Flash Sync Speed in the Studio: Take and Make Great Photography with Gavin Hoey


In this video I’ll take a look at flash sync speed… what it is why you should use it, and when it might not be the best choice. Hello I’m Gavin Hoey, and you’re watching AdoramaTV, brought to you by Adorama… the camera store that’s got everything for us photographers, and in this video I’m gonna have a look at how shutter speed can affect your images when you’re shooting with flash in a small home studio.. Now one of the things I’ve noticed with the more modern flash point transmitters is try as I might I can’t get it over two hundred and fiftieth of a second shutter speed. I can have anything up to that but nothing beyond it, and that’s because the trigger is actually helping me, it’s limiting my camera to its flash sync speed. What does flash sync speed mean? Well for that I need to look at the mechanics inside of a camera, where I’ll find a curtain that covers a sensor, press the shutter that moves out the way exposing the sensor to light, and at the end of the shutter time a second curtain covers it up once again.. Now in reality it’s a bit more complicated than that, but that’s basically what happens and my flash sync speed is just the fastest shutter speed where the whole sensor is exposed, as the flash fires go beyond the flash sync speed, and the curtains would cover up part of the sensor when the flash fires…. meaning I’d have a shadow or part of the picture missing. So if I can choose any shutter speed up to two 250th of a second on my Olympus camera, yourl mileage may vary.. Which one would I go for? And it’s a really good question, and the only way to answer that is… to take some test pictures.. so I’m gonna set up two different scenarios… let’s get some light, set let’s get a model in, let’s get shooting… so to help me out today, I’ve got the amazing Sophie. Sophie is gonna be the model for this shoot, and before I take any pictures with flash I’m actually going to take some pictures without flash. To understand what goes on with flash sync speed and your camera. you need to take a few pictures to work out what happens at different shutter speeds. So to make this work I need to be in manual mode that means I can choose an ISO and aperture and of course most importantly the shutter speed. So I’m going to start with a shutter speed that isn’t normal in a studio… a quarter of a second, and then I’ll increase it up to my flash sync speed, and check the results.. let’s have a little look so no flash fire whatsoever, after quarter of a second f/5.6, ISO 200… by chance, the results are almost the correct exposure for the ambient light in the room. now if I take my shutter speed up to a 15th of a second… that’s two stops less light, and take the same picture Sophie is there but it is starting to get a little bit dark… two more stops adjustment will take me up to a 1/60 of a second, and Sophie is starting to disappear, and at my flash sync speed of 1/250/th of a second Sophie has completely gone, and actually that’s exactly what I’m trying to achieve… I’m really using the shutter speed just to underexpose the ambient lights. get that really dark picture because the flash, is way brighter than any room light you can have, which means the camera will now only record the flash ,and gives us an exposure that I’ve got total control over… so basically when it comes to your flash sync speed, just set it the highest you can in your small home studio, and everything will be fine job done… sort of… so there may be times when the flash sync speed isn’t the correct speed to use, so maybe you want to include some of the room in your shot or maybe you have an amazing setup.. a little bit like we’ve got here with these glowing jars of LED lights. Now if I was to use the same flash sync speed as I used before… things might not go the way I like. I’ve already set the flash, I’ve set the exposure correctly, let’s just take a test picture at the flash sync speed.. see what we get. So at the flash sync speed… Sophie is correctly exposed…. the jars are there, but the LEDs don’t really look like they’re glowing. If I increase my exposure by two stops the shutter speed gets a little bit longer, which means there’s more time to record the LEDs which look slightly brighter, but the exposure on Sophie from the flash still looks exactly the same… increase my exposure by another two stops the LEDs appear even brighter, but Sophie remains the same, and finally at a quarter of a second, my longest shutter speed…. the LEDs are really bright, lots of time to record them… and yet Sophie the flash exposure on her still remains the same. So this time you might think the correct shutter speed is actually the longest shutter speed. It seems to make the LEDs bright, but doesn’t seem to affect the exposure on Sophie… but if you do that, you run into a couple of problems. Yuu might get camera shake.. or motion blur where Sophie moves even a little tiny bit, and that can ruin the photos… so to avoid any blur I’m gonna go with a shutter speed over 1/60th of a second but I still want those brighter LEDs… so I’m gonna change my other settings, I’m gonna go with an aperture of f/1.2 – so much wider than it was before, and a slightly higher ISO at 400. Let’s have a look at this result… so the jars look bright, I like that, but so does Sophie, and that’s because ISO and aperture will affect not only the ambient light, but the flash that’s recorded as well. So to adjust that I simply need to dial my flash power down, take the same shot again, and that looks perfect on Sophie, because ISO and aperture affect ambient and flash, but shutter speed only affects the ambient light that’s recorded. The reason that flash isn’t affected by shutter speed is all down to its super short duration… I mean the whole thing starts and ends in thousandths of a second… it easily fits in the window of opportunity that is our mechanical shutter, the flash sync speed so that’s a technical bit out the way… let’s do something a bit more fun and actually take some pictures in this lighting…. so Sophie are you ready okay. let’s do it. The vast majority of the photos I take in my small home studio have a shutter speed that is the flash sync speed… but it’s really good to know what circumstances you might need to change that… now if you’re sitting there thinking what about high-speed sync… well that’s the subject for another video… if you’ve enjoyed this video or you’ve got a question leave me a comment below. Click on the bell icon to get regular notifications of all the new videos right here on AdoramaTV… and of course click on that subscribe button! I’m Gavin Hoey thanks for watching.

83 Replies to “Flash Sync Speed in the Studio: Take and Make Great Photography with Gavin Hoey”

  1. I’d love for you to dive deeper into what you said about shutter speed not impacting the perceived flash brightness. I’d never heard that before.

