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Flash sync options


From:

Foundations of Photography: Flash

with Ben Long

Video: Flash sync options

When you shoot without a flash, you are probably used to setting shutter speed to whatever is appropriate to get the motion stopping or blurring effects that you want in your image. Sure you have to balance that decision against depth of field concerns and the noise response of your image sensor but even with all those considerations you still have a huge amount of shutter speed latitude to play with from full minutes to tiny fractions of a second. When you start using a flash that all changes. When you shoot with a flash, there's a limit to how fast your shutter speed can go because of the way that the shutter in your camera works.
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  1. 1m 35s
    1. Welcome
      1m 35s
  2. 33m 1s
    1. Exposure revisited
      2m 22s
    2. How flash works
      2m 12s
    3. Balancing ambient light and flash
      3m 54s
    4. Shutter speed, aperture, and flash
      4m 11s
    5. Fill and key light with flash
      4m 13s
    6. Understanding flash range
      2m 47s
    7. Understanding flash modes
      5m 16s
    8. Flash sync options
      3m 2s
    9. Some notes about your camera's built-in flash
      5m 4s
  3. 32m 50s
    1. When to use fill flash
      1m 39s
    2. Using fill flash in auto and program modes
      2m 44s
    3. Fill flash in priority or manual modes
      2m 38s
    4. Using flash exposure compensation
      9m 14s
    5. Using fill flash to eliminate unwanted shadows
      5m 46s
    6. Using fill flash to darken a background
      5m 1s
    7. Using flash to supplement ambient light
      3m 48s
    8. Filling in for a bright sunset
      2m 0s
  4. 33m 53s
    1. Shooting a portrait with flash as the key light
      4m 27s
    2. Why use an external flash?
      3m 34s
    3. Flash power and recharging times
      4m 21s
    4. Flash zoom
      1m 45s
    5. Taking the flash off camera
      5m 35s
    6. Using a softbox
      5m 3s
    7. Balancing flash and window light
      4m 22s
    8. Paying attention to the light in the room
      3m 39s
    9. Flash and white balance
      1m 7s
  5. 54m 20s
    1. Bouncing flash to improve lighting
      13m 8s
    2. Alternative options for bouncing flash
      5m 12s
    3. Using slow sync with flash
      8m 50s
    4. Rear-curtain sync
      11m 54s
    5. Using radio controls to fire a flash
      4m 32s
    6. Working with manual flash
      10m 44s
  6. 25m 16s
    1. Building up to multiple flash units
      13m 3s
    2. Adding the second flash for fill
      5m 19s
    3. The third flash as a backlight
      6m 54s
  7. 7m 50s
    1. Which brand of flash should you buy?
      1m 27s
    2. Guide number considerations
      3m 13s
    3. Shopping recommendations
      3m 10s
  8. 42s
    1. Next steps
      42s

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Watch the Online Video Course Foundations of Photography: Flash
3h 9m Appropriate for all Dec 13, 2013

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

Harsh, unflattering lighting can ruin a photo—and with flash, it's easy to get harsh, unflattering lighting. But flash is a necessary part of a photographer's toolset—after all, the world doesn't always provide you with the best natural light.

Fortunately, it isn't difficult to get great results from flash, and in this course, photographer, author, and teacher Ben Long details the concepts and techniques behind effective lighting with flash. Ben starts with fundamentals that build on exposure principles taught in other installments of Foundations of Photography—simple techniques that improve the results from a camera's built-in flash. He then focuses on fill flash techniques and on using flash as a key light. The course also explores topics ranging from bouncing and syncing flash to shooting with one or more off-camera flash units.

Topics include:
  • How flash works
  • Balancing ambient light and flash
  • Understanding flash ranges and modes
  • When to use fill flash
  • Using an external flash
  • Bouncing flash to improve light
  • Building up multiple flash images
  • Purchasing a flash
Subject:
Photography
Author:
Ben Long

Flash sync options

When you shoot without a flash, you are probably used to setting shutter speed to whatever is appropriate to get the motion stopping or blurring effects that you want in your image. Sure you have to balance that decision against depth of field concerns and the noise response of your image sensor but even with all those considerations you still have a huge amount of shutter speed latitude to play with from full minutes to tiny fractions of a second. When you start using a flash that all changes. When you shoot with a flash, there's a limit to how fast your shutter speed can go because of the way that the shutter in your camera works.

Most cameras that have interchangeable lenses have a type of shutter called a focal plane shutter. This is a shutter that sits, not surprisingly, near the focal plane. Directly in front of the image sensor, or film. This is, as opposed to shutter mechanisms that might be housed within the camera's lens. A focal plane shutter is composed of two curtains. Sometimes made of cloth, sometimes made of metal or plastic. To expose the sensor, one curtain opens, and then another curtain follows to stop the exposure.

In a really fast exposure though, this means that the entire sensor will never be completely exposed. Instead, a slit of exposure will pass across the surface of the sensor. Now if you fire the flash when only a slit, a small part of the sensor is exposed, then only that part of the image will show the flash illumination. So after a point, shutter speed gets too fast for the flash to be in sync with the full exposure of the sensor. When shutter speed is too fast and the flash is out of sync you'll get strange dark bands in your image.

All cameras therefore have a flash sync speed. Any flash picture shot with a shutter speed faster than the flash sink speed will result in an image with this dark banning problem. With shutter speeds below the flash sync speed there will always be some moment, during the exposure, when the entire sensor is exposed, that's the moment when the flash will fire. Because that's when it can illuminate the entire image. Your camera manual will list the flash sync speed of your camera. On most SLR's it's around one, two hundredth of a second, in other words you won't be able to use a shutter speed that's faster than one two hundredth of a second, and still get good flash results.

Because at faster speeds, the shutter will never be entirely open. Some cameras might go as low as one sixtieth and some might go up to one two fiftieth. Now as you'll see later, there are high speed shutter techniques you can use to get around this limitation, and we'll cover those in detail. A few cameras that have interchangable lenses employ what's called a leaf shutter. This is a shutter that can open almost instantenously. A leaf shutter has the advantage that it has an incredibly high flash sync speed. At the time of this shooting though there just aren't a lot of leaf camera shutters on the market.

So, no matter what mode you're shooting in, you will always have an upper limit on the shutter speed that you can use reliably. Note, that your camera will let you use a shutter speed that's higher than the flash sync speed, you just won't get a great result if you do.

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