Photography - The Ultimate Guide to Using Off-Camera Flash
4.5 (1,101 ratings)
Course Ratings are calculated from individual students’ ratings and a variety of other signals, like age of rating and reliability, to ensure that they reflect course quality fairly and accurately.
7,049 students enrolled

Photography - The Ultimate Guide to Using Off-Camera Flash

Follow me on 19 photo sessions & learn to create beautiful light using small flashes & take stunning dramatic portraits.
4.5 (1,101 ratings)
Course Ratings are calculated from individual students’ ratings and a variety of other signals, like age of rating and reliability, to ensure that they reflect course quality fairly and accurately.
7,049 students enrolled
Created by Bernie Raffe AMPA
Last updated 10/2015
English [Auto]
Current price: $23.99 Original price: $34.99 Discount: 31% off
5 hours left at this price!
30-Day Money-Back Guarantee
This course includes
  • 3.5 hours on-demand video
  • 6 downloadable resources
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
Training 5 or more people?

Get your team access to 4,000+ top Udemy courses anytime, anywhere.

Try Udemy for Business
What you'll learn
  • Know what type of equipment suits them best
  • Know how all of the gear fits together
  • Understand the various methods of triggering flashes
  • Know how to get perfect exposures using the manual mode
  • Discover how to make beautiful light for stunning images
  • Know how to control and light backgrounds
  • Understand and use various portrait lighting patterns
  • Know how to balance ambient and flash light
  • Know how to take dramatic images, indoors and outdoors
  • The student must have a camera with a hot shoe and be capable of Manual mode
  • The student's camera must have hot shoe, and be capable of Manual mode
  • At least one external flash, capable of varying power levels.

** Voted by students as one of Udemy's outstanding instructors of 2014 **

'Bernie does it again'
... another brilliant course by one of the very best instructors on Udemy. (thanks Marie)

'Worthy of Ten Stars' (thanks Diane)

Learn the fundamental principles and advanced concepts of using off-camera flash to take stunning portraits. This is a very comprehensive, practical photography course that covers everything you need to know.

Just because there is enough light in a room or outside to take a photo, doesn't mean that it's great light....

Learn how to create beautiful light using small flashes.

  • Follow me on 19 photo shoots, indoors and out
  • Take stunning images on a small budget and in a small room.
  • Learn the easy steps to getting your flash off your camera
  • Discover the inexpensive equipment you need, with links to the gear
  • Learn what modifiers do, and how they can make a significant difference.
  • Understand the various triggering methods and which one suits you best
  • Learn and understand the 5 aspects of off camera flash exposure
  • Understand why Manual mode is best, and what makes it so easy
  • Learn advance techniques, controlling backgrounds / multiple flashes / gels / light patterns / balancing ambient and flash light etc...
  • Learn how High Speed Sync and ND filters can help to get better backgrounds outside
  • Everything explained in detail, with a fun teaching style
  • Be amazed at the results from my 'bonus' product photo shoot using a DIY box

A powerful skill at your fingertips

Advanced and professional photographers do not generally use any of the semi-automatic modes (e.g Aperture / Shutter Speed priority etc..) when shooting in a studio environment. This course will demonstrate why, and show you just how easy it is to use Manual modes for consistent exposures and how it can aid the learning process.

Content and Overview - Downloads are ENABLED for this course!

The course goes right back to basics, but also covers advanced topics. You'll learn about the equipment, what to buy and what not to buy if on a tight budget. It demonstrates how to put the gear together, how to modify it, and shows various ways of triggering the flashes, Exposure is covered in great details, with one video on each of the 5 aspects of exposure.

Come with me on these photo sessions, and watch as I talk through the camera and flash settings and take (mostly) great photos with (mostly) gorgeous models, using a fun teaching style.

A bonus video on product photography is included, a DIY setup that can provide spectacular results. Great for eBay or just making some money on the side.

Designed for beginners (although not complete beginners), through to enthusiasts and professionals, on completing this course you'll have the knowledge and confidence to start taking beautifully lit portraits that will wow your family and friends.

Modesty almost forbids me publishing some comments about my teaching style, taken from reviews of some of my other courses, but I overcame that, so here they are:-

Bernie is really easy to listen to, and his videos were really entertaining and kept you listening. (I also like his accent!)

Many online courses suffer from over prepared, monotonic boring voice overs but Bernie's style is a bit like having your mate round to show you how to do something. This even goes to leaving some bloopers in which makes it human and fun.

Bernie is a hoot! He knows his material, presents it well, and is witty to boot. It's a great combination in a teacher.

