Incense

by Bart Arondson

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When I have used flash at semi popular events, from time to time my flash overlaps with others and the image either turns out extremely overexposed, or an odd color(gels?). How do photographers at "red carpet" events shoot with so many flashes going off? I would guess 30-40 cameras are shooting celebrities within the same 5-10 second time frame from the examples I have seen.

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Have you tried the if you cant beat them join them approach? Meter for flash but turn your flash off, shoot really fast (5 FPS or more if permitted) and when you get a properly exposed shot it has off-camera lighting which is better than on-camera ;) Seriously though. Great question and it happens in other places than the red carpet too. –  Itai Feb 24 '12 at 5:32
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Auto ("thyristor") flash can help too—it doesn't depend on a "clean" exposure from your flash based on TTL monitoring; as soon as the flash itself registers enough light, it shuts off. High-end Canons and Nikons both have this available (dig through the manual), as do Quantum, old Sunpaks and Vivitars, and some off-brand "universal" flashes like the Cactus recreation of the Vivitar 285. You'd get @Itai's off-camera flash idea, but with fill, when collisions happen. –  user2719 Feb 24 '12 at 5:57

4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Shoot a couple of shots as quickly as you can -- a few will collide with others, but given the short duration of a flash, you don't need very many shots to get some that are all right. An external battery pack like a Quantum Turbo for your flash can help a lot to keep the cycle time short so you can get a number of shots quickly.

If you were willing to use a film camera, one with OTF metering could be of some help (but not an absolute guarantee). Unfortunately, sensors are reflective enough that it appears nobody's managed to duplicate OTF metering with a digital sensor.

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I don't think there's any way to set exposure so that other possible flashes would be taken into account, or synchronize the flashes. As you say, overlapping happens only from time to time, so shoot at max sync speed to minimize likelihood of having other flashes fire during your exposure. Going above max sync speed (i.e. using high-speed sync) would not improve things as it still takes the same time for shutter curtains to travel for one end to the other.

Take several frames multitude of exposures increases likelihood at least one will turn out okay.

Oh, and use a lens hood to protect the lens from stray light cast by those other flashes and bumping into other photographers.

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I don't think HSS will really help (much, anyway). Above X-sync speed, the shutter is still open for the whole X-sync time (e.g., 1/250<sup>th</sup>, just a smaller part of it is open -- but half the picture being overexposed isn't going to make it much better. –  Jerry Coffin Feb 23 '12 at 23:30
    
@Jerry thanks, edited. Even though I know how a shutter works and what is a rolling shutter in video, somehow I didn't realize this happens above sync speed in still photography too. –  Imre Feb 24 '12 at 5:23

That so many flashes are going off is part of the explanation: just keep shooting. The problem is that the flash can fire and light the scene faster than your camera can meter and keep up; it's just changing too fast. You just need to keep shooting in anticipation of getting something usable.

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Flashes are much faster than you think. long flashes are maybe 1/2000 of a second, and much shorter at lower power settings. You camera can only sync at a speed (typically 1/250) because that is when the shutter is fully open, but the flash itself is an order of magnitude shorter.

This is a case where TTL will help, your camera can detect the other flashes and compensate.

Shoot at your camera's fastest sync speed that is not a special "high speed sync"

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At full power, the flash's full duration will be remarkably close to the sync time. –  mattdm Feb 27 '12 at 5:56

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