The Flash Book, by Scott Kelby | Review

Scott Kelby is out with a new book that serves as a concise introduction to getting comfortable with using a flash.

Scott Kelby The Flash Book
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Scott Kelby is the author of many books, several of them among the best-selling digital photography books ever. But his style is not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s often rambling and irrelevant, but deliberately so. That’s his style.

The key objective of this book is to make using a flash somewhat less intimidating. Despite technology like TTL and wireless, using a flash is rarely simply a case of plug-and-play. At least, not if you want good results. So it’s something that a lot of photographers give up on.

And that’s right where Mr. Kelby is pitching this book. As he puts it in the book’s subtitle: “How to fall hopelessly in love with your flash, and finally start taking the type of images you bought it for in the first place.”

About the Author

Official bio: Scott Kelby is the world’s #1 best-selling author of photography technique books, as well as Editor and Publisher of the highly acclaimed Photoshop User magazine. He is co-host of the influential weekly photography talk show The Grid and he teaches digital photography workshops and seminars around the world. Scott is an award-winning author of over 60 books, including The Lightroom Book for Digital Photographers, The Digital Photography Book series, Professional Portrait Retouching Techniques for Photographers, and Light It, Shoot It, Retouch It.

The Scott Kelby Writing Style

It’s not often that the author’s style is so distinctive as to warrant its own attention. But Kelby has developed a unique voice in his books. Some people love it; some people not so much. It’s deliberate and, truth be told, has become a major selling point of his books on photography because it’s really quite different to most other photography book authors out there. He brushes past jargon and pretentiousness and tries to both inform and entertain at once.

If you’ve not encountered Kelby’s books before, fair warning, from Kelby himself:

These quirky, rambling intros have little, if anything, to do with what’s actually in the chapter. They’re designed to simply be a ‘mental break’ between chapters, and a lot of folks really love them (we published a whole book of nothing but chapter intros from my various books. I am not making this up), but some folks hat them with the passion of a thousand burning suns. [p.4]

The thing is, though, once you get past the asides and the cute (or too-cute, depending on your take) flourishes, Kelby has a real knack for explaining things in a very straightforward way. He’s good at cutting through the jargon and not being precious about fancy gear or techniques. In other words, for all his quirky flourishes, he’s good at cutting through the B.S. and explaining things in ways that make sense.

What’s Actually in the Book?

The book is broken up to a lot of very short bite-sized pieces. Those, in turn, are grouped into sections (called chapters here, but they’re more like sections) focusing on a general way of using your flash.

It encourages you to go back to basics by switching your flash to manual mode rather than the more sophisticated but less predictable TTL or Auto modes. And the gist is to adjust the power of the flash according to the shot.

Once you get through the controls and settings section, it gets down to the nuts and bolts of actually using a flash in various practical scenarios like portrait photography, on location, or at weddings. That gets into quick, practical tips of things like positioning the flash (or flashes) and using gels and light modifiers. Put all together, all those short snippets end up covering a surprisingly large amount of ground.

Here’s the table of contents. In each chapter are multiple smaller bite-sized pieces, each only a page (or half a page, with photos) long.

  • Chapter 1: Flash Controls and Settings
  • Chapter 2: Next Level Flash Stuff
  • Chapter 3: Camera Settings for Working with Flash
  • Chapter 4: Using Flash for Portraits
  • Chapter 5: Using Flash on Location
  • Chapter 6: How to Light Backgrounds
  • Chapter 7: Using Flash at Weddings
  • Chapter 8: How to Mount Your Flash
  • Chapter 9: Flash Tricks
  • Chapter 10: Flash Workflow

Things This Book is Not

Just as important as what’s actually in the book is what isn’t in the book. Despite its comprehensive-sounding title, this is not a one-stop guide to using a flash. If you’re looking to learn how to better use TTL, for instance, this is not the book you want. The author says recommends right up front that you not use TTL and instead switch your flash to manual mode.

It is also not the book you want to take a deep dive into lighting diagrams or calculating guide numbers.

In fact, this is not the book you want if you want to take a deep dive at all. It’s a relatively slim volume. It has 187 pages of content, but most of those have only half a page or less of text. And, in Mr. Kelby’s distinctive style, not all of that is especially relevant.

So if you’re after a comprehensive, one-stop reference to teach you everything about using flash, this isn’t it–and it doesn’t try to be.


But in a nice touch, for the illustrations and examples, they’ve created a generic flash that uses the basic controls but doesn’t get you bogged down with the quirks of specific models. When there are settings that need to be set on the flash–which, in the strategy outlined in this book, is not often–the instructions for Nikon, Canon, Yongnuo, Sony, and Phottix flashes are included.

And that inclusion of Yongnuo and Phottix flashes is itself a nice addition. Both have developed quite a following for being very capable flashes that sell for a fraction of the price of those by the big-name manufacturers like Nikon and Canon. And that nod to budget-conscious options is a strength.

Sometimes you have to buy stuff. This is not a book to sell you stuff, but before you move forward, understand that to get the kind of results you’re looking for, sometimes you have to buy some accessories–everything from light stands to tilt brackets to a diffuser or softbox. [p.5]

Tech Specs

208 pages | Soft Cover- without flaps, 6 x 9 in.
ISBN: 9781681982748
Published December 2017
Available in Print and eBook formats


Another title for this book might be something like “How to Stop Being Intimidated by Your Flash.” Kelby lays out a straightforward strategy for getting back to basics to first get comfortable with what your flash can do. It’s more Flash 101 than Strobist Master Class, but it’s a good way to ease into getting comfortable with using a flash.

It’s available in paperback and ebook.

Images and product information from Amazon PA-API were last updated on 2022-09-25 at 17:40. Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon Site at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

David Coleman / Photographer
by David Coleman

I'm a professional freelance travel photographer based in Washington DC. Seven continents, up mountains, underwater, and a bunch of places in between. My images have appeared in numerous publications, and you can check out some of my travel photography here. More »

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