I love Bernie's approach. Such a great instructor,

Bernie is an excellent teacher and his enthusiasm for photography is contagious.

Bernie is a fantastic tutor,

Love it, love it, love it!!

Who this course is for:
  • Not suited for beginners who have only just purchased a camera
  • Suitable for beginners who are familiar with their camera, through to advanced and pro photographers
Course content
Expand all 36 lectures 03:25:11
+ The Equipment
6 lectures 34:42

Cameras and flashes - what do you need?

The chances are you already have some of the equipment you need, but even if you don't, it's not necessary to spend a small fortune, it can be done on quite a small budget. Speedlights in particular can be purchased at low cost, but what type of off-camera speedlight do you need.

After watching this video you will know if your camera and flash is suitable, and if not, what gear to to buy.

Preview 06:52

How to mount your flash onto a stand using a flash umbrella bracket.

In this video, I demonstrate how the flashes, stands and umbrellas all fit together. It's quite straightforward, but you're going to need a flash umbrella bracket to make sure the flash fits on the light stands along with either a shoot thorough or reflective umbrella.

Light stands and flash umbrella brackets

In this video I go through each of the various ways to trigger off-camera flash, and there's a few of them, some more expensive than others! This video goes into detail but please take a look at the 'Triggering Summary' PDF document for a brief summary.

Preview 10:05

Shoot through umbrellas, softboxes, reflective umbrellas, grids, snoots and gobos. The generic term for these is 'Light Modifier', because they erm... modify the light.

This video describes them in details and points out some pros and cons for the type of off-camera flash photography that I'll be demonstrating later videos.

Light modifiers, what are they for, and why you need them.

You may not be making the most of your large modifier, maybe it's not as large as you think! This lecture demonstrates the reason for this, and shows a simple solution.

Flash heads are small, modifiers can be large, avoid this problem.

In the context of off-camera flash, some light meters are commonly referred to as flash meters. But do you need one for this type of photography. Some would argue that you should always use them, others that they're antiquated in this digital age.

In this video, I offer you my opinion.

Do I need a flash meter for perfect exposures?
+ Exposure considerations when using off-camera flash (Important, please watch)
7 lectures 31:26

In this whole series of lectures, i'll only be using the Manual mode on both the camera and flash. No Aperture priority, no Shutter speed priority and no TTL.

Manual mode is easy to understand and do, and is another 'string to your bow' when it comes to exposure.

Why we're using the Manual mode, no Aperture or Shutter speed priority,

The aperture settings is one of the 5 aspects of off-camera flash exposure settings. Although it controls both the ambient and flash light, in the world of indoor off-camera flash, it's generally used mainly to control the flash exposure.

Apertures and an introduction to indoor exposure

The overall exposure is controlled by the Aperture, the Shutter Speed and the ISO, flash to subject distance and flash power. 

The shutter speed has no impact on the flash exposure because it's  a very fast burst of light compared to shutter speeds which are much slower. So what does the shutter speed do? Well, it has a specific role to play when using flash.

Preview 04:51

When we increase the ISO, we increase our camera’s sensitivity to light, and so it becomes more sensitive to both the ambient light and the flash light together.

So how and when should you use it for off camera flash photography?

ISO and its role in flash exposure

You can almost think of flash power as being like a domestic dimmer switch, except that instead of the light output changing smoothly like it does with a dimmer, the light output jumps up or down, by whatever power setting you’ve chosen.

Determining the flash power for perfect exposures

You would think that if you moved the flash twice as far from the subject, that you would halve the light.

But you'd be wrong, in fact you'd lose a whole lot more light than that. This video explains in simple terms, the effect it has when you change the distance from flash to subject, especially on the background.

The effect of flash to subject distance on exposure

This lecture is from my other course, Become a Better Photographer - Part II

What is flash sync speed exactly, why is there a maximum sync speed, and what's the way around it?

Maybe you're already aware that your camera's shutter speed is limited to (usually) around 1/250th of a second when using flash. But why is that, and what happens if you ignore it, (assuming your camera allows you to ignore it?) There is a way round it using High Speed Sync, but it's not a perfect solution.

This film includes some focal plane shutter animation to explain in detail what it's all about.

Flash maximum sync speed and High Speed Sync
+ Indoor photo sessions
12 lectures 01:16:08

Great results with a simple one-light setup, and you can get vastly different results by simply moving the light around the subject.

Indoor session 1 - Simple first one-light setup

This lecture demonstrates the first steps needed in order to improve the look of the background.

