High Speed Sync On-Location

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For this lesson, we give up the control of the studio to come to a beautiful beach in Puerto Rico with a gorgeous model to explore the benefits of high-speed sync on-location.

For equipment I am using a Sony A7R 2 camera and a 600WS battery powered portable strobe from Adorama that allows us to sync up to 1/8000 of a second. I will be triggering the strobe remotely using a combination of the Adorama trigger and the new Godox X1S for Sony.

Most importantly, I will be using the Photoflex extra small OctoDome nxt soft box with a silver interior to shape the light. This soft box can be used with speed lights, portable strobes or continuous light sources. It comes with a removable face and baffle, which gives great control over the quality of light.


To get started, I am going to capture an available light exposure so we can later compare and see the difference and benefits of using high-speed synch.


In the shot above I used f14 with a 1/200 shutter speed and ISO 100. Without using a strobe and high-speed sync, the maximum f-stop I can use is between 1/200 and 1/250, depending on the camera. This is due to the available light being bright enough that I am forced to use a small aperture. This creates too much depth-of-field for the look I want to create.

In the example below I exposed for just skin tones (no flash) which resulted in an overexposure on the background (f/5.6, 1/400, ISO 100).


In the next example, I used normal flash without high-speed sync (f/13, 1/200, ISO 100).


What high-speed synch enables us to do is to sync with our flash using shutter speeds up to 1/8000 of a second. This allows us to freeze motion and work with a much shorter depth-of-field (larger f-stop). To throw the light further, I am using the extra small OctoDome without the face or the baffle so I can get a bright effect that mimics natural sunlight.

In the example below, with high-speed sync, I shot at f4, with a shutter speed of 1/4000 at ISO 100.


High-speed sync is very desirable for fashion photography as it allows me to work with larger apertures to get a very shallow depth-of-field. This is very helpful when a location background may be distracting. A shallow depth-of-field allows me to keep the viewer’s focus on the subject. In the shot below I used f4, with a shutter speed of 1/6500 at ISO 100.


Here’s another example; imagine a portrait of a bride shot at 1/250 of a second at f16. You will get a lot of sharp distracting objects in the background. Using high-speed sync will allow us to to shoot at f2.8 with a shutter speed of 1/8000, getting rid of any junk in the background.

Another great reason to use high-speed sync is to freeze action. The extremely fast shutter speed allows us to stop and freeze action. This technique is great for sports, wildlife and action photography.

We brought water balloons with us to capture the action of the balloon breaking and water splashing. In the test below and the final shot I used f5 with a shutter speed of 1/3200 at ISO 200.



Written and photographed by Jose Aguilo.

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