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Tips & Tricks

10 Tips On When & How To Use Off Camera Flash | Ask SLR Lounge

By Pye Jirsa on June 23rd 2016

We are excited to start this new series, Ask SLR Lounge, where you ask the questions and we answer them on Facebook Live. This is an open forum for you, our community, to ask us anything you want.

To submit your question, go to and leave your question in the comment section of the post.

Question 1: How do you know how often and when to use off-camera flash?

Watch the Facebook Live video for the answer here:

You can also view directly on FB here.
We only incorporate flash about 10% of the time. There’s a sequence that we go through to determine when to use it and when not to. Flash can improve the quality of an image, but it can also reduce the quality when it’s not used well. Here is the process we use to decide if we want to use flash for an image.

1. Look At Our Scene and Background

Ask yourself, what kind of a scene do you actually want to capture and create?

2. Look At The Existing Light Direction

Once you’ve established the direction you want to take, look at the existing light direction. Determine if the current lighting situation works, or does it need to be modified?

3. Does The Light Quality Match the Desired Look?

For example, if you are aiming for a soft and airy look, does the current light quality enhance that? Do you need to modify the light to achieve the look you want?


Natural Light – Canon 5D MK III, Sigma Art 24mm f/1.4, 1/1000, ISO 100

4. Can The Light Be Modified With Simple Tools?

If the light quality doesn’t match the desired look, can it be modified with just simple tools, like reflectors or a scrim?

5. If You Can’t Use Simple Tools To Modify, It’s Time To Use Flash

At this point, we go through another series of steps. (We talk more in depth about this in Lighting 101 and Lighting 201).

*Note: In the video, we are using the Phottix Mitros Plus with a built-in radio system.

6. Select the Ambient Exposure For The Camera

Ask yourself, what do you want the scene to look like? More dramatic? More natural?

7. Dial In Appropriate Flash Power Settings To Complement The Scene

If you are going for a light, natural looking image, you’ll lower your flash power. For something more dramatic, bump up the flash power because you’ll want to pull the ambient light down.


OCF – Canon 5D MK III, Sigma Art 24mm 1/200, ISO 50, f/11

8. Modify The Color Temperature Of The Flash As Needed

If you want to match the existing light or add in some stylistic effects, modify the color temperature with a gel. We use the MagMod grid and gels, which are the most commonly used modifiers in my kit.


9. Determine If You Need to Modify The Flash Quality

Make sure that your flash quality matches the quality of light that you need. Do you want a softer light that makes the scene look more painterly? If so, use a simple umbrella. They tend to spill light, but it’s easy to use, and can be controlled when used correctly. If you want something more controllable, check out the Westcott Apollo series.

10. Make Adjustments As Needed

While you’re shooting, make adjustments as needed. Adjust the pose, watch for highlights and shadows, etc.

When considering to use flash, remember that you don’t need to use it all the time. But when there’s a scene that just needs that extra kick or you need extra light to balance things out, that’s when the Lighting 101 and Lighting 201 courses are going to be so invaluable. They will teach you the differences in how to pull off dramatic vs natural looks, and how to modify that light quality to match your vision of the scene. Stream the full courses as a Premium Member or purchase them in the SLR Lounge Store here.

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Remember to submit your questions at  in the comment section of the post.



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Founding Partner of Lin and Jirsa Photography and SLR Lounge.

Follow my updates on Facebook and my latest work on Instagram both under username @pyejirsa.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Kamely Martinez

    Hope I win

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  3. Kamely Martinez

    Thanks for the tips

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  4. Kamely Martinez

    These tips are excellent

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  5. Kamely Martinez

    Excellent tips thanks

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  6. Paul Wynn

    Excellent check list, good tips. With experience it does become easier to spot where flash will improve the scene, and of course where you need it to achieve your creative ideas.

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