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On Location PhotographySubmitted by Michael on Fri, 2013-04-26 13:31

Outdoor Portraits with High Speed Sync

Let me tell you upfront: This video is not about using your speedlight outdoor as strong main light so that your photos look like surreal stuff from another planet, which is obviously located in the a multi-sun solar system. It is also not about going into the desert and trying to knock out harsh midday sun and overpower it magically with a flash. Nope. This is about adding a touch of light to your subject outdoor. Just enough to make it beautifully stand out from your background. Mild enough to keep your photo looking natural and not flashy in anyway.  It’s about the type of photo that is perceived as a natural light photo, but then again it got this little extra vibrancy, which makes it stand out. That’s what we aim for here.

 


 


I wish you good light!
Michael

 

Taken from Good Light! Magazine Issue 05.

 

Model: Lin Yan Wu

Links: Understanding High Speed Sync Flash and Shutter Curtains
 

 

 

 


Don't understand my thick, German accent? Here's the transcript!

Hey, fellow photographer, how's it going? I'm Michael Zelbel.
 
Today I would like to share with you my typical use case
 
for fast synchronization of speed lights.
 
Canon calls this HSS, or High Speed Sync,
 
Nikon calls it Auto FP High Speed Sync.
 
Whatever you call it, the question is how does this feature help you?
 
Well, summer is coming, slowly, but it is going to come,
 
and I hope you will go out and take some beautiful portraits
 
with shallow depth of field at let's say, exactly f/2.8.
 
Now you will use a flash, which you will position next to you,
 
and you are going to use a softbox (like we did)
 
or an umbrella, it doesn't matter.
 
You will put it next to you and fill in a tiny little bit of light into your subject
 
in order to make your subject really pop out from the background.
 
It's going to be awesome.
 
This was also the plan of cousin Samuel, cousin Roger, and myself today.
 
We went out with our beautiful model, cousin Lin,
 
and we went to the harbor of Shanghai.
 
But when I took my first test photo at ISO100 and 1/200s,
 
I had look at my histogram. I went like, "Holy cow!"
 
The photo is like 3 stops overexposed.
 
I mean it's not a really sunny day,
 
it's a hazy day and summer didn't even start.
 
But well, in this situation, you really don't want to stop down your aperature
 
and lose a beautiful bokeh with a blurry background.
 
Now, what else can you do? Well, actually you got two options.
 
The first option is to solve this problem old school.
 
You could mount an ND filter, a neutral density filter.
 
And in this situation, you would need at minimum an ND-16 filter,
 
which reduces the light which is falling into your camera by 4 f-stops.
 
But it will also make your viewfinder so dark
 
that you think you are shooting at night
 
and instead of seeing details in your photos through your view finder,
 
your photography will turn into, well, a kind of guesswork.
 
One additional thing that I see a lot photographers doing in this situation
 
is they are pulling out their powerful portable flash guns,
 
which they think are necessary to compete with all the ambient light.
 
Quiet often, that leads to disappointment.
 
I mean, adding a ton of additional light in a situation
 
in which I already have too much light
 
is usually not the brightest idea.
 
But hey, don't worry, hold your horses you don't need any of that stuff.
 
All you have to do is simply press the high speed sync button
 
on your speed light or, like in our case, on the radio control.
 
Of course, for this you need a speed light or a radio control,
 
which is capable of doing so.
 
Not every speed light can do high speed sync,
 
but if you've got one which can do, you are golden.
 
Because now you can increase your shutter speed
 
and make it faster to something like 1/640s.
 
Now this worked for us in our example.
 
In your shoot, it might be that you need to go higher.
 
Or, you turn your camera into aperture variation mode.
 
You keep your aperture at f/2.8 and your camera can just
 
determine the shutter speed it needs for the optimum exposure.
 
With the higher shutter speed, you simply have less exposure
 
by ambient light and you can leave your aperture open
 
and shoot shallow depth of field.
 
Awesome! I have a one little caveat:
 
In high speed sync mode, your flash has to work much harder.
 
I will not go into details how high speed mode works.
 
There are awesome explanations on some of the web sites
 
and I will probably post a link underneath this video,
 
but you should know your flash has to work harder
 
and if you need your flash to fill in a couple of f-stops,
 
then really watch your batteries because they might go fast.
 
However, in our case we just needed our flash
 
to add a hint of light to cousin Lin
 
and our batteries lasted for the whole shoot.
 
We had some very good fun with it.
 
This is exactly what I want you to have as well.
 
So, go outside use the nice weather, put your flash at work
 
and make your model happy with a couple of beautiful portraits.
 
And for that, I wish you good light.

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