05. The relationship of shutter speeds and apertures to flash

In this information-packed photography class exploring relationships between flash power, aperture settings and shutter speeds, Karl explores four key areas:

  • Understanding flash sync speeds
  • The relationship between ambient light and flash
  • The relationship between aperture and flash
  • First and second curtain flash synchronization

Karl demonstrates how each of these can work together to influence the final image.

In this photography class we cover the following:

  • How shutter speed works
  • Sync speed vs flash duration
  • Leaf shutter vs focal plane shutter
  • Shutter speed and aperture
  • The impact of ambient light on an image
  • Controlling flash exposure
  • Combining studio and ambient light

NOTE: This photography class is available with English subtitles.


  1. Hi Karl
    When using the flash should we always use ‘flash’ as white balance? This is really interesting course as I did not see any course explaining in detail like this. I have to take notes and explore.

    1. Hi, Yes when using flash set the white balance to flash or if you know the exact Kelvin temperature of the flash then set it to that with manual white balance K setting.

  2. Hi Karl, essentially bottom half of the image is completely black so is a sync speed issue however when I’ve used other triggers / lighting in the past I’ve taken shots over the 1/200 sync speed in HSS mode with my Canon 5DIV. Does the slightly older scoro not support this or would it have been something going on with the trigger or something else going on like a setting I’ve missed?

    1. Hi Cameron, the older Scoros don’t support HSS as far as I’m aware. But if you are shooting indoors then the using 1/200th sync shouldn’t be a problem as long as your ambient light is not too bright. All the shutter speed is doing is cutting out daylight or ambient light. The flash is doing all the ‘freezing’ of moving objects so it doesn’t matter what shutter speed you are using if you are shooting in a darkened studio.

  3. Hi Karl, I was trying to balance out ambient (backlit natural light with model beside a window cove) and use the strobe as fill light. I’d rented a scoro a4s and no matter what I tried was getting the banding of the mirror with higher shutter speeds. I thought that model of scoro even though not the latest version thought this would work? Am I missing something here or is it just not an option with that one and have to be the latest version? I did try the ‘speed’ setting so power was T0.1 as well.

    1. Hi Cameron, without seeing what you are talking about it is difficult to understand what you mean? But it sounds when you use the word ‘banding of the mirror’ that you went above your camera’s maximum sync speed and ended up with a band of light across the image. First of all we’d need to know which camera you were using, if it was a conventional DSLR then it is likely that the maximum sync speed is 1/200th of a second and if you went above this you encountered a problem.

  4. amazing,
    love your patience to explain all those things, you just got my lifetime subscription.

    also love your broncolor setup but is a bit out of my range so i will settle for ELC Hd pro setup.

    but please help me understand if i get it right.

    flash duration controls motion blur. so if i want a water freeze can i use a shuter of 160 and a very fast flash duration?

    but if i want to freeze water in strong ambient lighting then i need to also shorten the shuter to reduce the ambient so only then i need a hispeed sync.. right?

    cause the way i understand now,
    the shuter is 1/160 but because the flash only take like 1/4000 it only exposes the sensor for 1/4000 right?

    i dont know if i make so much sense

    ok, back to videos 🙂

    1. Hi, and thank you so much for your support! Yes you are right on all counts as you described. So if you have too much ambient/natural light when doing water splash shots then your 1/160th may not be a high enough sync to cut the natural light out. One option would be to add an ND filter to cut out natural light and increase the flash power to overcome the ND filter. A better option would be to darken the room, turn of interior lights, close blinds and keep modelling lamps on low.

  5. I was always thinking the siros would be affordable cause he makes it sound affordable but quite the opposite. 2’000 USD

    1. Hi Liam, I think it works out less than that on the kit prices but my descriptions are based on a comparison basis with other brands like Profoto. If broncolor is out of your budget then Elinchrom might be an option for you but without as fast flash durations.

  6. Hi Karl and the team!) Thank you for that tutorial, I’ve seen it for several times but still can’t understand one thing – my camera sync speed is 1/160 and that means I can’t use speed like 1/500 because of synchronization problem, but may be I can use long exposure so that the whole sensor may be lit with strobes? Like- open shutter, then flashburst, than close shutter? That way I can freeze fast mooving object and use strobes if I have no ambient light, am I understanding it right? The only problem I see here is that I’ll have to trigger flash lights separately…

      1. Hi Karl, sorry for my English)) I ‘ve failed to explain my question. I understand it is the flash that freezes mooving objects, but here you are speaking about flash synchronization problem. But if we shoudn’t consider shutter speeds : 1 why it is a problem? I can use any shutter speed as my mooving object will be freezed by flash anyway. 2 why all the cameras have different numbers of x-synchronization(and medium format synchronizes even faster) if we may not consider shutter speed at all when using flash?

