A Quick Introduction to High Speed Flash Photography

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer TriggerTrap Flash Adapter review black and white (1 of 1)ISO 2003.0 sec at f - 6.4

High Speed flash photography is one of the funnest things that you can do to creatively capture motion that otherwise isn’t very visible to the human eye. We’re talking about split second moments that otherwise can be even tough to capture for standard cameras. In a way though, high speed flash capabilities can make most ordinary cameras much more capable.

Here’s a quick introduction to high speed flash photography.

The Parameters of a High Speed Flash Exposure

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Paul C Buff Einstein E640 monolight (7 of 10)ISO 2001-50 sec at f - 2.8

To begin with high speed flash photography, you’ll first need to nail down a couple of key terms and understand how they relate to one another and can combine to create the photo that you want. For the most part, they’re the very basics of exposure, which you can learn about here in under 10 minutes. But these rules tend to change a bit when it comes to working with flashes.

Shutter speed: the shutter speed on your camera tends to be about controlling the amount of ambient light in the image overall.

Aperture/F-Stop: this controls the amount of light from the flash that actually hits the image, as well as depth of field

ISO: controls the overall sensitivity to the scene

Flash exposure: this is all determined by how much power the flash is outputting. Sometimes you can’t control it very much, like in the case of shooting with TTL lighting.

These are the four basic elements to creating an image with a flash included, but in this case there is another parameter: flash duration. The flash duration is what essentially stops the fast movement in the frame.

It’s About Flash Duration

F8, 1/6th of a second and ISO 250. F8 was used to ensure that when Jordana was moving about that I'd get that area in focus. 1/6th was used to capture the motion of the hula hoops. A fast flash duration is what stopped the fast moving motion otherwise.

F8, 1/6th of a second and ISO 250. F8 was used to ensure that when Jordana was moving about that I’d get that area in focus. 1/6th was used to capture the motion of the hula hoops. A fast flash duration is what stopped the fast moving motion otherwise.

What is flash duration? The flash duration is just how quick the flash fires. Luckily, it’s simple enough to figure out and works like shutter speeds. Shutter speeds work in fractions of a second, and so do flash durations. For what it’s worth, studio strobes and monolights tend to have a faster flash duration than hot shoe flashes. It’s important to check this tech spec on the light that you’re getting.

In situations where flash is added into the scene, the shutter speed controls movement capture and ambient light while the flash duration stops the fast moving subject. Theoretically, it can allow a photographer to handhold a camera and shoot for an entire two seconds or so because the flash will stop the fast moving motion. In fact, we were able to create the opening image in this article by shooting at longer than two seconds–but the fast flash duration helped quite a bit.

In the image above, we used it with the second curtain flash method.

Getting Creative

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer TriggerTrap Flash Adapter review images (4 of 12)ISO 2002.0 sec at f - 6.4

When it comes to applying this creatively, there are a whole host of options that you can do. Many photographers try to capture eggs cracking, bullets travelling, liquid splashing, etc. Using the TriggerTrap flash adapter is one simple way to get these types of images done, but then again there are much more complicated setups like the Milky Pinups and Liquid Heroes projects.