Tutorial: A Practical Application of Rear Curtain Sync Flash Settings

If you’re fond of shooting the graceful movements of dance, you might want to experiment with shooting with flash in rear curtain sync mode using these settings.

Rear curtain sync mode is one of the creative techniques at your disposal when you work with flash. Basically, the flash fires off towards the end of an exposure, or just before the rear/second curtain closes. With this technique, you can produces some really cool-looking blur and light trails while your subject remains in focus. That makes it popular for experimenting with capturing movement using flash. In this quick tutorial, wedding and portrait photographer Jen Marino shares her go-to settings for shooting dance photos.

If you’re just learning about this flash mode and you’d like to experiment but have no idea how to set your gear, Marino’s suggestions should come in handy. Basically, set your flash unit to rear curtain sync, then if your flash has a zoom function, set it all the way in to create a spotlight or vignette effect. She also keeps the flash metering at the E-TTL (Evaluative Through The Lens) if the lighting is constant (without a lot of changing or flashing lights around); otherwise, she sets it to Manual. Don’t forget to make sure the flash is pointing forward towards your subject.

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. But Second curtain flash captured the trail

As for the camera settings, Marino usually works around with shutter speed of 1/8 second, aperture of f8, and 400 ISO. She also typically shoots with a focal length of 24mm. As she suggests, feel free to play around with different settings and see what works for you and your projects! She shoots with these settings as part of her wedding photography, so you may want to tweak these values to the kind of dance event or setting that you want to photograph.

The rear curtain sync mode is also useful for other projects like night fashion photography, as we’ve previously seen in Michal Jeck’s fun shoot. Check out Jen Marino’s YouTube channel if you want more photography videos and tutorials.


Screenshot image from the video by Jen Marino