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Why Shutter Speed isn't Important in High Speed Flash Photography

Why Shutter Speed isn't Important in High Speed Flash Photography

Before starting let me ask you a question, “What would be your reaction if someone told you that he uses very low shutter speed in high-speed photography?” I am sure your first thought would be “Is he crazy? He is talking about high-speed photography and on the other hand, he is telling that he uses low shutter speed.                                      

Well, it’s shocking but absolutely true and before talking further, let me show you some examples. Check out the following image and guess the shutter speed used while taking this shot?

 © Ramakant Sharda – http://ClickManic.com

1/4000 seconds?  or  1/1000 seconds?  or  1/250 seconds?

What would you say if I told you that shutter speed was 1/10 in this picture? Can’t believe it? Well, check the EXIF info of this shot.


Here are some more examples:

 © Ramakant Sharda – http://ClickManic.com

© Ramakant Sharda – http://ClickManic.com

© Ramakant Sharda – http://ClickManic.com

© Ramakant Sharda – http://ClickManic.com

So why shutter speed is not an important factor in high speed flash photography because usually, we shoot in a nearly dark room with a narrow aperture so the ambient light doesn’t make any difference in the photo and we use flash as a light source to expose the shot.

Okay, let’s do an experiment. Takeout your camera, switch it to manual mode with following settings and take a picture inside a room where light is not very bright.

ISO: 100
Aperture: f/22
Shutter speed: 1/10

You should’ve got a dark picture with nothing in it. Why? Because our aperture was so narrow that it passes through very little light that was not enough to expose the shot. Now take a flash and mount on the camera and take a picture with the same settings. This time you get a perfectly exposed picture, Right?

By now you must be thinking that “why we need to use a narrow aperture?” Well, the reason to use a narrow aperture is that usually our subject is small in size and we shoot closely. So, in order to get a deeper depth of field, we need to use a narrow aperture. If we shoot with a wide aperture like f/4, we may not get the entire subject in focus and it’ll ruin the picture.

“But our camera can go up to 1/8000 seconds of shutter speed, why don’t we use it to take the shot? Why we have to use flashes?” That must be your next question.

Let me answer it one by one, okay?

There are two reasons behind it. First to capture such moments we need very high shutter speed. If we shoot at the camera’s max shutter speed of 1/8000 seconds, we may not get proper exposure as it requires a lot of light which is not available inside a room. If we lower our shutter speed to compensate the light we start getting motion blur which is the second reason for not using camera shutter for high-speed photos.

So, if you use a wide aperture, you won’t get entire subject in focus and if you use narrow, you’ll get a dark picture. At the same time, if you use slow shutter speed, you’ll get motion blur and if you use high shutter speed, again you’ll get a dark picture.

And if you are planning to increase ISO, don’t even think about it. In a room with little light, if you are shooting with 1/2000 shutter speed and f/8 aperture, you’ll need 51200 or even higher ISO which is not available in many cameras. And if it’s available, it’ll produce a huge amount of noise that’ll again ruin the picture.

At this point, the flash comes to rescue us. With flashes, we can get up to 1/25000 seconds of burst which absolutely freezes the action and at the same time, it also provides enough light to properly expose the photo.

In flash photography, we can’t go above 1/250 seconds shutter speed because it’ll exceed the maximum flash sync speed of your camera and on the lower side, no matter our shutter speed is 1/250 or 1/60 or 1/10, photo will come out the same as our aperture is narrow so ambient light doesn’t make any difference. That’s why shutter speed is not important in high-speed flash photography.

I hope it’s clear to you now, so let’s use this information and start creating some masterpieces. Keep clicking and share your shots.

Related Article: 10 Tips & Tricks for High-Speed Photography

 About the Author

Ramakant Sharda is an author, iOS App publisher, passionate photographer and a MIOPS Ambassador based in the beautiful “Pink City” of India, known as Jaipur. His work has been published in various magazines, newspapers, and blogs. He has published three Coffee Table Books, he writes about photography and also teaches photography in his workshops. Check out his website http://ClickManic.com to see the masterpieces created by him or download his free app for iPhone and iPad “30 Days to an Ace Photographer“.