Flash sync photography

August 27, 2015

Flash sync photography

Flash Sync speeds.

Using your camera at its maximum sync speed is a widely-used technique. It prevents camera blur, and if you’re outside on a bright day trying to record both ambient light and flash, it gives as wide an aperture as possible, this is something that is very important when taking wedding portraits or wedding group photography in very sunny days when the sun is harsh and will cause shadows. I personally love this challenge and I love the colours and deep contrasts harsh sun creates; I know many wedding photographers dislike sunshine on their wedding shoots but I love it, what Bride doesn’t want sunshine on her wedding day?

This photograph of my lovely Daughter was taken in full sunshine and I wanted to boost the photograph with a powerful flash, therefore knowing the sync speed of the camera made the shot possible.

It’s not the only way to get creative results, though. When light levels drop, you may wish to drop your shutter speed to something much lower this helps low-level ambient light register, and introduces an element of blur at very low shutter speeds.

If your aim is to get a sharp photo all over, and you’re not using flash. You’ll need to make sure the subject and camera don’t move. A tripod is essential for this, as is a subject that doesn’t move-like an inanimate object. Another way is to actively use blur to give a creative new dimension to your photos. Using blur such as when panning with a moving cyclist, for example-is a well-tried way of suggesting motion. Setting a low shutter speed gives this lovely blurry effect. But your technique needs to be perfect in order to do it properly. The general idea is to keep the subject sharp, but the background blurry again extremely important when taking your wedding photos.

If you introduce a burst of flash into the equation, you can get even more dramatic results. There will still be lots of blur, thanks to the low shutter speed letting the ambient light register, but a burst of flash-which is super-fast by comparison-means the subject can also be partially frozen. So you get a sharp image, surrounded by a ghost image from any movement. If the subject is actually moving, then the blur will show how you’ve moved the camera to keep up with the subject. Alternatively, if the subject isn’t moving very much, you can even introduce some blur by moving the camera during the exposure. Of course, this can be hit and miss, with too much blur often a problem, but thanks to digital, you can instantly view your results if you’re not quite sure.

A second consideration is what occurs when the flash goes off. As discussed in the previous section, there are two shutter curtains, and on longer exposures, the flash goes off when the first curtain reaches its fully open state. The alternative is to change your camera settings so that the flash fires just before the second curtain starts to close. This is known as second curtain sync.

In first curtain sync, the image is frozen virtually at the point of triggering the shutter, then the blur happens afterwards. However, this does mean the subject can look like it is moving backwards.

Second curtain sync often means the subject looks like it’s moving forwards, but with very long shutter speeds it’s difficult to guess when the flash will go off. Both types of photos have their charm, so it’s best to experiment with first and second curtain sync to see if one works better for you than another in various situations, this type of photography is great for the couple’s first dance at the wedding.

Just because your subject isn’t moving much doesn’t mean you can’t use slow-speed sync for creative effect. This rapper is partially frozen by an off-camera flash, and partially blurred due to camera movement during a 0.6 sec exposure to let the ambient light register. Nikon 03; 85mm focal length; ISO 200; 0.6 sec at//8.

Get out that flash and practice, a flash can be used in so many ways, once you understand the basics, you can get some really artistic shots, nail the most important wedding photos first and then play!

Flash sync photography tips

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