  2. Thanks a lot. You’re using TTL for the flash. Right? If it’s manual flash, do you change the manual flash power first before changing other settings?

  3. when i use flash my photos are sometimes not sharp even at 1/200 is this a flash thing also do you use frequency separation on your photos

  4. Great lesson Gavin! Plug in a flash to a camera and most people have NO CLUE on what to do!! You explain things so everyone can learn!!

  5. Great explanation, even for me, who understands all the technical stuff in photo, I've learned few more things from this video. And the model, I really like Sophie, she is great!

  6. It couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m sitting here trying to find out why some settings are changing my exposure and some are not affecting it (read: shutter speed!) Then I take a break from it all and your video comes up on my YouTube feed. Now I’m looking for the high-speed sync video. Many thanks.

  7. Gavin, great video! I have a question, I saw the Godox trigger but what flash are you using? (sorry if you said it in the video) I'm new to all this and thought the Godox modeling lights did not shut off when the flash fired. It looked like yours did. Thanks and keep them coming!

  8. Always a great video Gavin!!! How about using a more mainstream camera though like a Nikon or Sony ? Not that it makes a difference really conceptually but it might be more interesting. Just a thought ! I so much like your videos. Direct and to the point. Bravo !

  9. hi Gavin, you are always the best and my inspiration. I like all of your videos. This one make me understand exactly how i have to use the flash right. I hope one day to become a fotographer …a good one. All the best!

  10. Brilliant as always Gavin…..can't wait for the next one………..really interested in the effect that HSS has whilst still maintaining ambient light from the Led's.I would also like to know how ND filters would work in the Studio in the same scenario…..hope you can help.

  11. I was really confused about how ligth is affected by Iso/aperture /shutter, and this let me done.. Thanks for your support and time to teach us..

  12. Never cease to amaze with something so simple, I've taken a lot from this and shall be applying this technique when I get the strobes out again.

    P.s was your background the one from the photography show (Pixapro) stand… I'm going to buy a bigger version this next show.

  13. Gavin, I'm a new photographer (almost 2 years) but I am a bit confused by one of your statements (bear with me here). I enjoy your videos and please continue the great educational work! That said, I try to pick battles wisely and I am going to try and get this right so you can improve my current understanding. Your comment was: "… because ISO and aperture will affect not only the ambient light but the flash that is recorded as well". I get it, but here's where my comprehension fails. Technically, I thought that ISO (not ASA) at all but native settings, boosts the signal/gain already recorded by the sensor. It does not not make the sensor more sensitive to light thereby changing the amount of ambient or flash recorded. It simply boosts the signal after the fact (processed signal). I do understand where you are coming from, but your comment made me sit up for a moment. So does ISO really affect the amount of ambient light or flash to be RECORDED, or simply boost the already recorded light signal from either source (ambient/flash) after the fact via the processor)? I know this sounds picky, but I am listening. Just shows you I'm still awake!

  14. Gavin, your videos are really easy to follow, and they are well explained where someone can follow at home to practice along. thank-you!

  15. super tuto ! i have a d750 with 24-70 2.8. how would you modify your setup for F/2.8 ? more than 2 stops more. we can't reduce flash more than 1/256 power, you need 1/60th for ambiant led.
    should we double the distance flash-Sophie and perhaps add a grid to avoid spilling on black background ?

  16. i really like your work sir. i had learn many things from your tutorials but i have a question i have a manual flash then what should i do for getting this type of photo and i have nikon 5300 camera then i cant get low numbers of aperture then what should i do?

  17. Does your Olympus has IBIS ? I mean 1/4 s speed and no shake on your photo is darn amazing? I do not think I can get it on my Nikon d610 even if I tried …!!

  18. Gavin is as ever brilliant. He explains things well and has enthusiasm by the bucket load. I've had the pleasure of seeing him several times when he has lectured to Worcestershire Camera Club in the UK and there is never a dull or boring moment with him around.

  19. Always interesting. Your explainations are clear and results well showned. Thanks Pierre Chénier Montréal, Québec,

  20. Excellent illumination in itself, of flash and sync speed in a focal plane shutter case. It clarifies why my language calls a focal plane shutter "curtain shutter". The other one, leaf shutter, we call "central shutter" as it is centrally located in the lens. And the leaf shutter has no sync issue. Concepts for a FOLLOW-UP? Second curtain. High-speed sync versus hyper sync. Leaf shutters cutting off flash with fast exposures. … And there is a general issue with focal plane and electronic shutters that we call "time parallax" in classical photography jargon. Already visible in pre-WW2 photos of race cars with oval wheels. And today reveals itself as rolling shutter (where nothing rolls like it did in old movie cameras).
    It illustrates how fully automatic cameras with lots of AI still may depend a lot on human intelligence, instead of artificial.

  21. Gavin, I am a newbie..
    I tried to recreate what you've done..
    Stop down until my subject disappears 👍
    Add my Godox Xt Transmitter for Sony A7iii 👍
    My screen on the back of the camera now adjusts when I added the transmitter. 👎
    Not sure why this is happening.
    After taking test shots the subject is overexposed even on the lowest flash setting.
    Using A7iii and Godox 200 PRO

  22. will the short duration of the flash (on a low power setting) help your focus by freezing any movement even if the shutter speed is slow ? i would think so
    – might have been interesting to demonstrate that also ?

  23. Hi Gavin. When I got the motion blur at 1/4 of a second I thought you were going to demonstrate rear curtain/second curtain sync.
    I think some times you can have blur come to your advantage.

    Thank you for the demos and for using Flashpoint products in them.
    I purchased my R2 transmitter and receiver after watching one of your demos.
    Cheers!

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