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Shadowing - and Other Revolutionary Ideas For Speedliting - part 4 of 1 2 3 4 5

Published 01/08/2010

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To help the subject jump out a bit from the background, I frequently dial down the ambient by at least a stop. For more dramatic lighting in bright sun, I am just as happy to activate high-speed sync and underexpose by three or more stops. If you have not explored HSS, you should (HSS is High Speed Flash Sync - Ed). Using HSS, I am no longer limited to 1⁄200 as a sync speed. Instead, I can fire at any shutter speed-right up to 1⁄8000.

The ability to shoot Speedlites at virtually any shutter speed in HSS is the one feature that truly sets Speedlites apart from all other types of strobes.

In HSS, the camera literally changes that way the flash fires. Rather than fire one big pop, the Speedlite becomes a machine gun of light for a brief moment. In HSS, the flashtube turns on and off at the rate of 30,000 times per second-so, for an instant, it looks like a continuous light source to the camera. Creatively, this means that I can use an ultrafast shutter speed to shoot at wide apertures during midday (with my Speedlite serving as fill flash) or I can turn noon sun to moonlight (with my Speedlite serving as the key light). HSS also enables me to slice time so thin that we can see action that otherwise would literally fly by.


Of course, there is no free lunch. When I activate HSS, the staccato of light consumes 2 1⁄2 stops of power. Effectively the maximum output of a Speedlite is reduced from 1:1 to 1:6 power. Still, these shutter speeds are unobtainable with all other types of flash. So, when I am shooting in HSS, I either move the one Speedlite in very close or I fire several together via Canon's built-in wireless control.

Shape Your Light - Speedlites work best when they are not naked.

A Speedlite is the only type of strobe that photographers routinely try to use without modification. This is a pity. In contrast, a monolight or studio flash is routinely dressed with a reflector, a soft box, or some other modifier. Sure, these larger lights can be fired bare bulb-but this is not how they are use normally. Yet, Speedliters often do not know that they can quickly shape their light by using a modifier.


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1st Published 01/08/2010
last update 06/11/2019 11:08:22

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