1 simple trick to making awesome flash images


(Image that was set-up and shot at a real wedding within 60 seconds using today’s technique)


If you’re looking for the secret to making your off-camera lighting shots look exactly the way you want  – we’ve got the answer in two words:

Lighting Ratios

Understanding and executing lighting ratios is one of the most important elements to creating off-camera lighting shots that look the way you want them to. I hate being confused and REALLY hate being stuck in front of a client wondering how to get a shot to look right. Today’s lighting ratio tip is going to solve that problem for you with many of your off-camera flash shots!



Whether you go BIG or small with off-camera lighting, you need to know how much light to put on your subject vs. how much is in the background in order to get the right look. And getting the right look using the right ratio of light is going to give your images their unique style and make your shots stand out! The above images are shot at 3 different lighting ratios.

  • The first is 3 to 1, which means that the main light is 2 times brighter than the ambient light that was already hitting our subjects face.
  • The second shot is 5 to 1 lighting and has the off-camera light set at 3 times the power of the ambient light hitting her face and now (because of the unique conditions of the light on this day), the background starts to get detail in it (I am giving these ratios based on the light on her face, NOT the light in the sky).
  • The third image has the main light 4 times brighter than the light already on her face which gives us LOTS of contrast and lots of sky detail. All of these images were shot with just 1 light in this example.


Pick the Ratio Style you Like, and then:

So once we decide which type of image ratio we like or want for our set-up, how do we get our settings on the flash and camera to execute that every time?





One awesome trick that we learned a LONG time ago that we still rarely see others teach, is how to make your light-meter give you the ratio of light you are looking for in one step, and that is what I am going to show you today.

LightMeter All

In this image, you can see some of the main settings on a typical light meter. But, on the Sekonic light meter (and on some others), there is a unique setting called “Flash Percentage” that you see at the middle right. This is the secret. This is a powerful tool that most people don’t know about!

What it Does

When you set-up your off-camera light (no matter what type of light it is) on manual power settings, and then simply take a reading with your light meter, the meter will give you this % rating. What the meter is doing, is reading the existing light in that particular area that the meter has been placed, and then it is reading the flash that hit it. Then, it does something remarkable. It tells you the DIFFERENCE between the two, aka the RATIO of flash vs ambient.

If it reads 50%, that means that the image will have 50% flash and 50% ambient light at those camera and flash settings. Every 10% increase in the percentage is a doubling of flash power (the percentage represents how much flash is in the shot), so if you go to 60%, then you are putting 2 times more flash into the existing ambient light, or, you have a 3 to 1 lighting ratio! Now, look back up at the example images and then decide if you want 3 to 1, 5 to 1 or 9 to 1. You can then just power up the flash until the meter reads the percentage that you want!

60% = 3 to 1 

70% = 5 to 1 

80% = 9 to 1 


(Now this does not work in every situation, so you have to know when you can and can’t use this technique to get the results that you saw above).

How To Learn More First-Hand

IN-CAMERA Workshops

These are the kind of techniques that we will be teaching at our revamped IN-CAMERA Workshops.

Mark your calendars! Event registration goes LIVE this Monday at noon CST first to newsletter subscribers for 24hours, and then everyone else can grab any remaining seats on Tuesday! But, if history repeats itself, then most or ALL of the seats will be gone on Monday!