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High-Speed Sync (HSS) vs. Hi-Sync (HS) vs. HyperSync vs. Leaf Shutter

Lesson 10 from: Advanced Lighting for Adventure Photography

Michael Clark

High-Speed Sync (HSS) vs. Hi-Sync (HS) vs. HyperSync vs. Leaf Shutter

Lesson 10 from: Advanced Lighting for Adventure Photography

Michael Clark

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Lesson Info

10. High-Speed Sync (HSS) vs. Hi-Sync (HS) vs. HyperSync vs. Leaf Shutter


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Evolution with Lighting


Why Use Artificial Lighting?


Pre-Production and Pre-Visualizing


Equipment: Overview of the Gear


Equipment: Selecting the Right Gear


Strobes vs. Speedlights


Lighting 101: Flash Sync Speeds


Lesson Info

High-Speed Sync (HSS) vs. Hi-Sync (HS) vs. HyperSync vs. Leaf Shutter

We've been speeding along right now at about 50 miles an hour. Now we're gonna push the pedal down, hammer down and we're gonna go about 300 miles an hour on the geeky technical stuff. So hang with us here, especially you online. This is where we're gonna explain how all this works. So, just so you know, in the extras that you get with the class there's a whole bunch of links. One of those is to this blog post on Elinchrom's website that I wrote last year, where they explain how all this works. You can look it up. Here's the title, HS or HSS What's the Difference? In that post we had all these diagrams that Bram from Elinchrom made, thank you Bram. These are so, I mean to explain this without these diagrams would be very difficult. So HSS, I apologize for all the terms. There's like four different terms we're gonna be using and I'll try and constrain it but HSS is High Speed Sync. So this is technically how your Nikon and speed light, your Nikon and Canon speed lights sync at higher sh...

