Capturing Action in the Studio


Lesson Info

HSS, HS and Hypersync

So high-speed sync is an old-school technique. It's what Nikon and Canon and all the speed light companies invented for their speed lights. And what's happening there is, it's basically popping off a bunch of tiny, little low-power flashes to light up each little strip of the shutters that moves down. Does that make sense? When you see this, you see that moving down, and it's popping flashes, so it's creating a continuous light source, essentially. The up side of this is that you get really nice, even lighting and it works. The down side is that you get really low power. So even on like a Pro Photo B1, you know, it's great for portraits because the light has to be pretty close, but, you know, if I wanna put the light 20, 30 feet away it's not gonna work, 'cause it doesn't have enough power. And for a speed light, like if you're doing this outdoor and you wanna overpower daylight, I mean, the speed light has to be like a foot or two away from the person with no light modifier on it. Oth...

erwise, forget about it. It doesn't have enough power. So it's great in theory, and it works great, it depends on what you're doing. We could definitely do this shoot with high speed sync because it's dark enough in here, because we have the lights close enough, we'd just have to crank them up to full power. We could probably pull this off. So here's what I was just talking about. The other thing is, it burns through batteries really quickly. Because it's continually making a pulse of light, it really works down the batteries super fast. So, HyperSync is something that PocketWizard designed and you still have that same issue with the slit of the shutter going down. The slit gets smaller and smaller and smaller the faster your shutter speed, so 8/1000ths of a second is like a hairline strip just going (whooshing), you know. So basically what HyperSync is doing is, it's using the trigger to time the flash so that you're using a slice of the light, as you see in the diagram. And this is the super geeky, techy part of this whole thing. And it's kind of a miracle that they made this happen. The issue for PocketWizard was that they were designing it for all these different flashes, so they didn't have their own flash system to work with. And so Hi-Sync from Elinchrom-- Well, let's go to the advantages. Sorry. Let me back up. HyperSync, it's basically the same advantages for Hi-Sync. You can overpower the sun from like 60 to 100 feet away with the 1200 watt-second pack, which is something that's never been possible in the history of man before with a flash. So that opens up, that's why I'm using it as an adventure sports photographer, because it allows me to do things that were never possible before, like a kayaker going off a waterfall. My flash is a hundred feet away and I can overpower daylight. That's amazing. And it's a single burst of light, so it doesn't eat your batteries. HyperSync had some disadvantages because of, you know, it didn't work on very many flashes because the flash duration has to be really long to make this work. If it's too fast of a flash duration, it can't time it. So you want, I think, these Elinchroms. With their Hi-Sync heads, they have a flash duration of 1/550th of a second. So that's a really slow flash duration. That's the opposite of what you would normally shop for in a studio strobe because it gives you more time to sync that flash up. And they've also flattened the flash curve so that it's like a round hump instead of this burst of really bright light and then the tail. So they've really, basically, taken what PocketWizard did with the HyperSync and tailored it to their strobe so it works a little bit more efficiently. So the other thing with the HyperSync was, you couldn't really go above, depending on which camera, and this is very dependent on the camera, at least they HyperSync is, like with Canon you could never go above 8/100ths of a second, with Nikon, 12/50ths to the 16/100ths of a second was like the fastest shutter speed you could get. So, Hi-Sync is exactly the same thing as Hyper-- Well, it's not exactly, but it's a similar method as HyperSync. The cool thing is, they've also designed this ODS trigger that allows you to change where you're taking that slice of light out of the curve of the flash. And this is not the way the flash is on the Hi-Sync heads that Elinchrom has. There's more kind of a hump, like a camel's hump, out there in the middle. The advantages of Hi-Sync are a little bit more than HyperSync because they flattened out the flash curve. And the other beautiful thing for the Elinchrom is they make three different flash heads for all of their battery-powered packs, so you can choose the right flash head for the right situation and switch the flash head out. So they make an action head with a really fast flash duration, and they make the Hi-Sync head with the really slow flash duration, so you have the best of all worlds if you own both flash heads or multiple flash heads. Single burst of light, it doesn't eat up the batteries. One of the issues with HyperSync is because your curve goes up so fast and then drops, there could be a gradation in the image because at the top is that bright part of light and then as the slit moves down, the flash curve is down here, so there's like a graduated filter in Lightroom created on it. But because Elinchrom has flattened out the flash curve, it's pretty much uniform all the way across. The other thing is, it now works with pretty much every camera out there that's a DSLR, including mirrorless, Sonys, I think they have a trigger for Olympus, and possibly even Fuji, or they're working on the Fuji one. I don't know exactly. And the other cool thing, especially with Elinchroms, is I can change the power from the lowest possible power all the way to the highest possible power, 'cause they've made the flash duration exactly the same at all power settings. And they're the only ones that have done that. So that means, think about this, I can choose any shutter speed, any aperture, any ISO, within reason, not like ISO 6400, and we can make that work. And all we have to do is turn the power up and down at the strobes. So that gives us ultimate creative freedom in a way that's never been possible with flash before. You could do this with HSS, high-speed sync, but you run into power limitations. So that's the key thing there. The only disadvantage is, you can't use a light meter because, obviously, if you use a light meter it's gonna read the whole burst of light, and you can't tell it how much of that light you're gonna use. But, as you'll see when I start doing this, it's not that hard to figure it out. And I don't typically shoot tethered when I'm doing this 'cause I'm in the middle of nowhere with a outdoor athlete but it definitely helps if you're tethered as well. Here's just an example. These are ELB 400, so they're only 400 watt-second lights, and with 400 watt seconds I can overpower daylight from about 20 feet away. I could have done this whole shoot with the 400s instead instead of the 1200 watt-second units, but I just brought these 'cause they're faster recycle times and they'll help us go faster for the class.

With the advent of numerous high-speed sync technologies it is now possible to freeze motion like never before. Action Photographer Michael Clark will discuss how to use Hi-Sync (HS) techniques to capture fast moving action in the studio. Working with a parkour athlete we will walk you step by step through the process to figure out this exciting new technology and discuss how it can be used in the studio and out on location.



  • This was such a cool class! My strobe skills are intermediate at best, and I learned SO MUCH! Michael Clark knows his tech, and demonstrates how to make it work best for you creatively. I definitely recommend this class to anyone who wants to learn or improve their professional lighting skills, or manipulate them creatively to light with intention!
  • The technical information is good. The practical application was slow. The same wall flip shot over and over while he fiddled with settings and none of the shots looked good.
  • What to say! Michael is a true pro in action photography, knows what he is doing, gets it the first time almost always.