Flash on location

Have you ever been unsure of how to use studio flash on location? In this photography class Karl explains the shot he’s looking for and how he plans to achieve it.

Using carefully identified key elements in his backdrop, Karl uses filters to deliberately underexpose his background. He then uses portable studio flash to correctly expose his model, creating some very interesting and dramatic effects.

In this class you’ll learn how to identify strong compositional elements to incorporate in a shot, how to use filters for creative effect and how to balance daylight and artificial light.

In this photography class we cover the following:

  • How to use flash photography on location
  • When and how to underexpose an image
  • How to balance natural and artificial light
  • Camera settings for shooting outdoors with flash
  • Using filters for photography

To learn more about using flash photography on location, visit our Location Lighting Setups in the Portrait section.

If you have any questions about this class please post them in the comments box below.

NOTE: This course is available with English subtitles.


  1. Excellent video and shot. Her yellow dress stands out perfectly. I can see the difference between outdoor flash versus reflector.

    Thank You

  2. Hi Karl. I’ve just joined your course.

    I’ve seen you used two flashes with two umbrellas. Which part of the model body they were lighting?

    Greetings from Spain.

    1. Hello Luis in Spain and welcome aboard. This type of umbrella spreads the light out quite wide, you will see in our other classes on lighting other modifiers that control light in many different ways. In this case I was keeping the light on the upper body and slightly more to the right of the shot so the light comes around the model. In most cases even in full length body shots you would want the light to be slightly stronger at the top of the model as that is where you will draw the eye.

  3. great job there are thousands of lessons online but yours are amazing.But I didn’t understand in this photo shoot 2 types of filters are using a polarization filter and ND

    1. Hi Kollev, yes that’s right a polarizer to increase sky saturation and an ND to reduce the ambient daylight more because flash sync is only 1/200th maximum on this camera.

  4. very nice, is there anyway we can share some of our work so you can give us some input?

  5. Karl, that was a brilliant shot and it certainly gave me a way out for the combination of ND2 Filter and Polarising filter. I am certainly going to try this again again and send you the results.
    Brilliant tutorial, thank you

  6. Karl, looking at the specification of the shot I see:
    1/160th shutter speed
    ISO 100
    flash + ND & Polarizing filter

    Since there are so many different ND filters out there, do you remember which density you used? I have a variable density one I use, and I have a couple of fixed density ones that I have (2x, 4x, 8x)
    I like to learn by breaking down the mechanics of a shoot based on what I see in the video, and the specifications to learn what options can be done. Thanks in advance, and I love the courses. Even though I have been doing photography for a while, I find learning from different people give me a broader understanding and sometimes new ideas.

    1. Hi William, I mostly use the Lee 0.9 ND which is 3 stops. I believe the variable ND filters use two polarizing filters combined which I think would mean the neutral density won’t be exactly even across the field of view.

  7. Hi Karl,
    How are you determining the flash power
    what is the white balance you prefer
    what is your take on HSS vs ND filters ?

  8. To clarify, you used a polarizing filter to cut down on the glare in the sky and water, not a ND filter and this allowed you to use a shutter speed of 160 so no high speed sync reqd. Do you happen to speak on the use of a ND filter vs Polarizing filter and benefits of each for outdoor shooting? Fab tutorials…learning so much cheers Tim

    1. Hi Tim, The polarizing filter will enhanced the sky by saturating the blue and enhancing the clouds and cut down the reflections on the water, it will also saturate the colours in the image. You will see the effect of this when looking through camera and rotating the filter. The polarizing filter will also cut down 2 stops of light enabling you to use a slower shutter speed in daylight to sync with the flash. If you needed to stop the light down further to use a slower sync speed or because the sun was brighter you could also use an ND filter as well as the polarizing filter. Your can find out more about polarizing filters here and what they do in comparison an ND filter will only stopdown the light reaching the sensor.

      1. Thank you so much…do you mind if I ask which ND and polarizing filter brand you might recommend for the budget minded? Thank you so much for your quick response 🙂

    1. Hi Oussama, you first have to fully understand how to use a camera in complete manual mode, which is what I teach in the Introduction Course. It is worth completing the Introduction course even if you are not new to photography because I teach things a different way which will change your understanding. Once you know how to master a camera in Manual mode then you will be able to answer your own question 🙂

  9. Dear Karl,

    I am still little bit confuse how to measure light while using CPL filter. I mean do we need to measure light then set the proper shutter speed and aperature and use cpl filter the use flash light.

    for example

    Lets assume without cpl filter light meter is 250/f 8 and with cpl filter and do we need to down 2 stops shutter speed without using light but if we want to use speed light then what will be our shutter speed and aperature value.

    Best Regards

    Rukesh Shrestha

    1. Hi Rukesh, the PL filter will lose you about 1.5 stops of light off of both the flash and the ambient light because the filter is on the front of the lens. So I’d put the filter on first and run your tests.

  10. Thank you Karl, will definitely purchase a filter. Also, I have limited budget and I need to get a portrait lens for my Canon 6D; I would like to have good blurred out background. Which lens would you suggest as I can only buy one at this time? I rent 24-70 mm f/2.8 for my engagements shoot, which works okay but doesn’t give me that much bokeh.

    1. I use 50mm or 85mm prime lenses for a lot of portraiture. Great bokeh if you use them relatively wide open and get in close.

  11. Karl, excellent shot! if I don’t have the filters; could I cut down the ambient light by increasing the shutter speed without high speed sync?

    1. Hi Karar, if your camera/flash system can use High Speed Sync then yes but there can be limitations, the alternative is to use an ND filter and then increase the flash power.

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