Home Photography How to Make Beautiful Portraits Using Flash and High-Speed Sync

How to Make Beautiful Portraits Using Flash and High-Speed Sync

by kyngsam


The scene: Outside with full daylight.

The gear: Your digital camera, lens, and flash.

The issue: You discover that your flash solely works at 1/200s or under, so it’s essential be at f/16 or f/22 to get a well-exposed shot. And at f/16-f/22, all the things is in focus, together with all of the vehicles and different distractions within the background. (These mud spots you retain which means to scrub are additionally completely seen.)

Why can’t you shoot with the next shutter pace so you possibly can have a wider aperture?

Nicely, it’s all all the way down to the problem of sync pace.

Extra particularly, it’s about utilizing flash and high-speed sync.

Usually talking, to overpower the solar and keep under your digital camera’s sync pace, you’re pressured to make use of a slim aperture. Right here I’m at f/20 simply to cease the backlight overpowering the hair and the sky from blowing out:

Woman shot with off-camera flash

The ensuing aperture signifies that all the things is just about in focus, leaving the background trying cluttered.

(This shot is for instance solely; you need to usually make a degree of selecting clutter-free backgrounds.)

What’s sync pace?

Sync speed is the quickest shutter pace for which the digital camera can expose the entire body directly.

It’s a bit technical, however while you fireplace any shot under the sync pace, the primary shutter curtain opens totally, revealing all the sensor to gentle. On the finish of the publicity time, the second shutter curtain strikes throughout the body to complete the seize.

(Usually, the sync pace varies between 1/125s and 1/250s; it relies on your digital camera.)

Once you go above the sync pace, the second curtain begins to maneuver earlier than the primary one has accomplished its journey. As your shutter pace will get shorter and shorter, the hole between the curtains narrows to a tiny slit. Regardless of this, all components of the sensor obtain gentle and a full publicity is made. On a vibrant day with a chief lens, you possibly can simply shoot at 1/8000s at f/1.Four and have an ideal publicity. All components of the body nonetheless obtain gentle, as a result of ambient (non-flash) lighting is steady all through the publicity.

So why does the sync pace really matter?

The sync pace drawback

It’s while you introduce flash that you just begin to have issues.

You see, when a flash is fired (which normally occurs when the primary curtain is opened), all the sunshine from it comes out in a really brief house of time (within the order of milliseconds).

Once you go above the sync pace, the place of the curtains doesn’t reveal all the body on the time the flash fires. So the shutter curtain blocks a part of the flash and prevents it from reaching the sensor.

Any ambient gentle will expose usually, however the flash will get hidden in a part of the body. As your shutter pace will get quicker and quicker, increasingly more of the flash is blocked till it’s now not seen within the shot (i.e., your publicity is what you’d get in the event you by no means fired the flash in any respect).

Under is a set of photos taken at 1/3-stop increments with a flash. The primary photograph is at 1/250s, the native sync pace of my Fujifilm X-T2 camera. The opposite shutter speeds are, so as from left to proper (and high to backside): 1/320s, 1/400s, 1/500s, 1/630s, 1/800s, 1/1000s, and 1/1250s. Be aware that 1/320s is doubtlessly usable if the topic is away from the sting of the body.

portraits with flash and no high-speed sync

The whole lot in focus

Usually, while you use flash exterior in daylight, you find yourself having all the things in focus.

Keep in mind the Sunny 16 Rule? In case your topic is in direct daylight throughout the day, you possibly can set your aperture to f/16 and your shutter pace might be one over your ISO worth.

So in case your ISO is about to 100, your shutter pace could be 1/100s (at f/16). In case your ISO is 200, then the shutter pace could be 1/200s.

Now, to get a darker, richer sky whereas utilizing flash, you’d actually must be at f/22. As a result of you possibly can’t get quicker than 1/250s (bear in mind, it’s the sync pace!), you must improve the aperture to show the shot accurately.

portraits with flash and no high-speed sync
I shot at f/20 and 1/160s to get a richer sky for this band promo shot. It’s fairly an previous photograph, so there have been restricted choices for widening the aperture on the time. Even the hills within the background are in clear focus. The seashore isn’t precisely fairly, both.
portraits with flash setup
A behind-the-scenes shot exhibiting my two flashes set to full energy.

As you possibly can see from the pictures above, it is a large drawback. Capturing at an f/22 aperture simply doesn’t provide the creamy bokeh that portrait photographers love, and it might depart you with disagreeable, distracting backgrounds.

So what do you do?

The answer: high-speed sync

There’s a resolution: high-speed sync, also referred to as focal-plane sync.

No, it’s not good, nevertheless it does work. You see, as a substitute of firing the flash at first of the shot, high-speed sync pulses the flash all through the entire publicity, making an attempt to simulate the results of a steady gentle.

flash set to high-speed sync
My flash set to high-speed sync. Often, there’s a single-button maintain or a double-button mixture to show HSS on.