utter speeds than your sync speeds. So, do any of you have experience using your speed lights at like 1/4000ths of a second? It works basically by popping off a bunch of little flashes really quickly to fill in all that slit that's going down the sensor. And because it's using, creating so many flashes so quickly they're really low power flashes. So, if I was outdoors trying to overpower daylight with this, with a speed light, the speed light's gonna have to be right here, with no light modifier on it. Because those low power flashes are like nothing. Profoto and some other companies have taken this to the next level, and they've done it with their Profoto B1, which is an excellent, excellent unit. And it's 500 watts, like a unit, but still, even though it starts at 500 watt seconds, if you're using high speed sync with one of those flashes, each one of those little bursts is like I don't know how many watt seconds it is, but maybe only 50 watt seconds and that might be generous. So it's still gonna have to be fairly close to your subject, within 10 feet for sure. And if you wanna overpower daylight, I don't know because I haven't tried it, it's gonna have to be close. The nice thing, let's talk about the advantages of the high speed sync. You get really consistent lighting throughout the entire frame. Because all those little bursts are super even, means the entire frame is lit very cleanly. That's a huge advantage. And it works with TTL technology for some units like the Profoto B1. The disadvantages is that like I just talked about your light has to be really close. And it runs through batteries really quickly because you're really making the battery work hard. So just a, we're gonna basically compare all of these advanced lighting techniques. Hypersync is the original version of Hi-Sync. It was created by PocketWizard. When they created the TL, the ControlTL system PocketWizard radios, they're called the MiniTT1 and the FlexTT5, I believe. And they came out I think four, four and a half years ago. It took six months to a year before pretty much anybody was even using this technology that they had designed. And it was super specific as to which flashes it worked with. So it worked with AlienBees, and it worked with the Elinchrom Rangers with the S, the slower heads. And it almost didn't work with anything else on the market. And it's super experimental. And that's basically what it's doing, is it's timing the flash with the shutter to sync them up at higher shutter speeds than normal. So how is it doing that? Technically it's triggering the flash before it's triggering the camera. Which sounds totally crazy, like how did, I don't know how they figured this out. But they're triggering the flash before they trigger the camera so that this moving slit comes down and you're using a slice of the light, as this shows in the graph, that's only part of the light output of the flash. So to make this work, this goes back to our flash durations, you need a slow flash duration. You don't wanna a fast flash duration. Because if this was 1/20,000th of a second there's no way you could do that timing. So that's why it only worked with certain flash units. You wanted a flash that had like a flash duration around 1/800th of a second or lower. Which, that means most of your flashes are gonna be at full power, because that's where typically the slowest flash durations are at full power. Does that make sense? 'Cause we just like jumped into hyperspace here with Hypersync. (laughter) And we'll keep talking about this, so the advantages of Hypersync, is you can overpower the sun from really far away and this is how I shot that surf shot was using using Hypersync. This is before Elinchrom ever came out with Hi-Sync. Those ice climbing shots were all shot with Hypersync. And, you know, I was in my driveway literally for two hours one day just trying to even get it to work, much less figure out how to perfect it. So this was definitely an experimental thing early on. PocketWizard had an excellent Wiki page set up that was like, it was huge. It was like reading a book to figure this out. So there weren't that many photographers doing it which is why I ran after it because I'm kind of a tech geek as you, you heard from the physics background. And I like the challenge of figuring stuff out. And because there weren't many photographers doing it, it was a way for me to separate myself from the pack to some degree. The other nice thing about Hypersync is that it's only one flash. So it's no different than normal flash. So it doesn't burn your batteries as fast as the high speed sync. Disadvantages. It's super specific as to which camera you use, which flash you have, like I know it worked better on Nikon cameras than it did on Canon cameras and it has something to do with the way the shutter mechanism works. It's not like the Canon cameras are worse than the Nikons in any way, I'm just saying that it was so specific that you had to have the right camera, the right flash, the right flash head and figure it out. So that was kind of a disadvantage. You only had maybe your highest flash output, so you could only use it at the highest power of your strobe. So you're very limited in the power range that you could use. And I think on my Nikons, the top shutter speed I could ever get up to to make it work is 1/1600th of a second. It wasn't great there. All those ice climbing images that you saw were at 1/1250th of a second, so was the surf shot. That was about the highest shutter speed I could make it work at. I think for most Canon cameras, talking to some of my fellow Red Bull photographers, the highest I ever heard of them making it to was 1/800th of a second for Hypersync, with the PocketWizards and the, so this is a little bit older technology. The other issue is because, remember that flash curve went up and then it went down slowly? You get a gradation in the image so here's the maximum part of the flash curve and this top part is the tail of the flash curve as it goes off so you're getting this gradation. Now this is just a picture of a white wall with the flash pointing at it so you can see the effect of the flash over time. So, you know, that's not the end of the world. You could just draw a graduated filter in Lightroom and even this out. It might actually help your image out, but it is something to know about. And you don't get that gradation with the high speed sync, that we talked about like the Profoto B1 or your speed lights. So, this is an image shot with the Hypersync. Because there's so much ice reflecting light all over the place, you know we were talking about having super sharp shadows and stuff in here, the light of the ice is bouncing this all over the place and kind of filling in the shadows so that's one specific scenario where it really works well. And I'm sure we have a ton of questions at this point, but let me finish this section and we'll get there. This is just another picture from that shoot. Moving angles, light didn't move at all. That same picture I showed you earlier. So let's talk about Hi-Sync and then I'll take questions. So Hi-Sync is essentially the exact same as Hypersync. It's just height and so why are there all these names? That's the number one question. PocketWizard registered and trademarked the word "hypersync". So Elinchrom can't use it. Broncolor can't use it. Profoto can't use it. So they had to come up with a new term. So they came up with HS and