        1. Hi Anna, the synchronisation comes down to the type of shutter. Medium Format cameras use a leaf shutter which is inside the lens and work a bit like and aperture and with a leaf shutter it can sync at any speed. Most DSLRs use a focal plane or electronic shutter and they usually sync at a maximum of 1/160th to about 1/250th on some models. The higher the sync speed then the more ambient (existing) or daylight we can cut out if we leave the shutter speed to low, say at 1/30th then we will get light pollution from the ambient light on top of the flash light which is not pleasant in most cases. This video will help you understand more: https://www.karltayloreducation.com/class/shutter-speeds-and-apertures-to-flash/

          1. Thank you, Karl 🙂 That was the missing part for me- cut out of ambient light!

  7. As well as struggling with low light etc., (whichj thanks to your tutorials has become a lot less confusing) the ther issue I had was exactly what you showed with the Speed Light and black are in some of my images now I know what they are nd how to remedy .. Thanks Karl

  8. Karl. I wanted to point out something about your explanation on how the shutter opens and closes. At least specific to the Canon 5DMk3 and Mk4. (And I think this goes for all Canon DSLR cameras)
    You had shown two different “shutters” with both of them covering the sensor, and that when the shutter opened at lower speeds, they both unblocked the sensor together, then closed together after the exposure. Then you mentioned at high speeds (i.e. 1/500 or faster) that the shutter changed it’s operation to a “scan” from top to bottom. This is actually incorrect. There are dozens of videos out there showing the Canon shutter operation and they all show the same thing. Curtain #1 covers the sensor at all times. When the camera is triggered, the mirror flips up, and then curtain #1 drops down, exposing the sensor. When the duration is over, (assuming speeds under the HSS limit of the camera, 1/200 for the Mk3 and Mk4) then the second curtain drops, covering the sensor. The mirror drops down, and the curtains reset to 1 covering the sensor and 2 raised up out of the way. HSS doesn’t change the way the curtains move though. It simply makes the 2nd curtain drop down faster behind the 1st curtain. (as you show in your demonstration)
    So really the shutter doesn’t change completely the way it exposes the sensor, it just changes how quickly the 2nd curtain covers the sensor.

      1. That was the same video I had seen before. Maybe it was just in the way I saw you explaining it at first, you had two “cards” covering the sensor. Then you showed that when it opened at slower shutter speeds, both “cards” or shutters moved out of the way at the same time, then both closed over it at the end of the exposure. But that isn’t how the Canon shutter works. Both curtains do not cover the sensor at the same time, and both move away together at lower shutter speeds. I am referring to how you were showing it in this video at 4:20 in. I am sure it is just a matter of how you were showing it made me think you were saying that both shutters cover the lens at the same time, then both move away at the same time, at lower speeds. You explanation at high speeds of course is of course correct.
        Please understand I am not trying to act like I know more than you. You have years and years more photography experience than I do. I simply wanted to clarify how at least on the Canon DSLR camera, the shutters operated on lower speeds (under 1/200 second)

        1. Hi William, no worries. It’s also worth considering that not all shutters work the same too. More cameras are introducing ‘electronic shutters’ as part of the capture process which rely on the sensor doing a scan and then in medium format the shutter is in the lens much like an aperture.

          1. Medium format camera’s are well out of my current budget for sure, but I would love to get one some day. What is your take on the Sony mirrorless cameras? (If that is not too in depth of a question to ask)

          2. Hi William, the picture quality is superb it just comes down to whether you are OK with electronic viewfinders. I still find them difficult to get used to.

  9. I only have some overhead lights in my garage “studio”. Is there any significant difference in image quality between raising my shutter speed to kill the ambient light and just turning off the lights? (Other than being able to see what I’m doing)?

    Thanks for such a terrific site. As a newcomer to product photography and flashes in general your hard work is very much appreciated.