It seems to be good, nevertheless it comes on the expense of energy and warmth, as a result of HSS works the flash actually exhausting. After a couple of pictures, the flash might even shut down for cooling.

Now, for high-speed sync to work, you want the digital camera to transmit a sign to the flash and for the flash to have high-speed sync in-built. Cactus Picture makes a set off known as the V6 II, which lets you use any HSS flash with any digital camera.

a flash trigger
The Cactus Image V6 II gives energy and zoom management over a variety of speedlights, and it additionally gives high-speed sync capabilities.

The look of high-speed sync

You need to use high-speed sync to go over the sync-speed barrier, so settings like 1/4000s at f/1.Four are achievable with flash. You get full management over the sunshine, however whereas utilizing the broad apertures you normally affiliate with natural-light pictures. Sure, please!

By capturing wide-angle pictures with a shallow depth of subject, you possibly can even create photos that appear like stills from a film.

Settings for high-speed sync

Let’s take a look at a typical setup and settings for a photograph utilizing high-speed sync. This specific shoot was achieved within the night when the sunshine was comparatively low, however I actually needed a shallow depth of subject – and subsequently required high-speed sync.

I set my digital camera to f/1.Four for a super-shallow depth of subject. To get the clouds correctly uncovered, I needed to enhance the shutter pace to 1/4000s. To get the flash to work, I needed to set it to high-speed sync. Utilizing a Cactus V6 II set off, I might simply get my Fujifilm X-T10 to shoot with high-speed sync.

portraits with flash and high-speed sync
A night HSS photograph shot at 1/4000s, ISO 200, and f/1.4. Discover the shallow depth of subject.
portraits with flash and high-speed sync behind the scenes
The behind-the-scenes shot, exhibiting an octabox in entrance of a mannequin (photograph by my assistant, Ola).
close-up portrait
Utilizing high-speed sync, I captured this shot at about 3:00 within the afternoon with the solar excessive within the sky. I labored with an 85mm lens at 1/2000s, f/2.5, and ISO 100 on a Canon 5D III. The solar acted as a second gentle within the shot. Once more, the background is properly out of focus.

One other high-speed sync portrait instance:

portrait with high-speed sync
A problem with capturing outdoor on overcast days is that your shutter speeds might be low sufficient to trigger digital camera shake. By bumping up the ISO, you may get a quicker shutter pace, holding you secure from blur. Utilizing high-speed sync then lets the flash do the work. Right here, I’ve shot to maintain the flash trying as pure as doable.
1/1000s | f/4 | ISO 800

The choice

Be aware that high-speed sync isn’t the one technique to shoot with a large aperture and flash.

For one, you possibly can at all times head out in the beginning or the top of the day when the sunshine is fairly low; then the ambient lighting received’t add a lot to the shot, and also you’ll have the ability to get a pleasant publicity at 1/200s. Plus, you may get nice sky coloration and also you received’t be combating in opposition to sturdy daylight.

portrait with high-speed sync flash
A shot of the band Drown for Skinny Air journal. The night gentle made the shot. I wanted the next aperture to get the entire band in focus, so I opted to not use high-speed sync right here.

After all, in the event you’re doing any photoshoots with purchasers, you usually should work with the topic’s schedule relatively than your personal. So you might have to shoot at noon to go well with them.

And that results in the following possibility.

Utilizing a impartial density filter

If you happen to shoot panorama pictures, you may be acquainted with neutral density (ND) filters. This filter kind permits you to sluggish the shutter pace all the way down to get good, silky water.

Impartial signifies that it provides no coloration, whereas density refers to blocking gentle. You will get ND filters in a variety of values from 1 cease to 16 stops.

For portraits, impartial density filters mean you can widen the aperture as a substitute of dropping the shutter pace. So a 4-stop ND filter would take you from f/16 to f/4.

The downside is that, as you block gentle, focusing can grow to be more durable.

One other potential situation is that not all ND filters are literally impartial. Some are inclined to have a coloration solid. (I’ve a Firecrest 10-stop ND for landscapes, which is impartial, however the older 4-stop filter I personal – additionally from Firecrest – is barely pink.)

portrait without a neutral density filter
With out the ND filter utilized, I used to be pressured to make use of a slim aperture; word how all the scene is in focus.
1/250s | f/16 | ISO 200
portrait with flash and high-speed sync
With the 4-stop ND filter utilized, the background might be rendered out of focus. The flash continues to be on the similar energy because the unfiltered shot above. The filter does have a coloration solid, which is difficult to take away utterly.
1/250s | f/4 | ISO 200

Flash and high-speed sync: conclusion

As you now know, you can also make out of doors portraits even when the solar is vibrant – just by utilizing flash and high-speed sync.

So ensure you get a flash that has HSS capabilities.

And begin working towards!

Now over to you:

Have you ever ever used high-speed sync? Have you ever ever struggled to get good bokeh in vibrant daylight? Share your ideas (and high-speed sync photos!) within the feedback under.





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