Slow Sync Flash - it ain't just slowing you down in Photography
January 30, 2009, 09:36 AM
by Yogi Sujiwo
Slow Sync Flash is a function found on many cameras
that tells your camera to shoot with both a longer shutter speed as
well as firing the flash. This means you get the best of both worlds
above and can both get a relatively sharp shot of your main subject as
well as get some ambient light from the background and foreground.
Some cameras allow you to access slow sync flash manually and set
exposure length and flash strength but on many compact cameras there is
a little less control given and it’s presented as an automatic shooting
mode, often called ‘night mode’ or even ‘party mode’ where the camera
selects the slower shutter speed and flash strength for you.
Rear and Front Curtain Sync
If your camera gives you some manual control when it comes to slow
sync flash you might find yourself presented with two options called
‘rear curtain sync’ and ‘front curtain sync’.
These two modes sound a little technical but to put it most simply they are the way in which you choose when to fire your flash during the longer exposure.
Rear Curtain Sync - this tells your camera to fire
the flash at the end of the exposure. ie when you press the shutter
your lens opens up and starts collecting light and just before it
closes the flash will fire to light up and freeze your main subject
(see the card shot to the left for an example where you’ll see the card
trail ending in a nice crisp shot of the card).
Front Curtain Sync - this tells your camera to fire
the flash at the start of the exposure. ie when you press the shutter,
the flash will fire immediately and the shutter will remain open
afterwards capturing ambient light.
You might not think there’s much difference between these modes but
when you’re photographing a moving subject it can have a real impact.
You’ll find many action/sports photographers will use Rear Curtain Sync
when shooting with a panning technique.
Tripod or Handheld?
When using either slow synch in either mode (or in the automatic
‘night mode’ you will want to consider whether or not to use a tripod.
Traditionally when shooting with longer shutter speeds it is accepted
that a tripod is essential in order to stop any camera movement. Even
the steadiest of hands will not be able to stop a camera moving over
even a 1 or 2 second exposure. So if you want to eliminate blur from
your cameras movement definitely use a tripod (and consider a shutter
However in some circumstances hand holding your camera while using
slow sync flash can lead to some wonderful effects. For example if
you’re at a wedding or party and are out on the dance floor the results
can be great at capturing the mood of a night with those you’re
photographing largely frozen by the flash but the lights on the dance
floor blurred from you moving your camera during the shot.
Of course hand held techniques won’t work with every situation so
experiment with both methods at different shutter speeds and by using
both rear and front curtain sync and find the best methods for your
Example Slow Sync Flash Images:
Image by TruShu
Image by BombDog
Image by davedeluria
Image by aumbody images
Image by omeara.tim
Image by sesshoku
Image by Scott-5×5
Image by BURИBLUE
Image by brtsergio
Image by HolyHolySnappers
Image by Russell
Image by omeara.tim
Taken from Digital Photography Techniques
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