Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Technique Tuesday: My Cheatin' Light - Or How To get Your Flash To Sync At Higher Sync Speeds Than Normal, and Alligators On Location

Good Morning Everybody,
Wow! What a day we had yesterday! Great models, great images, and a great time. We hooked up with Jason, NAPP's top dog videographer about 10 a.m. sorted the day's shooting schedule, and headed out with the rest of the crew, Adam and Steven. Whew! We didn't wrap the shoot until about 7 p.m. but were able to create some terrific images and great info for the Kelby Training videos.

My plan was to work in some of that famous Florida sunshine at the worst of times - high noon - to show how we wedding photographers need to still get the shot under less that optimum conditions. Nature had different plans for us though. The clouds rolled in and we had about the prettiest light ever for just about the entire day. The good news, I shifted gears and talked about how to find the best light and use it to create some outstanding, set yourself apart from the crowd images. We did capture some amazing photographs and tutorial.

We did have a small afternoon surprise though. We were just landing at our second park, started to scope out locations, and ran into an alligator just chillin' in the grass at the side of the water. We, like all goofy tourists, ran toward the gator instead of away, because we wanted to get the shot. We did, the gator didn't care to much, and we continued shooting with everybody watching each other's back the rest of the afternoon. I have to say, alligator time was about 5:30 p.m. and the light was just beautiful - you'll have to check out the video when it goes live. I'll give you the head's up when that happens.

How about on with our Technique Tuesday episode - last week I posted an image entitled, "Afternoon In The Park." It received the most comments ever with the commenter's questioning and explaining how I took the shot at 1/400 second, especially when my Canon 40D which only syncs up to 1/250 second. Let me say here and now, thanks to all who were in on the discussion.

Anyway, that lead me to today's tutorial - My Cheatin' Flash. Why the title, because that's what it's called - cheating the sync. This is one of my favorite techniques to get those dramatic outdoor bridal images I sometimes post as our image of the day. The technique is best used when working in bright sunshine outside and you really need the scene or sky darkened to add to the dramatics of the shoot. In fact, I was using that same technique yesterday during our shoot. So, if you want to hear the rest of the story and see exactly how I pull it off, hit the PLAY button below to see how it's done. Enjoy!


  1. Interesting video. How would rear curtain sync affect the falloff area of the sync curtain? Would that allow you to not have to turn the camera over?


  2. That was fantastic!!! I would've never thought to turn my camera over. I'm still laughing at just how simple this technique is once you learn to "think outside the box". Thank you David once again for such an awesome Technique Tuesday.

  3. Interesting. I'll have to try this - my Rebel XT seems to only sync up to 200/sec and it can often limit my choices. Thanks for the great info.

  4. David,

    I have added your great blog to my top favorite sites to visit every day.

    In addition to David Hobby's Strobist website your blog is a wealth of knowledge that even professionals can gain new techniques and skills.

    Thanks for being so open and willing to enlighten us all.

    Tony S.

  5. Great post David! This will surely come in handy!:)

  6. Great tip! Just another thought - if one were to open up the aperture, would there be less of a vignetting effect?

  7. David,
    I laughed so hard when you gave the whole body flash trick.. Great. Loved it.
    I read the post originally and meant to watch the video, but didn't get time. I'm glad now that David Hobby linked to it and reminded me.

    Great stuff!

  8. I would love to see this video but can't. Turkey has banned Strobist.com and Youtube. I can see strobist on Vtunnel but not Youtube. Is there any way I can see this video off of flickr or other video site? Maybe even emailed to me. gomezfoto at yahoo dot com.

  9. Great information. I never knew that the ambient light will fill in that dark bar at the bottom. I'll have to give this technique a shot. Thanks for sharing.- steve

  10. Hi David,

    This is definitely great information. I enjoyed every second of the video. I was pointed to your blog by Matt Adcock of FlashFlavor.com. I had the same problem in my previous weddings. Take a look http://www.dynastyblog.com/2008/10/nellys-mikes-wedding-teaser.html. thanks again.

    -Chris Chen of DynastyWeddings.com

  11. You can also use the focal plane shutter mode "FP" on the 580 EX II and the Sigma Super flash to synchronize at very high shutter speeds such as 1/2000 of a second to be able to shoot wide open with a smaller depth of field. DSLR cameras use focal plane shutters because they can be behind the lens to facilitate less expensive removable lenses.

    You can also use a point and shoot camera such as the Canon G9 which has a RAW capability. This camera has a leaf shutter which is in the lens and allows you to sync at high speeds without a special FP mode.

    The duration of light is effected by the amount of power that you use. If you use a lower power setting the duration is lower. Strobes are usually specified at t= 0.5. The intensity of the light versus time is shaped like a playground slide. There is a significant amount of light at the bottom of the slide.

  12. The Play button & video are missing, so I'm not able to be enlightened.

    I hope it comes back up on-line

  13. hi David, thank for sharing this with us. it's all very interesting but i do have a question if you hava a second to ansewr it.
    how did you manage to make your camera to fire the flash beyond the max x sync? my camera simply won't fire the flash beyond 1/180...i looked at camera settings but didn't find anything. i have a pentax k100d and a canon 430EX II flash.
    thank you

    ps my email is: florin@fotodng.com