“…for the photographer that wants to learn flash, but doesn’t know where to start.”

I love photography and I’ve been working very hard to become a well-rounded photographer so that I can exceed my clients’ expectations. I don’t just want to be a photographer…I want to be the photographer. Photography happens to be one of those ever-evolving professions that you have to continue studying or you chance being left behind. Because I strive to be the best at what I do, I study photographers I admire to see what I can learn from them. When one of those photographers happens to release a book that is focusing on a subject I want to learn more about, I buy it. The Off-Camera Flash Handbook is a book that takes an in-depth look at how to properly use an off-camera flash to achieve a one-of-a-kind dramatic look in your photos. 


The Off-Camera Flash Handbook is written by Vanessa Joy, an 18-year veteran in the photography industry. She has earned five college degrees as well as a PPA Photographic Craftsman degree. Vanessa has been named a WeddingWire Education Expert and honored as an expert by Profoto and Animoto. She is currently a Canon Explorer of Light and has spoken at most major photography conventions. Vanessa is known for her light, airy, dreamy looking photography — a look she achieves by playing with lighting. 

The Off-Camera Flash Handbook is designed to provide lessons about off-camera flash photography in an easy-to-understand approach. Vanessa focuses on the kinds of shots you want to make and not so much the gear and the settings. It’s a real-world approach to setting up remarkable, dramatic photos. She uses a flash to create natural-looking light for any set-up. The book is divided into three parts — Getting Started with Off-Camera Flash, Scenarios, and Facts and FAQs. 

  • Page Count: 296
  • Trim Size: 7×9 inches
  • Cover: Soft Cover without Flaps
  • Publisher: Rocky Nook, Inc. 
  • Print Publish Date: April 2020


I started reading this book because I wanted to take my skills to the next level. I’ve admired Vanessa Joy for quite some time and after being able to meet her at Imaging USA, sit in on her keynote session, and participate in her photo walk, I really thought reading The Off-Camera Flash Handbook would be a great way to help my flash game. There are plenty of times that I don’t follow-through with purchasing books and reading them start-to-finish, but I bought Vanessa’s book as I was coming off of the convection-learning high and I thought it was a nice chance to be able to support someone I actually had the chance to meet. 

After I read Vanessa’s book I thought my fiancé could really benefit from it. She’s a beginner-level photographer and she’s trying to learn more, but as Vanessa said at the beginning of her book, most flash books get really technical and it’s hard to learn through the jargon. Since The Off-Camera Flash Handbook is conversational in nature, I thought Robyn could gain a lot of it. After she read it, Robyn told me that she felt it could be used as a textbook as it’s so easily broken into lessons. 


The Off-Camera Flash Handbook Is very easy to read. Vanessa wrote it in a conversational style. Her writing style is laid back and easy-going. It reminded me a lot of her keynote from Imaging USA. She breaks down techniques into very easy-to-understand bits of information that you can retain. My fiancé told me that she really has a hard time remembering the difference between shutter speed, aperture, and ISO and how each setting relates back to the exposure of the photo you’re taking. After reading Vanessa’s explanation of which setting is which, my fiancé now remembers. Her conversational writing style is comforting. It makes you feel as though you are in a one-on-one, face-to-face conversation with her instead of reading an educational book. She even throws in the occasional Harry Potter and superhero reference to drive her point home.

After reading this book, I feel that I have a broader understanding of ways that off-camera flash techniques can improve the look of my photos. Some of the main takeaways that I had include: 


Scenario 15: Light Like It’s Coming Through a Window. While some of the scenarios were tricks I’ve either heard of or actually tried before, I found the technique of using a flash as if it were natural light coming through a window quite useful. Each of the scenarios has a ‘goal shot’ at the beginning of the scenario synopsis, a suggested gear list, and explanation of the goal shot, and a step-by-step guide to set up that style of shot. It’s a very easy way to understand the technique. I love the fact that this scenario was suggested for use on rainy days when subjects can’t go outdoors. It’s a great fake-out and it solves the problem of ‘ugly’ ambient lighting that can’t be changed. 


Vanessa uses technology she pays for. This was actually a point that my fiancé picked up on. Toward the beginning of the book, as she’s describing her gear, Vanessa points out that she uses the technology that’s built into her camera and lights. She mentions how she does not use an external light meter because her camera has one. “For me, I’m buying the technology, so I’m going to use it.” It was eye-opening for my fiancé because we constantly evaluate our equipment needs and to hear a photographer of Vanessa’s caliber say that it’s ok to use what you have was comforting. 

The book is a little repetitive. But in a good way. Repetition is the mother of learning. Here’s the biggest secret to mastering off-camera flash: do it over and over again — consistently, so you remember and learn. Repeat those techniques! So you memorize them! Keep repeating and you’ll get it. While Vanessa provides 32 different lighting scenarios, a lot of techniques are similar enough that information gets repeated as she explains the goal photo. It’s not enough to turn me off from the subject matter.

When it comes to gear, “you’re going to like what you like because you like it.” Vanessa’s point is that every photographer has their favorite brands to work with. And the gear you use is a personal choice. In the end, Vanessa makes it clear that it’s not worth stressing over what other photographers are using for gear. You have to do what’s best for you and what ends up feeling good in your hands is what you should go with. 



Vanessa’s book The Off-Camera Flash Handbook is a great guide for the beginner photographer or a well-seasoned one who is looking to improve their skills. It’s an easy-to-understand teaching book that can be broken down by lessons if need be. I really enjoyed reading this book and have already been using some of the techniques I learned from it. I would encourage anyone who wants to learn more about off-camera flash photography to check this book out. Not only does it provide some helpful tips on how to properly use off-camera flash to create natural light photos, but it also provides ideas for different ways to set-up a photoshoot. I’m a fan of Vanessa Joy, but I would recommend this book even if I hadn’t met her. 
Pros: Easy to understand explanations of techniques, Conversational writing style, Lots of information
Cons: None
For more information about Vanessa Joy, visit vanessajoy.com, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.