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Would you use HSS or max sync speed with a smaller f-stop for outdoor portraits under a bright sun?

haanshaans Member
edited July 2012 in portraits & people
Am I right to say that it depends on the depth of field needed and distance to the subject?

To have a shallow depth of field, one would go for HSS. For a more deeper depth of field, then one can opt for max sync speed with a larger f-stop.

Obviously in order to go HSS, the flash needs to be placed nearer to the subject.


  • do u understand what hss means, do u understand what the camera does differently when the shutter is pushed past max sync speed, do u understand that shutterspeed below max sync has no effect on flash exposure? reason im asking is b/c if i answer ur question flat out and u dont know the answer to my above questions i fear u will become confused even more
  • TrevTrev Moderator

    Yes, you are basically correct. The only thing wrong with your question [and the headline] is the terminology relating to "larger" or "smaller" f-stops.

    You have that backward. When we say 'larger' f-stop, we mean wider, more open, as in a smaller number [f2.8] that gives a wider aperture, which means you will be around the 4000th on shutter following 'sunny 16' rule.

    So, in sunlight, to get a shallow depth of field you need a 'larger' aperture [f.28-f4.0], depending on your distance to subject + distance to background, also the telephoto size of lens, 100mm +.

    If you require a deeper depth of field, you then need a 'smaller' f-stop [f8.0 +]

    Going just 1/3rd above max sync speed immediately puts you in the HSS range and you will also virtually lose 1/2 flash power.

    Flash will definitely need to be closer, but that depends on what you want the flash to do.

    Does it need to overpower the sun, or merely fill?


  • haanshaans Member
    My apologies with the f-stop confusion. Yes, it should meant 'smaller' f-stop narrow aperture.

    I know to overpower the sun, best to stick with max sync speed and we can get to use a larger wider f-stop.

    If I want to fill flash, should I go for HSS? The answer is it depending whether I need a deep or shallow depth of field?
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    Yes, it also depends on how much ambient light is around at the time.

    Full bright sun, and you can get close enough use HSS if convenient to add fill light and you want that shallow depth of field.

    Or if depth of field does not matter, than stick to sync speed and below to get the most out of your flash.


  • l find i hardly ever have to go to hss, when the ambient is too powerfull to shoot at 2.8, u can usually expose at iso 100 1/250, f4, when coupled with a 70-200 one can still get a nice shallow dof without sacrificing major flash power, did this photo shoot a few days ago all shots were shot from 2.8-3.2 1/160-1/320 (my cameras max sync is 1/320) at iso 100, off camera flash in 24inch softbox, http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=365923076814808&set=a.365920686815047.82598.286484681425315&type=1&theater
  • tumpaltumpal Member
    edited July 2012
    everything Naftoli and Trev have said. There are few things that I might add, if you don't mind :)
    When you shoot on location it's important to keep things simple, but at the same time those simple things shouldn't limit your workflow.
    Every time I go on site under the situation that you've described, I set my mind to max sync speed. HSS would be nice for some needs, but I know I'd be limited by the flash placement, and that would bothersome under some circumstances, so I'll put HSS as secondary option (though I might never bother with it at all). Aperture just have to be dictated by how I set my ISO and shutter speed (that is normally iso 100 and 1/250) according to the ambient light. Where I live (right on the equator), at around 1 to 2 pm (midday) I'd get around f/9 to f/11 depending on how the cloud block the sun. I'd live with that. Seems that you can get away with wider aperture on your part of the world.

    Out of focus background (or foreground) on the other hand I'd try to achieve by compressing the depth of field using the tele lens zoomed to the longest range. Might not as sweet as 70-200 at f/2.8, but they shall be blurred nevertheless, besides there are always trade offs to be made. By thoughtful positioning of yourself and the subjects, relative to the background, you'll get those bokeh that you might want. Neil has covered these on some articles (I might have read them wrong, correction is in order then). Have fun...
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