flash photography video tutorial

Flash photography video lesson   Transcript below: Today we are going to talk about flashes. It is on of the important lessons in photography as it is difficult as a […]

Flash photography video lesson


Transcript below:
Today we are going to talk about flashes. It is on of the important lessons in photography as it is difficult as a photographer not to have one. There are many situations when there is not enough light for a proper exposure and without a flash you will not get a good result. As a beginner is very cary when you are trying to use the flash and the result if out of control. I have been there and i was very frustrated as the results were awful until i started to understand the flash, and how to get it to give me the results I want.

So the flash is the tool to add light to your scene and improve your result. It is an accessory to the camera which is a must have to every serious photographer. Learning how to use it is critical. We can talk about flash for hours but this is only the basic information to get you used to it and we will touch each individual flash aspect in separate tutorials in the future

we are going to talk about the following 3 topics:

  1.  flash classifications advantages and disadvantages
  2. what you need to know about the flashes, characteristics, settings and situations
  3. we are going to go through few exercises to help you get in learn how to control your flash
  4. Conclusion

1. Flash classification

a) integrated on camera flashes.

for most of the point and shoot small and medium camera, there is a small flash integrated similar to a phone these days, or a pop up flash that can be used when needed either automatically or manually.

Advantages for these flashes:

conveninece: flash is always there, you do not have to worry to much as it will be part of your camera.


small sizes light that create harsh shadows, lack of the power control, and the position always pointing to the subject giving the worst average photos which I do not like and I do never recommend. The world is full of them, and you can do that with a phone without being a photographer.

I am not going to talk about these types of flashes as I would never not recommend to rely on them as the results are very poor in my opinion

b) separate flash units, or flashguns.

They are coming in a large variety of shapes, sizes, values and power levels. The need to be purchased separate to the camera and used either mounted on the camera or off camera connected with a cable or a wireless remote. they can match the camera brand or be third party produced and it is always a good idea to get a compatible flash unit to talk to the camera and back.this is not always the case and you will understand why after this tutorial

Advantages of separate flash units:

– full control of the settings. you will be able to change power, and the direction of the light. Most of the flashes these days can be rotated vertically and horizontally to shoot in different directions. very important and very useful when you want to use a ceiling, or a wall as an indirect light source by pointing the flash towards them and rely on reflected light.

– flexibility in position as on camera flash, or off camera for a better result. you have the choice to use the flash away from the camera for more interesting light results coming from a different direction, avoiding the poor front face flash result

– flexibility of adding more than one flash to the mix for professional photos. You can choose to place several flashes in different positions by controlling remotely and wirelessly

Disadvantages of the flash units:

the only disadvantage is the price and size, but for a serious photographer this should not be a deal breaker

2. What we need to know about flashes

A) flash power

is represented by the amount of light produced during the exposure. It is measured in units and fraction of the unit and it starts to one – full power and decreases in various increments to half of unit, a quarter, an eight down to 128th of a unit which is not a lot of light. Important thing to remember is that one unit depends on each individual flash and a more expensive and advances flash will produce more power than a cheap one.

B) flash shooting mode.

we have 3 choices which we are going to discuss shortly in detail for each

ETTL mode

which is the short for exposure through the lens. This is the automatic mode of the flash and you do not have to worry about much if you are going to use in the proper situations. In order to benefit from this you need a compatible flash with your camera and they need to talk to each other.

The way it works, camera will measure the distance and the brightness of the subject as it would normally do – please see the previous tutorials about how camera works and metering modes). The camera will know that it has a flash attached to it and it will tell the flash this information and it will adjust its settings accordingly. Flash will do the same and will choose the appropriate power for the situation.Camera and flash will act together as one. Switching off the flash will change also the camera settings to the proper exposure.

it is very important to understand that the camera will assume the flash is directed towards the subject as it knows the distance. The principle is not going to work if you do now have the flash on camera towards the subject and you are trying to bounce the light on a external surface. there is no way the camera can see that and you will not control the result – not in ETTLS mode.

So ETTL will work only in this scenario – towards one subject and flash is directed to the subject. this can be successful in low light or full sunlight for fill in the harsh shadows.

see example and the difference of a portrait in full sunlight with and without ETTL flash fill.

Manual Mode

In manual mode you can manually select the amount of the light the flash will give you. it does not care about the other camera settings and for this you do not need a compatible flash necessarily. The flash will give the same amount of light every time it triggers regardless how natural light is available, distance to the subject, or position. I find this mode of using the flash very useful when I have time to take few test manual shots and adjust the camera settings accordingly.

