Today we’re going to talk about high speed sync. So what high speed sync is, is a flash function that allows you to use your flash and set a shutter speed that exceeds the sync speed of your camera, because if you try to take a photograph and you use a shutter speed that is faster than the sync speed of your camera, you get an image with a black bar across it, and that black bar is the shutter blocking part of the image sensor while the flash fires.
Because when you exceed your sync speed, when you take a photo, you’ve got both curtains passing over the image sensor with a little slit, and when the flash fires, it’s going to be blocked by those curtains and only illuminate part of the image sensor.
What high speed sync does is pulse the flash repeatedly as those two curtains are traveling over the image sensor in order to allow light from the flash to hit every part of the image sensor evenly, giving you a photo that has a flash exposure even across the entire image sensor.
So that’s how it works and setting it up and using it it’s actually pretty easy. The first thing you need to do is make sure you have a flash that is high speed sync compatible with your camera.
So once you have a compatible flash, using high speed sync is really very simple. You turn your flash, and depending upon how you’re using your flash, you may actually turn the high speed sync on on the flash itself, particularly if you’re putting the flash directly on the camera. And there’s usually a button that’s marked with the little lightning bolt with an “H” that indicates the high speed sync function.
Once high speed sync is active, you can shoot add shutter speeds over your sync speed. And common sync speeds are one 1/180th, 1/200th and 1/250th of a second.
Once high speed sync is activated, it’s less about high speed sync and more about practicing good flash photography methods.
When working with flash, you always work one light at a time, and the first light is our ambient light, the sun. So with my trigger turned off I set my settings to get an exposure for the ambient light.
Because I’m in bright sun, even though the ambient light looks great, I look terrible, but that’s not what we’re worried about, because we’re going to use the high speed sync flash to light me.
So once you have your ambient light dialed in where you want it, then you bring your flashes.
What we are doing is using the flash to light me up and balance my exposure against the exposure of the background/sun.
There is one thing that you need to understand about high speed sync. And that is that it diminishes the power output of your flash. Remember, in order to work high speed sync pulses the light repeatedly, and that pulsing means that the flash cannot output the same amount of power that it does when it’s able to put all of the power out in one single very burst of light.
That means that in some cases, you may find that your light is actually not powerful enough for what you’re trying to photograph, and in situations like that you may need a more powerful light, or to bring in more of the lights that you do have.
Either way. High Speed sync is a valuable flash photography tool. And it’s something that you should definitely know how to use so that when you need to pull it out of your toolkit you can and you can get the kind of results that you need!
I used to be scared of my flash, and I understand how intimidating flash photography can be, but a flash is just a tool. Once you understand how that tool works you’ll be using your flash to create photos that used to seem impossible.
If you want to master your flash and take those amazing photos, check out my Understanding Flash Photography Video Course.