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Lighting 401

Lesson 12 of 20

Backlighting as a Main Light with Smoke

Pye Jirsa, SLR Lounge

Lighting 401

Pye Jirsa, SLR Lounge

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Lesson Info

12. Backlighting as a Main Light with Smoke
Pye brings in colorful smoke bombs to build on the concept of using atmospheric elements to change the look and lighting in our portraits. Post-production instructions are included in this tutorial.

Lesson Info

Backlighting as a Main Light with Smoke

earlier, we did a atmosphere case study using atmospheric aerosol, Easy way to add interest to your shots were going to do another case study here, this time with smoke bombs were using the Enola Gay WP 40 smoke grenade. Now you can grab these online or at a local kind of tactical paintball store. They have them there as well. We have video online that talks about kind of safely using these items, so be sure to check that out before you actually go and use it on shoot. It will also save 10 bucks because they're 10 bucks a pop. So So watch the video. You can learn how exactly how to use them. But what I want you to see and take away from this video is how dramatically are seen. Changes once again by the simple addition of this little modifier, this little special effects accessory. So we still have the exact same lighting set up as the last video we have that to kind of, Well, it's that single light back light with a fill that you're going to see. But we're gonna get a very different se...

t of images and then we'll work through them and post. So let's go ahead and jump in and watch the video and then dive into the post Purple looks sick. Hold it, Hold it. Hold it. Now switch. Okay, Got those? Hold on. Are you Can you do any more? You get Can you cross it over the Yep. One more time. Okay. Can you do any twist? Twirl Alternative? Yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay, Right there. Hold that. Mm. What was that? Pointed up? A little bit. There you go. There you go. There you go. Oh, pointing away. Yeah, it just came over this way. You're good. You're good. You're good. Keep your eyes closed. Okay. Now go back to your pose. Switch it up. Close your eyes. All right, let's process these images. Now, Looking back at the way that I processed this file, I kind of feel like I was a little bit little off on my colors that day. Sometimes sometimes that happens, you know? I mean, Carlos, sometimes you edit something you look back on and you're like, Man, my my color, my eyeballs were really off. Hi. I always think that you have a couple screws loose regardless. Cool. Cool. Appreciate that. So I'm gonna give you guys to different raw files from this. Feel free to work on either, Um, but let's go ahead and just work on editing a little bit and kind of show you what I would do with this image first is I would just toss it cause it sucks. I'm kidding. It's it's not bad. It's a little bit deep on the shadows. I would say that's exposure. No, no, you know what? I'm having just as many problems right now in the edit as I was before. Okay, so what I'm gonna do is lift my shadows a bit and also my black point just a bit. Um And and here's the deal is that I once again think my temperature and everything is off. So if I try and start taking white points from around the image, I'm really not getting anywhere that's useful. Even there, like the skin tone just feels off to me. So what I'm gonna do is just go ahead and do it manually. So for me, the easiest way to do skin tones manually, especially on a shot like this, is to neutralize all of the temperature. So just dial it to somewhere where it's nice and kind of cool. And then from here, I can see the greens really easily. So here, I can see that right around. I want to get to this place where I can just barely see some pinks in the skin tone as well as some of the greens and about plus 14 or plus 13. My tent is where I get to. Then I'm just going to add a little bit of the yellows back in. Okay, and right about here, I start getting to a much more natural skin tone than before, where my colors were psychotic. Let's just Let's just check this out. Let's just just for shits and giggles, shits and giggles. Y'all okay, let's look at What the hell is this on the left side? Carlo, I like it. I mean, I probably could just put a little bit of saturation out, but her skin looks a little green buddy. Anyway, anyway, anyway, let's just go back to this. Let me make sure that that's d selected. It's okay, guys happens to all of us, not just Lee Morris. Wow, though it happens to him more than others. Okay, I'm gonna go ahead and boost the highlights up on this. What I'm looking at is really the skin right now, and I'm gonna go ahead and drop my white point just to pull the really harsh kind of whites from the clouds from the smoke clouds down a bit were to go ahead and add our radio burn. I'm gonna make sure that burn is placed directly over 0.5. Let's go ahead and also just increase the, uh I'm gonna increase the well. We lose her legs if we go too much. So let's leave it right there. All right, Now, there's not too much else that I would do for this particular image other than just maybe a lift on the shadows itself. So what I might do is just go ahead and grab that same and do a quick dodge and lift, and I'm gonna go ahead and paint it right over our subject at 100% flow and just kind of lift everything and again, I'm not going to be too picky with the way that this is applied yet. I'm going to first apply, okay? And then I'm gonna go ahead and use my mask to first control it. So we're not hitting those bright highlights. So as soon as the skin tone starts darkening on the right side, that's where I want to stop. And the deep, dark shadows I'm gonna leave those. So just the deep, dark shadows we're gonna leave. We're gonna turn the smoothness up just a bit. So now this one single brush has kind of If I delete this, it's just kind of lifted out this area of shadow on the right side. Could we have done this in camera? Absolutely. We could have moved the fill in just a little bit closer. But here's the deal. I wasn't using a flash or anything like that. I was using a fill card, right? So for using a fill card, if you're using a flash, you just turn the power of the flash up a little bit and you get a little more Phil. But with a fill card would have to bring it in closer, and then if we brought it in closer, we're actually going to have it visible in the frame. And so that's the only kind of trick there is in this case we're just doing in post. But we could have done it in camera had we added another light source. Sometimes that's a little more work than it's worth. Depending on how many shots are gonna be creating. Okay, so this looks nice. I still feel like the temperature for me is off. Is one of those tougher images because you've got to get it. So I'm gonna bring the because the smoke should indeed be purple. So at that lower temperature, it just wasn't quite purple. And I think right about here, actually, the lower tent, it wasn't purple right here. It's about right. 5500 and plus 37 4 magenta. We get to a good spot right here. Okay, So now all I'm gonna do is bring the There's a bit of this highlight over here on the left shoulder. That's a little bright. So what I might just do is burn this highlight. This is where I need to be a bit careful, because that burn is going to affect a lot of stuff around it, because there's a lot of highlights around it. So just be careful as you're painting that in and what I want to do is kind of control that burn. So I want to make sure it looks natural. So this is a little bit bright. This is a little bit dark, so I'm gonna land kind of summer about here. But it just has a nice job of, like, burning down the shoulder so that that shoulder is not so poppy in the frame. And then I'm going to do is go over here and we're going to go ahead and add one more new brush. And I want to do a detail enhancement. So we have the sky and cloud enhancement again, pause and dial that in. But what this is going to do is really exaggerate the smoke effect. And what's easier is just to simply paint this over the entire image and then hold down alt or option and paint it off the areas that you don't want it. So we don't want it anywhere on the skin, on the hair, you know, on these areas. Okay, now, that was a very puffy paint job right there, because I managed to really hit the cloud to the back. So let me just fix that. So I'm gonna make sure that I don't get any hailing basically on the background or areas around it, so just kind of make sure that it's nicely feathered. You don't have hollowing and this looks nice. You can also control the effect of this. So if you want to dial it back, if you want to make it more intense, um, I'm gonna go somewhere kind of in between. So I'm gonna go. Maybe what this is doing is kind of pulling highlights while exaggerating. So it's not allowing the left side. It's not allowing the highlight point to to blow out there. It's kind of bringing it back while adding detail in the shot. So if we look now at the final, this is honestly where I would leave it, there's not too much else I would do. I might just kind of go in here and do a quick spot removal. Just a little hell right here on this little blemish. Let's grab it from an area of nearby texture. Okay, and that's it. So if I reset this and we look, here's the before and here's the after in the shot, it looks nice. I'm going to add just a tiny bit of exposure. Maybe a little bit more contrast, just to give a little punch. And I like this edit much better than the prior one that happens. Okay, so go have fun with this. Play around with it, and let's go to the next video.