Preview 07:01

Now that you've learnt how to control the light spill on the background, you can start thinking about lighting it.

Indoor session 3 - Light the background for more impact

You can easily change the look and feel of the background using readily available gels.

Indoor session 4 - Colouring the background using gels

The dramatic type of light seen so far isn't suitable for everyone, here's how to flatter your subject a little by using a fill light.

Indoor session 5 - Use a fill light to open up the shadows

Here's a great lighting setup for flattering your subject, commonly called Clam shell lighting

Indoor session 6 - Stunning beauty lighting using a 'Clam Shell' setup

We've been using a quite soft light so far in these videos, but sometimes you can get a more 'edgier' feel using a hard light

Indoor session 7 - More drama using a harder light source

The patterns of light and shadow on your subjects face will change depending on the position and height of the light and also the angle of the face.

Some lighting patterns have names, and this lecture describes 4 of them along with short and broad
Indoor session 8 - Portrait Lighting Patterns

You can make terrific looking backgrounds by firing a flash through various objects that find lying around the house This lecture demonstrates some great examples.

Indoor session 9 - Graphic backgrounds using household objects

Sometimes, the less you light something, the more interesting it becomes. Honeycomb grid attachments for speedlights are great because they produce a small shaft of light. They can give a really cool look, terrific for a little extra creativity.

Indoor session 10 - Dramatic light using a Honeycomb Grid

White backgrounds won't normally appear white, they can be anything from off white to black depending on your lighting setup.

This video demonstrates the technique for making a whiter than white background.

Indoor session 11 - Making a whiter than white background

We saw in a previous video how to create a glamour / beauty light using clam-shell lighting.

Here's another way of achieving a similar kind of light with just one 1 flash, but it does require a more expensive product.

Indoor session 12 - Stunning beauty lighting using a 'tri-flector'
+ Outdoor Photo Sessions
9 lectures 53:31

Shooting outside with off-camera flash requires a little more thought than when shooting inside. With off camera flash exposure indoors, you usually (but not always) want to avoid including any of the tungsten or fluorescent ambient light, outdoors you usually want to balance the ambient light with that of the flash.

Preview 07:20

With careful use of off-camera flash, you can get dramatic images by using the sky as the background. When using manual triggers, this is much easier to do when light level are lower, i.e dusk or early morning.

Dramatic portraits using sky as background

Having a perfect balance between the ambient and flash light will mean that the flash is acting as a fill light.

That's ok and works well, but to create a more dramatically lit portrait requires a difference balance.

Preview 05:24

Outdoor photo session at dusk

Outdoor sessions are much easier when you shoot at dusk or in a shaded area because the lower light levels allow more flexibility regarding wider apertures.

Not only are larger aperture easier on your flashgun, but they are great for blurring the background.

Balancing ambient light and flash - Photo session at the narrow gauge railway

On a bright day, typical exposure settings for off camera flash might be 1/250th at f8 or f11, ISO 100, so at your maximum sync speed it's impossible under normal circumstances to shoot with wide apertures in order to blur the background or do selective focusing.

There a couple of solutions, neither is perfect, but they do work. you can use either High Speed Sync (HSS) or a Neutral Density filter. There are pros and cons of each and this video explains them, I also carry out a simple experiment to compare the two solutions.

Explanation and demo of High Speed Sync and use of ND filter for wider apertures

Demonstration of the benefits of High Speed Sync

So far in these videos, i've been using manual triggers, and they work just great. However, they restrict you to the maximum sync speed of your camera, and that becomes a problem when shooting outside in bright conditions. In bright conditions at your max sync speed, you're forced to shoot at small apertures like f11, but sometimes it's great to be able to blur the background using wider apertures.

High Speed Sync (HSS) – Wide apertures on bright day

If you've watched some videos on my other courses you'll know I like to use graphic or grungy or backgrounds, here's the first of several shoots using these type of backgrounds

Graphic or Grungy backgrounds – Store shutters

Another idea for creating great backgrounds, this time it's the use of graffiti, here I use High Speed Sync to blur the background

Graphic or Grungy backgrounds – Graffiti (using HSS)

I just love these grungy backgrounds, especially when you can throw them out of focus, which I've done here using High Speed Sync.

Also, I tried a little experiment with blue gels, I'll leave it up to you to decide whether it worked!!

Graphic or Grungy backgrounds - A brick wall (using HSS)
+ Bonus video on Product photography using off camera flash
1 lecture 08:12

This video describes an easy to do method of taking professional product photos on a budget. Get terrific results that belie the nature of the method used.

DIY product photography setup