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Tips & Tricks

The Relationship Between Shutter Speed & Flash Is Critical | Remember This Lighting Mantra

By Justin Heyes on April 5th 2017

Aperture controls flash, shutter speed controls ambient…this is a good mantra to have when trying to understand and control flash.

Some photographers don’t understand the relationship between flash and aperture. A lead photographer, who I was second for, would burn through batteries in their flash cause the were shooting at f/8 at 1/4000 of a second. Their flash was shooting at HSS at full power and she wondered when the images were so dark. I have had conversations (that turn into full blown arguments) with photographers wondering why their image was blurry when shooting at f/16 at 1/16 power and 1/250 of a second. They believed, as well as many others, that shutter speed controlled flash.

When in a fast-paced event like a wedding, two things that are usually in the back of my mind: How much subject isolation and how much ambient do I want in a given scene. When capturing the first dance I try to keep a balance of having my clients in-focus ,as well as taking in the venue. Shooting at f/4 I know that I will have to raise my flash power to compensate if I was previously shooting at f/2.

[RELATED: CREATING SOFT PORTRAIT LIGHTING WITH ON CAMERA FLASH | MINUTE PHOTOGRAPHY]

For first-time users, or those who have had trouble with flash, the mantra above can provide a stepping stone into better understanding how flash works, I know it has for me; eventually leading into move advanced techniques.

Matt Day recently produced a great video that quickly explains the relationship flash, ambient light, aperture and shutter speed all have with each other, and it’s worth a watch.

When in a fast-paced event like a wedding, two things that are usually in the back of my mind: How much subject isolation and how much ambient do I want in a given scene. When capturing the first dance I try to keep a balance of having my clients in-focus ,as well as taking in the venue. Shooting at f/4 I know that I will have to raise my flash power to compensate if I was previously shooting at f/2.


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About

Justin Heyes wants to live in a world where we have near misses and absolute hits; great love and small disasters. Starting his career as a gaffer, he has done work for QVC and The Rachel Ray Show, but quickly fell in love with photography. When he’s not building arcade machines, you can find him at local flea markets or attending car shows.

Explore his photographic endeavors here.

Website: Justin Heyes
Instagram: @jheyesphoto

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Karine Largin

    The Relationship Between Shutter Speed

    […]Individuals with hyper arousal signs could become emotionally careworn or even angry.[…]

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  2. Robert Fisher

    This is one of those photographic myths that makes its way around on the web, that has a grain of truth, but is far from true in totality.

    First, this concept only partially applies when shooting with manual flash.  It only applies to the  idea that flash is controllec by aperture; and even then only partially since ISO will affect flash exposure as well.

    When it comes to shutter speed controlling ambient, the idea really falls down.  All three exposure variables – shutter speed, aperture and ISO – will impact the ambient exposure.

    The ‘mantra’ applies not at all when shooting TTL flash.

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