Four Steps When Using Flash to Create Natural vs Dramatic Imagery | Mastering Your Craft

By | March 12, 2020

common misconception I don’t like flash
because it doesn’t look natural well in this video I’m gonna address this
misconception and teach you that flash can look either natural or dramatic and
I’m gonna give you four steps to getting your light right and to your intention
with each photograph you take my name is Pye and I’m one of the founders of Lynne
and Joseph photography and SLR lounge comm we’re teaming up with a dorama to
bring you a new series of photography tutorials called master your craft right
here on adoramatv so let’s dive in what’s up friends it is so good to be
back here on adoramatv thank you guys for having me thanks for tuning in and
what we’re talking about now is this common misconception when it comes to
flash photography so a lot of us we don’t like jumping into flash because we
desire a more natural look to our images and we think that flash can’t be that in
fact when we think of flash what most often comes to mind are kind of two
things one we obviously think of this kind of overall direct flash type look
right and honestly direct flash when used correctly when you stylistically
can still look great and it has its own look and appeal on its own but we know
that it’s direct flash right either way you know as direct flash is not natural
the other thing that we typically think about when it comes to flash photography
is shots like this images that are more dramatic so with these more dramatic
images we’re seeing our backgrounds very dark and we very noticeably can see
light being added to these subjects in the photograph either way once again
there’s nothing wrong with this style its degree and it has its own appeal all
by itself but it’s not what you would describe as a natural photograph so in
this video I want to talk about exactly how you can get to either look whether
you’re going for natural or dramatic and I’m gonna give you four steps in getting
there so first let’s go ahead and reference a couple slides these are
actually from lighting one and lighting two okay so from our as well as
workshops we have this slide and I want you guys to internalize this you can
screenshot it do whatever you’d like but what you see here is when we’re
balancing flash for dramatic effect so we want to get
that kind of papi look the ambient exposure is pulled down when we’re going
for that kind of a look well what’s happening here if you look on this
little sliding scale is we go to the left we pull our ambient light down and
we bring our flash power up that’s all we’re really saying here so if you want
to create a dramatic image you’re gonna pull the in-camera exposure down and
you’re gonna increase the flash power that you’re adding to your shot and when
we get that we see images like the examples down below okay so where you
have a subject that’s very deep in the shadows because we take that base
exposure that dark a mule a shot and we pump in then a lot of light to bring our
subject count in every one of these cases super dark scene we pump a lot of
light into our subjects okay great so the next thing is well what we want to
get a more kind of natural look to our images in fact what if we want to create
natural-looking light whether it be schooled now our Sun flares whether it
be you know kind of just natural light that falls on the skin whatever it is
well we go to the opposite side on this slide so when you look at this slide now
we’re leaving the ambient exposure in camera to be brighter and because we’re
leaving the frame to be quite bright we’re pulling the flash power down so
we’re letting the flash power be darker right so when you look at the before and
after in each of these you’ll notice that the a my exposure is very bright
already and each image shows just a little bit of Flash being added and what
I want to do is kind of dive into this so you guys can see it just a little bit
closer right so we look at these images where we’re going for a natural look
your base exposure is already very bright this is one eight hundred of a
second at f/2 and ISO 50 and notice that when we add flash it’s literally like a
half stop maybe one stop of light that’s coming in directionally over the shot it
could almost be a reflector but the benefit of using flash is that you’re
not going to cause people to squint there’s there’s a lot of benefits you
know outside of using like a reflector constant light to kind of fill light but
the main one is that you can get as much power as you want you have mark
all over and it’s not going to cost you to squint when you put a lot of light on
them like a reflector with but that’s the important pieces that you see where
those baseline exposures work right same thing here so in this scene this is
actually coming from lighting for and in lighting for we’re teaching how to mimic
every form of natural light from window like a golden hour to flares to direct
light to midday Sun all of it we want you guys to be able to understand
flashes that potential to be able to create sunlight essentially anywhere so
here we’re actually looking at a flashed photograph the base exposure is one to n
of a second F one point eight nine so 800 it’s actually pretty dark the Sun is
already set and now we’re popping that flash behind the scene and just kind of
barely peeking through the window to kind of flare in so most of what you’re
seeing again is that natural ambient light we’re using that flash this is a
little bit of a flare to kind of convincingly create this Golden Hour
looking effect okay so when we go to the dramatic side I want you to see kind of
a couple examples of this that are fullscreen beyond what you saw in that
little slide so again you look at these scenes and you’re like yeah we’ve
definitely pulled down the ambulance poacher we’re leaving things dark and
we’re putting just a little bit of light into the places that we want to light up
