Term: High Speed Sync (HSS)
Description: A camera flash technology that allows the camera's flash to synchronize with the shutter speed at higher speeds than the camera's standard flash sync speed. Normally, a camera's shutter speed must be at or below a certain speed (e.g. 1/200s) to fully expose the image sensor to the flash. High-Speed Sync allows the flash to fire multiple times in rapid succession as the camera's shutter curtains move across the sensor, effectively allowing the entire image sensor to be exposed to the flash, even at fast shutter speeds (e.g., 1/1000s). This enables the photographer to use larger apertures and/or higher shutter speeds while still utilizing flash, which can be beneficial for reducing motion blur, controlling ambient light, or achieving a shallow depth of field.
High Speed Sync (HSS)
4 Reasons Why You Should Use High Speed Sync
High Speed Sync can be a difficult concept to grasp when you are first starting out and incorporating flash into your work. We wanted to break it down and feature some incredible work from our community to help you understand why you should use HSS for flash photography. If you need more background on HSS and what it means, our Lighting 101 course covers that in full!
1. To Control Ambient Light
If you want to maintain a shallow depth of field and you are already at your lowest ISO, you’ll need to speed up your shutter speed to darken your ambient light. Cameras have what is called maximum shutter speed sync – the fastest shutter speed you can set on your camera where both curtains will fully expose the sensor when using flash and avoid the black bands. Most cameras have this setting at 1/180th of a second or 1/200th of a second. Using HSS while speeding up your shutter speed yields dark & dramatic ambient light as you’ll see in some of these examples below.
2. Maintain A Shallow Depth of Field
Portrait and wedding photographers love using their primes lenses as a compositional tool to blur out backgrounds with a shallow depth of field. The main issue with this choice is that when shooting in bright daylight you’ll need to compensate with your exposure settings to arrive at the correct exposure. It’s possible to use an ND filter to maintain a shallow depth of field without having to stop down, however, this could result in loss of quality depending on the type of filter you choose to use. If you don’t want to stop down to f/16 (and get literally everything in focus, defeating the purpose of your prime lens) then use HSS!
3. Overpower Harsh Sunlight
Working on peak afternoon sunlight is definitely not every photographers’ dream. While we crave golden hour lighting at all times, sometimes you are forced to work with time constraints and you have to figure out how to make it work. One of the most popular ways to overpower sunlight is to use a high-powered strobe in HSS mode. You’ll need a lot of power to combat the harsh sun, a minimum of 200 w/s, and likely will need to composite out your light and stand because it will need to be very close in proximity to your subjects. Here are some examples of that technique:
4. Capture Motion in Bright Daylight
Since most cameras have a flash sync speed of 1/200th of a second, it can be hard to capture any type of fast-paced movement. Using HSS allows you to speed up your shutter to catch the motion. Here are a few examples of how wedding & portrait photographers use HSS to capture motion:
Trevor does a great job in showing the flowy movement of the dress using HSS.
Related Articles to High Speed Sync (HSS) Definition
Athletic Portraits Using High Speed Sync | Slice of Pye
Learn how to get dynamic athletic portraits using high-speed sync in our new episode of Slice of Pye!
Solving A Common Off-Camera Flash Problem: The Black Band
If you are or ever find a black bar on the top or bottom of your image when using flash, this is likely what’s going on, and how to solve it.
In Broad Daylight: Flash in the Sun with High-Speed Sync
High-speed sync flash opens up entirely new realms of opportunity. It’s not inexpensive to do, but it’s an invaluable option in my photography toolkit that sets me apart from other photographers.