    1. Hi Dave, thank you for your kind comments. With regards your garage overhead lights, if you take a test shot without your flashes connected and using your maximum shutter flash sync speed for your camera you can then examine the test shot and see if the garage lights show up at all in the picture. If they were going to show up it would be in gloss highlight reflections, so put something glossy in for the test. If they don’t show up then you’d have no problems apart from them possibly influencing your thoughts about the lighting on the subject when you are setting up. Cheers Karl.

  10. Hi Nik, yes the answer above mostly covers it but in addition TTL metering (which I don’t use) doesn’t work with second curtain sync.

  11. Hi Karl,

    I think you may have answered this above, is there an example of where First curtain sync is better than rear or second?

    It seems that cameras default to first so I think there must be a reason for this.

    Many thanks


  12. hi sir what is the correct advantage of first curtain synchronisation.

    I mean when it can be used appropriately

    1. Hi Rao, there is no advantage or disadvantage if the shutter speed is high or the subject is not moving. Second curtain is only an advantage on a moving subject but it’s not a disadvantage on one that is not. The exception may be that you get better or higher speed sync with first curtain sync.

  13. Can you adjust remotely (on the broncolor transmitter) the power of your flashes? Or every time you have to adjust the flash power do you have to physically walk over to adjust or have an assistant?

  14. Hi Karl,

    When it comes to rear sync flash, do you set your camera to expose for the ambient light with the long exposure first before you bring in your flash/strobe? So that you can have the subject properly lit while moving and then the flash comes in to stop motion and make the subject in focus? I just want to know how to properly set my camera settings when using this technique.

    Thank you,

    1. Hi Derrious, I usually underexpose my ambient exposure by about one stop and then add enough flash on my subject. You’ll see me apply this technique many times in the “Fashion” section where I’m shooting on location.

  15. HHHHOOOOO….OMGOSH!!! I totally get that about flash sync and why it’s important. Plus I never knew that the shutter changed the way it operates with a request for a fast shutter speed! No one has ever explained that to me! You just changed my whole world of understanding of my camera. I only thought I knew every mechanical thing about it! I totally get that. That changes so much.

  16. At minute 22:05 you explain 3 ways to control flash exposure: aperture, flash power, flash-subject distance; actually there’s a 4th way, which is ISO! Agree?

    1. Hi Giovanni, technically speaking yes but it is not a choice I would opt for as it would require a reduction in quality. For example as you increase ISO then the image quality deteriorates so it is better to work with the others, there is also another option and that is to add filtration over the lens or lights to reduce exposure where necessary but the process of effective teaching is to feed the right information at the right time 🙂

  17. Section 1: Sync speed
    Best explanation I’ve ever seen on the subject. Simply brilliant and easy to understand.

    Section 4: Not only are you explaining 1st and 2nd curtain synchronization, you shows it in the camera too. Very handy as I use the same camera.

    I’ve surprisingly noticed (as I wanted to follow your steps) that 2nd curtain sync was not available (in the 5D mIII camera nor the speedlite) using Canon Speedlite Transmitter ST-E3-RT and Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT. But when mounting the speedlite directly on the body it was available both places.

    Does it mean that it’s depending on what kind of transmitter/trigger you have if you want to use 2nd curtain sync?

    1. Hi Tom, yes the ability to perform certain tasks on dedicated flashes may be compromised when used off camera with triggers.

  18. very nice explanation , but i am confusing with my canon 5 d mark iv when i work with this first curtain sync its work but when shoot with second curtain sync my camera body not select the second curtain i want to know why its happen because of my canon flash i use older version canon 600ex rt and wireless trigger st ex3rt but when i put flash on my camera the second curtain sync option works, why its not work with wireless trigger

    1. Hi Jaspreet, I’m afraid these sort of technical issues with various camera brands and flash combinations is not something we can help with, you will need to speak to Canon support for something like this.

  19. always been an area to stay away from BCuz its never been explained as well as you just did fir me Karl. THANK YOU My husband is getting jealous Bcuz I spend all my spare time watching you right now hahahaha! “Sorry, I am busy with Karl right now” giggle

  20. I was under the impression that my strobes pulse repeatedly in high speed sync mode to expose the image. Is that incorrect or do Broncolor lights employ a different system to handle it? Thanks!

    1. Hi Anthony, some strobes do use a repeating pulse but others now use just one extremely long pulse that lasts for the whole duration of the ‘slit’ passing across the sensor.

      1. Okay, so there’s new more efficient technology. With my strobes there is a reduction of max power when you’re in high sync mode due to the pulsing. Is there a max power output reduction with the Broncolor series due to the extended flash time? Thanks.

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