right so this entire left background his body everything is left dark we’re
putting a flash just a little bit in areas we want same thing in this scene
just a little bit of light exactly where we want it okay so this brings me to our
four steps and we’re gonna talk through the camp framework in this video because
it’s something you’re gonna probably see a lot in all of our videos whether
you’re here on adoramatv whether you’re watching us on srl lounge or in our
premium content on srl and workshops calm so the camp framework is a four
step systematic approach to dialing in really everything in any scene that you
photograph regardless of what subjects you’re shooting and the first step is
the C so camp CA MP c stands for composition this means that before you
kind of think about anything in fact before you even pick up your camera I
want you to walk the scene scout look at different angles figure out what
compositions you like what angles you like what are the
possibilities in that location this means that even if you have your subject
there don’t feel rushed to just jump into shooting take a moment it doesn’t
take long just convince yourself to slow down a little bit take a moment walk the
scene figure out the composition first that is step number one and I’ll always
dial in my composition in camera get an idea of the exact frame that I want
before I even touch the exposure or adding light step 2 now you’re gonna go
to ambient exposure okay I mean exposure means this is where
we’re gonna set our intention now that you understand the exposure balancing to
get to a natural versus a dramatic image before you ever touch the flash set your
intention in the camera if you want a more natural looking image you’re gonna
leave the ambient like brighter and then you’re gonna add in less flash power
right and if you’re aiming for something more dramatic you’re gonna pull that a
mean exposure down and then you’re gonna add more flash power but worry first
about that a mean exposure sets your intention for the shot then what I love
doing is taking a little Tesh OTT with your subject or a test subject in the
frame and from there we’re gonna go to modify or add light that’s step 3 so in
this step we can choose to either modify the existing light via reflectors or
other kind of natural light modifiers or we can choose to add light in cases of
obviously we want to add flash we’re gonna be adding light but start with one
start with one light and then if you need more add another one so we’re gonna
begin by adding one light to our scene and then dialing the power setting based
on again that intention right so now we make things a lot more easy because we
don’t have to constantly guess oh man what power do I need what power well the
power is gonna be based upon your ambient exposure if you set the scene to
be very dark this is the great thing about this I want you to put this in
your pipe and smoke it okay because if you set the scene to be really dark if
your ISO is at 100 or 50 or whatever it is and you’re dialing the a mean
exposure down you automatically know you’re gonna be
working with higher power settings on your flashes this is where you’ve been
working at 1/4 1/2 or even full power if you are running at high ISOs well my
general rule of thumb is that’s kind of a weird origin behind that I’ll say but
either way that general kind of rule there is start with the inverse of what
your ISO is what that means is simple if you’re at 1600 ISO put your Flash to
1/16 power and start there if it’s too much dial it down if it’s too little
dial it up easy peasy if you’re at ISO 100 start at 1 over 1
dial it down or dial it up when in the Sun 1 over 1 so again in bright scenes
if you’re dialing things down you’re just gonna go max flash time if you’re
going with a very subtle amount of light because you’re dialing your ambient
exposure to be more on the natural side and things are more bright then bring
the flash power down start at 1/8 1/16 1/32 start these lower power settings
and adjust from there this way you guys don’t have to memorize anything you have
to memorize flash power for different apertures I hate math why would we want
to get on our shoot and be doing math where artists be creative and all you
got to do is just kind of start in that rough area it’ll take you 1 maybe 2
shots to get it down in but after that one light I know I’m holding two fingers
up but one light after one light is set up then you’re gonna set up your second
light if you actually need one and then after two lights are set up if you need
a third light you’re gonna set up a third light it’s actually necessary just
start with one last step step number four is once your lights setup you’ve
already decided your composition you’re a man exposure your light power and
everything is good now we get to the step of photograph this is where your
mind should be focused on imposing on directing on getting the details right
and getting the shot exactly what you want and the beauty about this is now
once you’re on step four you’re not thinking about anything from a technical
standpoint because all of that has been dialed in so now you can let your mind
focus specifically on just right brain functions being creative being in the
moment getting the best possible shot when you
get to a new scene you start the camp framework all over again and you’re
gonna do it again so that’s it I love talking through all this stuff with you
guys and I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did if you did I’d love for
you guys to subscribe it to the adoramatv channel you guys can leave a
comment below let me know what you think about the video I’m gonna do my best to
respond in addition if you want more of the best a to Z education available
please check out SLR lounge you can also follow us at
sr lounge and you can follow me personally at PI G Ursa and I’m gonna
see you guys in the next video face

