What Is High Speed Sync in Flash Photography Terms?

It doesn’t matter if you’re an amateur, professional, or somewhere in between; high speed sync is a commonly used photography option. This amazing feature can be used with a dedicated flash alongside a DSLR camera. To help better understand this lighting and exposure option, professional portrait photographer Kevin Kubota from WestCott breaks it down into simpler terms in this helpful video.

Over the years, high speed sync has become a popular tool that works when your camera has a dedicated flash built in. When your camera is open to its maximum sync speed (generally around 1/250 or slower), your flash will go off once per shutter frame. However, as soon as your camera goes beyond its maximum sync speed (aka high speed sync); the shutter is never completely open over the camera sensor at one time, creating the exposure in a strip form. First one frame goes, then the second, and so on; generating a slide or scan concept. Each frame will contain multiple strobes of light during a single exposure.

normal flash sync

Unfortunately, high speed sync does have limitations. Due to the fact, it has multiple strobes of light during the single exposure; you will never have full recycle (or full power) of your flash. It will only be a small increment of your flash. Therefore, if you’re filming with a high aperture or in the bright sunlight, you may not have the proper flash power to give you the exposure you’re looking for.

high speed sync

Thankfully there are a few tips of the trade to help you go beyond the limits of high speed sync. Kubota recommends:

“If you aren’t getting enough power from your flash using high-speed sync, try using a neutral density filter, which allows you to shoot with shutter speeds below the high-speed sync threshold.”

Neutral density filters permit you to add anywhere from 2 to 6 f-stops of exposure to your images, allowing you more room to experiment with your ambient lighting.

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Found here: The Flash Photography Course

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