Flash Sync Blues – Helen Whitford

In 1990 when I was using a film SLR and working hard at learning how to get the most out of my camera, I made a fundamental mistake and learnt an important lesson. Unfortunately it was while I was doing a shoot with three girls from my class from school who were dressed in their Kernowek Lowender costumes and I had arranged a Sunday of taking them to various locations around the Moonta Mines to get a Ye Olde Worlde feel.  This was not something I was going to get to repeat.

We had a lovely fun day. We went to the Mines, an old cottage, an old wagon and I shot a couple of rolls of colour and one black and white.

When I got the prints back I was stunned.  Yes, I had some nice shots, but half of the images were only half there.  The rest of the print was black.  I went to my friendly developer man and told him there must be something wrong with his machine! Then he educated me about flash sync, and how, if your shutter speed is too fast, the shutter may have half shut already when the flash fires, meaning the shutter is between the subject and the film!

I threw out all of the ruined shots but here’s a demo of how the shots were supposed to turn out..

Helen 1

And how they DID turn out!…

Helen 1a

The good news is that our new DSLRs won’t let us make that mistake!  I tried it on my D7000 but even in Manual it would not let me take a shot faster than the sync speed of 1/250.  So if you’re just starting out, relax!  This is not something you need to worry about!

Back                                             Next

1 Response to Flash Sync Blues – Helen Whitford

  1. Eric says:

    Hi All,
    Whilst what Helen has written is to some extent true a higher sync speed can still cause problems.

    Digital cameras do not always prevent this problem which Helen had experienced.
    When using a dedicated flash on the camera the flash circuitry will control the camera’s shutter speed………you’ll notice that I said DEDICATED regarding the flash! If the flash is not the dedicated type it may not set the shutter speed correctly.

    If my memory serves me correctly, there is also the problem if one uses “off camera” flash or “studio flash” and these units are not connected using a dedicated extension cable the problem still exists. If there is no physical dedicated connection between the flash unit’s hot foot and the camera’s hot shoe, the flash unit’s circuitry cannot control the shutter speed of the camera as the signals are transmitted through the extra connecting contact pins.

    This problem will also occur when using the various hot shoe adapters if the camera is not fitted with a flash PC cable socket, the same will occur if using a PC socket fitted to the camera if the camera has one fitted as is the case in the higher end pro spec cameras.

    Motto……always check the shutter sync. speed when using a flash unit……dedicated or not!!!

    Regards Eric.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s