typical images that we think of when we think of flash photography or at least decent flash photography, right? We think of dramatic portraits. Now. The reason why I want you guys to think of this as a little bit of a misconception is because it doesn't have to be that way. See a lot of photographers look at these images and they go, you know what? I don't want to learn flash photography because I don't want to create those images. Those images don't fit my style. And to those photographers, I say great, that's not what flash photography is. Flash fits any style. So let me show you we can use flash photography to act like natural light. For example, here we're using a large light source and a flash that's set to a very low power and it's designed to simply clean up the existing light to make it look a little bit nicer. But when you see this image, you don't think flash photography because it's not meant to look like a flashed photograph. Same thing here. This is a maternity shoot, right? The sun in this shot is not the sun, it's actually a flash once again mimicking sunlight. Now, some of these concepts, a lot of these concepts are going to go beyond this simple crash course. This crash course is meant to get you often running to get you utilizing flash to show you some great examples and show you how powerful simple techniques can be. The lighting series lighting one through lighting four is going to go through all of these crazy nuances. What I want you to wrap your heads around right now is flash isn't any one particular thing. And these two shots, it's natural light. That's what it's designed to look like. So here that flash is actually placed up on a bench. We put an orange gel to make it look like it's an orange light. Like the sun coming through. The sun had actually already set in the scene. Okay, here we're using a small light source. Why? Because I want to create a hard light. I want to darken the entire scene and use a hard light to kind of lift them out of the frame. So again, a bright scene where flash is being used to kind of lift one particular area of the scene to create a really dramatic wide angle shot here is kind of similar. I'm leaving all the groomsmen in the shot dark and I'm using that one flash to add light to one person. So this is where we get to controlling the amount of light, the light direction, where we want the light subtracting from other areas. So the groom has a light that's kind of pinned right to his face. It's not hitting anybody else. Everybody else has left a bit darker in the frame. This gives us this painterly feel to kind of lift the subject out of the scene here, we're doing it and more dramatic fashion. We're letting all the other people in the shot kind of be a silhouette. We're using that one pin flat to lift out again. Our primary subject in the shop where we want our viewer to focus on. Another thing that flash can do is create the impossible. This is an example of that. This is an engagement photograph. This comes from like kind of the advanced lighting course. So this is lighting three. At this point we're using one flash to simulate what would the sun look like if it were hitting the cement in the back of the scene. That's that top light right here. Then I'm using an nd filter covering half my camera's frame and another light off the left side to light up the groom. Why in camera, I can make the scene look like. The left side is night time and the right side is kind of daytime golden hour from lighting. This is not something that's possible in camera unless you understand flash photography. I mean, you could spend a lot of time in post, you know, doing this in Photoshop, but that's not very fun going on. You see the behind the scenes in this shot right here? Well, our studio, it's white walls everywhere. We're using a red gel, a red little kind of plastic sheet that changes the color of the flash to read that is the background light. Then we're using another light with a snoot. A modifier will briefly discuss in this tutorial to add light just to the cheek, the bone, the nose and kind of the structure of the face. And we get this image in a scene where it doesn't actually exist. Same thing here, we're using a light to freeze the couple then shaking the camera with a slow shutter to get to this look. So once again, a lot of these concepts go beyond this crash course. What I want you to get from this video. What I want you to understand here is that flash photography can be anything you want it to be here. This is a fun one. We're actually using the flash. You can see the flash is actually placed directly behind her and it's what's creating that little silhouette and lighting up the hairspray. I'm shooting with the same direction that flashes, creating a shadow up on the wall which then lets us see the reflection in this painting of of our bride. So again, all done in camera. So again, a lot of these concepts are beyond just a simple crash course that's meant to get you started on this. What I want you to see are the possibilities. Flash photography can be anything you want it to be, you wanted to be a dramatic portrait, it can be that you wanted to simulate natural light. It can do that too. You wanted to create something that just doesn't exist to the naked eye, that's just completely different and wild and abstract. Well, it's kind of your only way of getting to that place. So flash photography is a wonderful tool. The only question really we have left is where do you start? There's obviously tons to learn what we're gonna do is break things down and make it simple. I want you guys to begin by just understanding the basics of gear, why we have different types of flashes, different sizes. I'm going to give you some ideas on just too easy to go. Brands and types just based on budget. I'm gonna show you the gear setups and help you understand them. Then I'm gonna take you on location. We're gonna aim to create a set of dramatic portraits. We're gonna aim to create a set of natural portraits. We're gonna get you often running using some basic modifiers, some powerful tools and you're gonna be good to go. So let's go ahead and jump now to the next video, let's start talking gear.

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.


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

Angie H

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.


I've been following Pye for many years because he has a solid skill for making complex subjects easy to understand. This short course is great value for all levels of photographers as a concise and actionable way to put wow in our portrait work by creatively (and easily) adding supplemental light sources. Highly recommended!