Dynamic Glamour with High Speed Sync Flash

Home InFocus   Dynamic Glamour with High Speed Sync Flash   

Many people are not only unfamiliar with what Nikon dubs  “Auto FP High Speed Sync” or what canon calls “High Speed Sync” flash photography, but they are also unaware of how much it can assist them in their photographic efforts (for purposes of this article, we will refer to this as HSS).  This brief article helps make the case for familiarizing yourself with HSS and using it if you have it at your disposal!  Check it out and you will like it!

For starters, in most modern DSLRs, the native/maximum speed that you can use flash (i.e. flash sync) is either 1/250 or 1/500 shutter speeds.  If you try to shoot at a shutter speed of higher than this native maximum, you will get that telltale “dark banding/strip” line across a good portion of the image (there is a reason for this but that is not the point of this article).  The problem with shooting at 1/250 or 1/500 is that it is impossible in bright lighting situations (like outdoors on a sunny day) to shoot at an aperture of less than f/16 or higher (depending upon the light levels) and use TTL/balanced fill flash.

Why is any of this important?  Simply put, you have VERY little control over the depth of field (DOF) using native maximum flash sync speeds and with modeling/portrait photography, in most cases, photographers want the background to be somewhat out-of-focus.  Under normal circumstances, a much wider aperture is required to achieve this “blurred background” effect highlighting the pleasing bokeh we all know and love (like f/5.6, 4.0 or wider) – which, again, is not possible using native flash sync settings. How do you do this on your camera?  Here’s how on your Nikon camera (Canon and other users will be similar but I am using Nikon for illustration purposes)!

On your Nikon camera (a D300s’ LCD is pictured here), go to your “Custom Settings Menu”. Open the pencil icon for the D300s and select “e” (Bracketing/Flash).
Next, you will select the “e1” for “Flash Sync Speed” option seen here. I have already selected the 1/320* FP HSS speed.
The third step is to select the actual Flash Sync Speed under the “e1” menu option. I have chosen 1/320s (Auto FP).  See the picture of the LCD screen here.

That is it!  I just leave it set on this HSS setting and it will only kick in once you need and use it!


For Nikon shooters like myself, we can easily use the “creative lighting system” (CLS) in conjunction with HSS capable cameras and flash units (refer to their respective manuals for how to set them in HSS mode).  You can use one or several compatible Nikon speedlites set on HSS using CLS.  For example, in the photo to the (pictured right), I’ve shot the model, Brittany Aimee, on a bright sunny day at the beach with a Nikon D300s and one SB800 speedlite (on camera). My camera’s settings were 1/3200 and f/2.8 using Auto FP high sync, well above the native 1/250 maximum shutter speed!  The distance was about 10-15 feet; which is important to note that you actually must be a little closer to the subject to use effectively.  As your shutter speed increases, you will need to get closer to the subject due to the loss of effective light from the flash on the subject.  In this example, I was still able to provide adequate balance fill flash on L.A at that range.

Now, the bad news (but considering what you gain, it really isn’t all that bad)…

Because the flash power/pulse is used at maximum level for a longer duration, this understandably drains the batteries quicker so it is a good idea to have even more backup batteries than under non-HSS flash sync conditions.  This leads to longer recycling times, as well.  Furthermore, using HSS means you will most likely lose the ability to conduct stop action photography due to the increased flash pulse duration.  These are the main drawbacks and only ones really worth noting.

Given the fact that most pro or near pro level DSLRs will not flash sync above 1/500, to have complete control over DOF in bright sun/light situations, HSS is necessary.  For landscape photography, most people want everything in focus as much as possible and there are few instances where fill flash will be even needed.  However, when engaged in portraits or modeling photography, balance fill flash is needed to mitigate harsh shadows and make more pleasing looking images.  There is no better way than using HSS to accomplish this when photographing people or animals in bright sun/ambient light conditions.


This article was written and photographed by: Chuck, of Tampa Bay Glamour. Our gorgeous cover model may be contacted through Chuck. The gorgeous L.A. Sherman may be contacted directly through her ModelMayhem profile.




Chuck of Tampa Bay Glamour is located in Tampa Bay Florida, With over 25 years experience in commercial photography Chuck specializes in Fashion and Wedding photography. Chuck’s keen eye for beauty and grace has lead him into this profession with a passion to create unique works of Art, and Tampa Bay Glamour, takes their work very seriously! Tampa Bay Glamour has a long standing relationship with central Florida modeling agencies and numerous fashion designers within the surrounding community.

Chuck has published 11, articles with GlamModelz Magazine.

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