42 thoughts on “Four Steps When Using Flash to Create Natural vs Dramatic Imagery | Mastering Your Craft

  1. Gilbert Henri Post author

    Great video, thank you for your time and work. Learned something again… it's about to turn into a habit! lol… Thank you and thumb up!

  2. kierenkd Post author

    You are a good teacher. I really enjoy the content you push out

  3. Rickie Recardo Sumler Post author

    Thank you very much for explaining this topic. I has been a struggle for me until now. Saving this video within my library.

  4. Jay G. Post author

    Excellent video! I keep getting requests for light and airy shots. Now I know how to do them and still use my lights!

  5. Patty Mattes Post author

    Great video!!! This is something I wanted to learn. Thank you!!!!!!!

  6. Victor Miguel Perez Pedrogo Post author

    I understand that your concept is very good but I think it is incomplete. If I want my environment to be brighter I have to increase the shutter and open the camera aperture to let in more light. Therefore, I would have to use HSS since I am out of camera sync.

    Achieving the dramatic effect is simple because it would operate within the camera's sync

  7. Wendy Arthur Post author

    Love the way you explain all things photography. I have learned a lot just from this one video. I have only used my flashes once for a friend's Christmas portrait shoot and I have to say, I wish I had seen this video before the shoot! Thanks Pye!

  8. Chris Parayno Post author

    Thanks! Now how do I do this with my plebean in camera built in flash?

  9. Alvin Lipscomb Post author

    Very nice, Most people get scared of flash because it is on camera. It could be the built-in flash or a Speedlight on camera and the flash is firing directly at the subject.
    I know it is better to get your flash off-camera, But you can definitely create a natural look using this technique with on-camera flash.
    The Dramatic look on camera doesn't work firing directly at the subject.
    Thanks for the video

  10. Lorraine FreelyKirk Post author

    Thank You! That was a Great explanation of balancing light for different moods.

  11. epic digital services Post author

    i like the systematic approach!

  12. Layak Miah Post author

    You're the man Pye. Love how you explain things.

  13. Fred Herdman Post author

    Great tutorial! Just bought my first set of strobes and looking forward to elevating my lighting for my clients. I love just natural light, but clients are wanting more "drama". Hoping being able to better manipulate the light will give me the results in camera vs hours of manipulation in Lr or Ps.

  14. 95 Sub-Zero Post author

    Really good Pye, clearly explained even if I have to write down CAMP to remember the sequence!

  15. Amit Krupal Post author

    Superb, I think 8 aliens watched this to dislike it.

  16. Frank Hernandez Post author

    I have seen similar videos on this topic, but your explanation was the best. Thank you.

