The beauty of flashing with high-speed sync

Why flashing with high-speed sync?

High-speed sync flash is your cameras’s ability to use flash at shutter speeds faster than the camera’s native sync. Most cameras have a native sync between 1/125th and 1/250th of a second. Any faster exposure time without high-speed sync is beyond the camera’s ability to sync the shutter with the flash and will result in partially flashed photographs. Marlene Hielema gives a good explanation of the problem here:

High-speed sync flash/camera combinations allow you to use the flash at higher shutter speeds:

High-speed sync outdoor shot at 1pm lunch time

overpower the sun with high-speed sync
The garage photograph “overpowering the sun” was shot with ISO 100, 1/1500s and aperture f2

High-speed sync was created to permit the use of shutter speeds that exceed your camera’s maximum sync speed. The advantage is access to wider apertures in ambient and flash mixed scenarios. High-speed sync is exclusively using the TTL (through-the-lens) exposure mode since it relies on the camera to calculate the correct amount of flash output based on your aperture and ISO settings necessary to create a good exposure. TTL mode gets the exposure right!

Using TTL also doesn’t relegate you to using one of the camera’s automatic exposure modes. Even though your flash is set to a semiautomatic TTL metering mode, your camera controls can remain fully manual, allowing you maximum creative control.

What are the typical use cases of high-speed sync?

  1. Overpower the Sun: On a sunny day you can easily overpower the sun with high-speed sync flashing. With high-speed sync and a shutter speed of, say, 1/2000th of a second, that’s several stops of ambient-blocking power, so now the sunlight is underexposed. You’re going to find yourself with a black background even in daylight. Gary Fong shows how easy it is to create photographs with a glamour look by overpowering the sun:
  2. Shallow depth of field: Outdoor portraits often benefit from the use of wide apertures. This is due to the pleasing bokeh they produce, the separation possible between the subject and background, and the reduction of unwanted, distracting background elements. If you use aperture to balance the exposure by stopping down, you’ll increase depth of field and therefore reveal more of those unwanted background elements. When you’re working with flash and ambient light and want wide apertures, high-speed sync comes to the rescue. This is because high-speed sync allows you to balance the exposure using shutter speeds that exceed the camera’s maximum shutter speed.
    For a shallow depth of field, check following fast vintage prime lenses:
    See some examples how to create a shallow depth of field at daylight here:
  3. Freeze fast action: Unlike traditional flash photography, where shutter speed is basically not relevant when freezing action, with high-speed sync, shutter speed plays a critical role. Here’s why: When you’re not using high-speed sync, you’re reliant on the speed of the strobe’s flash duration to freeze the action. With high-speed sync, a series of rapid bursts of light is fired from the flash during the entire duration of the exposure. This essentially turns your speedlight into a constant light source. When working with constant light, shutter speed very much affects the ability to stop action. See example photographs here:

Simple instructions to overpower the sun with high-speed sync

  1. activate wireless flash mode in the camera and high-speed sync on your flash
  2. set camera to manual mode
  3. set an aperture of f2.8 or faster
  4. set a fixed ISO between 100 and 400
  5. reduce aperture speed to 1/1000s or faster until you get a exposure value / EV of -2 underexposure
  6. let TTL compensate the missing ambient light with correct TTL flashing at high-speed


Equipment needed for high-speed sync and remote flashing with Sony alpha mirrorless cameras

Following equipment will only deliver high-speed sync, if your camera is also capable of high-speed sync like the Sony alpha 6000 and alpha 7 families:

High Speed Sync Godox TT685 High Speed Sync Godox Xpro

Godox TT685s flash and Godox Xpro-S flash remote controller

Godox has a wide variety of good flash equipment at low prices. Compare their lighting stuff with the price / performance ratio of big camera brands, and you know what to buy.