How to cheat at high speed sync and shoot in bright conditions with studio strobes

Aug 8, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

How to cheat at high speed sync and shoot in bright conditions with studio strobes

Aug 8, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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High speed sync (HSS) has taken off in a big way the last few years. A relatively new technology, high speed sync has largely been limited to speedlights. The lack of power has put many people off using it. Unless you have a bunch of them, you just can’t usually get the shots you want.

HSS features have been appearing in many new powerful studio strobes lately, but what about your old ones? Are they useless now? Absolutely not. In his latest video, Jay P. Morgan is here to show you how to get high speed flash capabilities with studio strobes.

YouTube video

It’s a neat trick if you have older strobes laying around that have long flash durations. As long as they can output the same power for the duration of your shutter speed, you’re good to go. Obviously, though, strobes with very fast durations probably won’t work. They just peak too early, and drop off before you get to the end of the exposure.

  • Put a compatible speedlight on your hotshoe. This tricks your camera into letting you shoot HSS.
  • Set your studio strobe up as an optical slave. It’ll go off when it sees the flash fire the first time.

You’ll want to be in manual power mode for this. Otherwise, in TTL mode, the pre-flashes can cause the strobe to fire far too early. Even with a long flash duration, firing before the shutter’s even opened can cause wildly inconsistent results.

I’ve used a similar technique myself in the past, except I did it with radio triggers instead of optical slave. This can be a little bit more tricky depending on the triggers you have.

I used Yong RF-602 triggers. They’ve changed the design of the transmitter, but originally they came with a PC Sync socket. The only real difference is that I used a sync cable between the camera body & RF-602 transmitter. Then I put an RF-602 receiver onto each studio strobe.

The end result was the same, though. I could now shoot faster than my sync speed with studio strobes. It was pretty reliable, too. That being said, different camera bodies and strobes do have different limits. So, you’ll want to practise with your own kit, and see where it falls over.

Workarounds like this are great when they work, but you can’t always rely on them. So if you don’t yet own strobes, think carefully before you buy. I’d suggest going for ones that come with HSS capabilities if you think you’ll utilise them often.

Have you tried workarounds like this to get HSS-like abilities with your strobes? Did you buy strobes that had high shutter speed capabilities built in? Or do you just use ND filters? What do you use? Let us know in the comments.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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6 responses to “How to cheat at high speed sync and shoot in bright conditions with studio strobes”

  1. Trayan Trufev Avatar
    Trayan Trufev

    That will do any flash as log as its flash duration is longer than the max sync speed of the camera (for instance if you camera has sync speed 1/250 a flash with flash duration 1/200 (usually at full power) will do). You can fire the flash via optical slave as mentioned or via HSS trigger. This technically make your flash a continuous light source, since it illuminates the entire exposure, no matter the shutter curtains. Very limiting though because you can hardly change the power of your flash. Usually you will be stuck at full power, otherwise your flash duration will be shorter than required and will result in black curtain on your picture.

    1. John Aldred Avatar
      John Aldred

      Most, especially older, studio strobes, do in fact adjust the brightness of the bulb and keep the flash duration consistent when you change the power.

      Keeping the bulb at maximum power and simply altering the flash duration is more common with speedlights, and some newer strobes like Einsteins.

  2. Brent Soulé Avatar
    Brent Soulé

    All this really is, is a hypersync hack by using the high speed sync of capable flashes or strobes to slave trigger non-hss strobes to catch the tail of the strobe output. Instead of the normal way of using a hypersync capable trigger, that is tunable to specific strobes. The hss flash starts its high speed strobing right before the shutter starts to open, which then triggers the strobe before the shutter starts to travel across the focal plane. Flash output is actually much longer than what it is rated sense they only count the output that is above 50% of the peak output that it is set at. John is right that old strobes have longer burn times. I have some old whitelightings that I would like to fix because of this and probably be able to get 2 stops of adjustment. I have seen that some old strobes have times up to 1/80. I have even used this hack on some old sunpak speedlites from the early 70’s, but only at 1/1.

    1. eeswar Avatar
      eeswar

      is there any workaround for a non hss body like my nikon d5300? old threads from 2008 suggest its not possible as the manually firing the flash by covering hot shoe pins will result black bars since the flash fires not before the curtains move!

  3. Chuck Sanders Avatar
    Chuck Sanders

    But when you used the wireless triggers instead of the compatible speedlight ~ how did you trick the camera into letting you shoot HSS?

  4. Bill Avatar
    Bill

    This isn’t working with my setup. I’m using a Canon 5d mark 2 and a White Lightning X series 8oo set to full power The strobe is set to hss. At shutter speeds over 1/250 I’m getting only partial frame coverage.