  17. Steve Parkins Post author

    Brilliantly explained and simplified…many Thanks inspiring CAMP! got it

  18. Twenell Riddle Post author

    Hello everyone, I had the great honor of meeting Pye at WPPI this year, he is a great educator with a great personality when teaching his craft. His videos, however informative, does not do him justice in person. If you are ever able to attend any of his workshops, you will walk away forever changed!
    Thank you Pye

  19. Ross Sayer Post author

    great explanation and very beneficial to someone just starting with off camera flash Thanks for sharing

  20. Gabriel Vasquez Post author

    Thank you Pye. That was strightfoward and easy to remember. Great as always!

  21. Peter Hicks Post author

    I see you tend to favour using f:1.4 and an ND filter on some of your shots.
    Is there a reason for doing so, other than dof?
    Would using hss achieve the same result?

    I hate using filters unnecessarily.

  22. Jerry m Post author

    I love using flash as I use it more often than natural light. But this was still great on how you made it simple with a quick breakdown. I often come a way with some good tips from your tutorials even if I do happen to know what’s being talked about on a topic I still come away with something. Always Good stuff 👍

  23. Jerian Post author

    This video has given me so much insight …. Pye is such an awesome instructor …. he made this topic so easy to comprehend. Now I just need to go camping

  24. Sandra A Post author

    Thank you so much for this tutorial Pye. I haven't been the best with flash…especially off camera…in terms of where to bounce and how much power to use. I have only used on camera flash so far as off camera flash is still a bit intimidating for me. Being more of a technical learner, the acronym breakdown is extremely helpful. Will definitely commit CAMP to memory!

  25. Yehoshua Derovan Post author

    Love the CAMP acronym, I'm gonna use that.
    When I tutor I usually explain the relationship between flash and ambient in game theory terminology: there are win-win situations, there are winner-loser situations, like in studio where the ambient loses totally.
    I'm gonna use CAMP because it places it in the process. Thank you.

  26. Symz G Post author

    You make things ridiculously easy. Saying that I do have a question (great vid btw, always love your work), for wedding photography, would you most likely go for a dramatic look or light and airy

  27. zv more Post author

    learning everyday so much , thank you Pye!! hope your stay in PR was good, you guys were hilarious filming the shoot in San Juan 🙂
    you are an outstanding educator of light !

  28. Lama Steve Post author

    We don’t care about flash or not. We care if it’s a good image.Tools are just tools. No I’m not buying Profoto for 4 times the price. Round in nice but a rarely shoot round people !

  29. Peter Lewis Post author

    Flash (whether speedlight or studio) is nearly infinitely variable and can produce stunning and natural looks. Excellent video.

  30. Subhro Kar Post author

    Pye, you explained this very well, however there are a couple of things I think that could be improved:

    1. You seemed to do a lot of guess work about what the fill in or on the other hand, "overpowering" flash power should be. This involved lots of trial and error. A simple solution would be to use an external hand held light meter. First, get a general idea of what the exposure should be. Then set the light meter to your correct ambient exposure, and find out how many stops you are off. Put that many stops in your light. This does not involve guess work, and taking lots of photos, trying to guesstimate the exposure on your back of camera small screen, that is anyway very deceptive and inaccurate.

    2. Mathematics is life. And an artist also has to know mathematics. Rule of thirds, Golden Ratio, Fractals, I can go on and on.

  31. Brian Kenneth Kondas Post author

    It's a bit strange that Pie talks about ISO and Flash power and did not mention aperture. You also want to consider aperture which has a huge impact on flash power. Moreover, closing down the aperture can darken the exposure making it more dramatic. I would consider the aperture first. Then shutter speed will effect the maximum flash sync speed. For Nikon D750 this is 1/200. If you want max flash power, then shutter needs to be equal or under max flash sync speed.

  32. Dmitry Litvinov Post author

    Exactly technique I figured out after long time practice, wish I seen this video earlier to save me a lot of time,good content thank you


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