The best way to use manual flash is to set up the flash on maximum power, take a shot, see if image is over or under exposed and play with the camera settings, not the flash. If overexposed I would either increase the shutter speed, decrease the aperture and last one change the ISO, also the result you are after. If image is underexposed I would to the opposite.

If you intend to use the flash for many shots at one session, I would decrease the power and do the same exercise of adjusting the camera settings. I will promise you that within 3-4 test shots you will get it right.

Multi mode

In multi mode you tell the flash to trigger more than once in a specific interval with a specific power. you will be able to change these settings manually. The applicability of this mode is limited only for a multi- exposure effect which you can play with several times until you get bored and drop it alltogether. I will show you in the exercise what I am talking about and let you decide how important is for you

C)Flash zoom

not sure about other flashes, but mine as it is top of the range has the ability to control the width of the light cone it gives. That is important when you want to cover with light a wider or a more narrow area in your image. I will not stress about this at this stage as it is less important for now. Again, a different tutorial explore this individual topic


I am going to show you few exercises how to get to know your flash. I am going to use this dummy face for the moment.

Let’s start

switch the camera on manual mode and lock the ISO to 100, shutter speed to 1/125 and the aperture, let,s say 4. Set up the ETTLS mode and take a test shot. do not worry about anything else at the moment. You will get an image which should be properly exposed like this one. I am not going to comment on the fact the light is frontal for the moment, and let remember that this works only by pointing the flash towards the subject

next step is to modify the settings which in a normal situation without the flash will underexpose the image. In my case I will decrease the aperture to 10 and 20. using the flash in ETTL mode will give me the same result, same exposure level.

in conclusion this proves how the ETTL mode will give you the same result every time regardless the camera setting. Also the flash will adapt if shooting conditions will change.

next step is use of the manual mode

I am going to switch the camera is manual mode and the flash in manual mode. I will use the flash on full power, one unit and select few setting on my camera randomly. I will choose ISO 100, Aperture 10, and shutter speed 1/200. I will take a test shot and see the result on the LCD screen. If the image is overexposed I will modify the shutter speed or aperture or both to suit, for example Aperture down to 20 and take another test shot. This way within 3-4 shots I will promise you I will get it right and so should you.

Aslo having a lot of light in the scene will give you the best quality image, crisp and sharp.

This is the best way how to use Manual settings for the flash.

As mentioned before direct flash towards the subject is a no go for a serious photographer. If indoors and there is a ceiling above, I would turn the flash vertically towards the ceiling and use it as an indirect light source. You will notice that the quality of light is way better as the ceiling will act like a large light source and will soften the shadows. you will notice some shadows under the chin, and that can be solved by lifting the bounce card that came integrated in my flash. there are many accessories for the flash to soften the light as  this is still a small light source but we are going to talk bout that in a different tutorial

word of advice, is you are going to use manual settings once you get used to it, I would actually attempt to use half of the flash power or even a quarter depending on the shooting conditions. This will help you saving some batteries as the flash uses a lot of power. I usually use also a additional battery pack which will help me shoot for longer with more power.

Just as an example, for an event indoors, like a conference, party or wedding reception, I use the manual setting of the camera and the flash, take few test shots with the flash towards the ceiling until I get the exposure right and shoot for a long time without having to worry about it any more as the ceiling is the same

the next exercise is the multi mode.

Let’s set the camera in manual mode, lock in the ISO to 100, shutter speed and aperture to a level that will gove me a good exposure and set up the flash on 1/32 power flash count to 5 times and a random interval to test.

we take a shot a get a result. Depending on the desired effect, we can change the flash power, number count and the interval to get what you want. I leave it with you to test and if you get something interesting, feel free to share on Academy of photography website and you will get to have your image publicly displayed and a link to your website if you have one.


In conclusion, having the right flash and knowing how to use it very important for a serious photographer. Spending a bit of time to learn how to control it will repay your efforts with great results and with an improved photography skill to be enjoyed for the rest of your life.

I would recommend you follow our advice and play with your equipment until you are in control and let us know if you are happy with our lessons, of if you would like us to respond to a specific question or talk about a specific topic, feel free to sent us an email.

Hoping that you enjoyed this tutorial I wish you happy shooting


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About Christian Tudor

professional photographer, main editor at Academy of Photography and