Hi-Sync as a different way of saying it. High speed sync is totally different than Hypersync so that's why it's got a different name. Leaf shutters is a totally different thing, so there's all these terminologies that's very confusing and I, I totally get it. So how is Hi-Sync different than Hypersync? It's essentially doing the same thing. You're taking a slice of the light, and then you have a trigger that you can actually manipulate where you're taking that slice from. The reason that Hi-Sync, Elinchrom has taken the Highsync to a whole other level because they flattened out the flash curve. So the flash curve doesn't look like this. The flash curve is like a bump, like a Gaussian curve or a camel's hump. So that that place you're taking the slice, it's flatter. It's not like that, so there's a lot less gradation. And they've basically, because it's all their brand stuff instead of PocketWizard, Elinchrom or whoever, what are the other brands you're trying to put together in Hypersync. They've made it work together better 'cause it's all their system. And this is also why they have different flash heads for their units and it's not all one monoblock unit because you can't use the action head to do this, you have to use the HS head that they make specifically for this technique to get the perfect HS exposures. And I know this is getting way down in the weeds there but this is how this all works. I mean, so advantages of this is that same like Hypersync you can overpower the sun from far away, you have a single burst of light, because they've optimized it there's very little gradation. There's still a little bit of gradation but it's so lit, small that you can barely ever see it, depending on what power setting you're at. It works with all cameras basically now. And you can use it at all power settings. So what they've done in this flash head, they've changed the flash tube and the electronics so that it's consistent. I think it's 1/550th of a second flash duration at all power settings. Which is huge. That's key. Because that means I can actually use all power settings on my flash to balance the light on the subject and the light on my background. And it's not just Elinchrom whose going after this, I think Broncolor now has HS. I don't know how effectively it works but I'm sure it's better than Hypersync did. So, The only disadvantage with Hi-Sync or Hypersync, or any of these things, high speed things you can't use a light meter. Because if I put a light meter up it's reading at the entire burst of light but I'm only using some percentage of that light. On some of the new cameras they're actually just eliminating the, the shutter mechanism in there, Um hm. Does that effect this process at all, just having a digital shutter? My prediction is no. I mean obviously there's not many cameras out here that have that global shutter yet, but global shutter will mean that, just like a leaf shutter it's open all the time. It just turns the shutter, there is no shutter. It just turns the sensor on and off. So I think this will be useful in the future as well for global shutters when those show up. Probably in the next year or two. That's the hope. That would be great 'cause that will really free us up and it'll basically mean that, the global shutter would be like the, the Hasselblad leaf shutter, so you can sync at all speeds. Does that mean the global shutters will work on the other HS systems or standard flash systems at the higher, We'll have to see when they arrive. I haven't done testing to really say definitively yes or no but I hope so. So just to show you a few Hi-Sync images, you see like there's like no gradation on this image. These are little ELB 400s from 20-30 feet away and there's a giant softbox modifier on this one up front and there's full sun hitting her so it makes a very hyper real image, which may or may not be that great. Do we have other questions online? Sorry. I skipped ahead there. No, that's alright. I think just to clarify this is a new Dubai, I have a question with Hypersync, the shutter speed can't be more than 1/1000th, is that right? It depends on your camera. Okay. So if you're shooting Canon, I mean, then you have to experiment with this 'cause I don't know which camera you have and which flash head you have and, Right. all that stuff. I know from experience that I was never able to get any of my Nikons above 1/1250th or 1/1600th of a second without getting serious banding issues, with my Elinchrom Ranger and S heads. With AlienBees, which also worked with this, you might be able to do a little more, it's hard to say. With Canon, like 1/800th to 1/1000th of a second was the max that I've ever heard of anybody going. So, experiment and find out is the trick there. Thank you. And then you know, put it in your front yard, have a friend stand over there or just put something on a fence post and try lighting it at all these different, and the thing with Hypersync is you can't like, you have to guess at the exposure. And we're gonna talk about that next. But it's full on guessing here. And then, once you see, because where you're shooting digital we can see it on the back of the camera, and we have a histogram we can dial the exposure in by looking at that instant preview. Which is not technically the way you would do high end lighting because that's not very precise. But that's the only option you have in this example. And you'll see that in the, the videos we're gonna show later. Let's just keep going. So here's another one, where we're lighting, the sun's right behind him. We're shooting at 6400th of a second at F4. The other thing, typically when you're shooting Hypersync or Hi-Sync you're shooting at wide open or very shallow depth of field so then you're camera has to have a really good auto focus if you're photographing a moving subject. So that's why I say that surf shot's like a near miracle that we got it because we're shooting at F4 with a 600 lens with a 1.4 teleconverter so that meant, you know, focus had to be critically sharp for that thing to be sharp.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Reference Guide
Chapter 2: ABCs of Lighting by Michael Clark
Advanced Lighting Keynote PDF - Day 1
Advanced Lighting Keynote PDF - Day 2

Ratings and Reviews

norah levine

This is a course that I could watch repeatedly and be able to learn something new each time. Michael is a truly an expert in his field and is so generous with his knowledge. This course really breaks down the process of adventure photography, but it's more than that. I don't think you need to even be an adventure sports photographer to get tons out of this course. Michael is really good at breaking down some very complicated technology. Thank you!

a Creativelive Student

Great course that combines the technical aspects of shooting with light in different situations, with the art of making a great image of athletes. Michael is a great teacher and I'm sure his lessons will continue to help guide over and over again!

Jeph DeLorme

Great class with dozens of tips, ideas and lighting strategies for tough outdoor lighting challenges. Advanced class taught in a way that allows even a beginner to get a handle on lighting tough situations. The location videos provide real life examples that make this class a definite must have for my Creative Live collection. Thank you Michael Clark and Creative Live! Jeph DeLorme

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