Strobes and Speedlights are fantastic tools to add to your photography arsenal. Understanding how to use their high-speed sync feature is important. You may have heard of high-speed sync flash, but what exactly is it for?

In the four points below, you will learn exactly what high-speed sync flash means. You will also learn how it works, plus how and when to use it. We will also take a look at some of the best products on the market today that enable you to use this feature.

What Is High-Speed Sync?

High-speed sync (HSS) allows you to sync the light from a flash when using a shutter speed faster than your camera’s native sync.

We know that most DSLRs have a native sync speed of 1/250th of a second. Anything faster is beyond the camera’s ability to sync with flash. It will likely cause unwanted effects. Using a higher shutter speed than your camera’s native sync can result in over-exposed images. These sometimes produce black bars across the image. These are created by the flash only partly illuminating the sensor.

These areas are where the camera’s shutter curtains stop the flash. This prevents the flash from exposing the digital sensor. You could use a neutral density filter but still will not have full control over your settings. A better alternative is to use HSS.

How Does High-Speed Sync Flash Work?

Shooting anything above 1/250th is unmanageable with normal Speedlight or strobe flash. But why?

With faster shutter speeds, there is no opportunity for the flash to expose onto the sensor. This is because of how close each shutter curtain is to the other and the short flash duration. The single burst from the flash will then only expose onto a small part of the sensor.

High-speed sync forces the flash to fire many bursts of light throughout exposure time. When it does so, it creates an even distribution of light across the sensor.

When Do You Use High-Speed Sync?

There are many different situations to consider high speed sync in tricky lighting conditions.

In conditions where your aperture (f-stop) has priority, using HSS will give you greater control over your scene. It allows the use of a wider aperture without over-exposing the image. This is often the case with bright scenes with a soft focus on your subject. It can also be for when you need a shallow depth of field in the background.

How to Use High-Speed Sync

If you are taking wide-aperture portraits outside in ambient light, you will likely need to compensate with a high shutter speed. Taking your shot at f 4 or lower in bright sunlight can result in unflattering shadows on your subject’s face. It can also blow out the highlights in your background. Using flash is a great way to resolve these issues.

So how can we control our scene using HSS to balance foreground, background, and ambient light for an even exposure? You first need a flash lighting system that supports HSS.