Class Description


  • Use portable flashes & modifiers to simulate natural light on-location.
  • Re-create golden hour without depending on the sun.
  • Use fog and flares to create an atmosphere and enhance the existing light.
  • Use Flash for advanced in-camera dodging and burning.
  • Mimic window light with flash.
  • Use creative backlighting as the main light.
  • Create realistic sun flares with Flash.


One of the most common misconceptions about flash photography is that flash makes an image look unnatural. In this flash workshop, the fourth in the lighting series, Pye Jirsa, teaches photographers how to create every natural light effect with flash, including golden hour, soft window light, and direct sun. These techniques, combined with the knowledge you gained from Flash Photography Crash Course, Lighting 101Lighting 201, and Lighting 301, give you full mastery of flash photography and full control of the light in any scene.

Photographers are constantly faced with unexpected lighting challenges. A client may want the golden hour look after the sun has already set. Weather conditions can delay or move your shoots. You may want a natural window light look in a room without windows. The list of potential challenges goes on and on, and being able to adapt to unexpected changes in lighting is a critical skill set for a professional photographer.

The workshop works through nearly 20 scenes from start to finish, showing you how to set up and light each scene. We also provide you with over 50 exercise files so that you can work alongside us in post to achieve the final look. In addition to learning how to light and capture the images featured in this workshop, you’ll also learn how to post-produce the images in Lightroom and Photoshop to get to the final look.

Just like Lighting 301, this workshop includes “power translations” with each lesson so that you can know the exact power settings used and recreate the same light using any flash or modifier that you already own.


  • Photographers with a basic understanding of flash photography who want to elevate their lighting skills.
  • Those who prefer the look of natural light but don’t want to limit their shoots to certain hours of the day or depend on specific weather conditions.


Adobe Lightroom Classic 2019
Adobe Photoshop 2019



Jye is an exceptional teacher and these videos really breakdown the construction of great lighting techniques. Enjoy the dry humour throughout. Well worth watching for even experienced photographers as there are lots of tips and tricks here.


Kyle made Pye's work look simple. I learned a lot of new ideas and was reminded of some that I had forgotten about. I'll be reviewing 201-401 again with the practice images.