I have an idea of shooting a low key photo of dancers using rear curtain sync and tracing them with continuous lights to get the classic trails of the dancers as well as a sharp frozen picture using flash along with the rear curtain sync feature.

Can I use bulb mode along with rear curtain sync so I don't have to time the exposure to their movement? This is of course not impossible without it. They are dancers after all so they can definitely sync to music and end up in the right spot at the right moment. It would however give me interesting possibilities if rear curting sync in bulb mode was possible.

I'm using Canon gear and Yongnuo 622C triggers if it helps.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ There's one way to find out - try it with relatively short exposure on Bulb mode and if the flash fires at the end you will know it works (in principle at least)... \$\endgroup\$
    – Darkhausen
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 15:29

3 Answers 3


Yes you can, but as far as I know, you cannot do it with the 622C alone. You can definitely do it with the addition of a 622C TX. I took a couple of my daughter doing exactly what you want to do.

A little spin

There is a description of how I did it with the photos on Flickr.

Full size

Another example

  • \$\begingroup\$ Very nice, but were they really shot in bulb? The EXIF data seem to indicate that they were not. \$\endgroup\$
    – Hugo
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 8:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, they were. I used the RC-1 remote to trigger the camera on and off as my daughter started and finished her spin. There is no way I could have nailed her at the end with a timed exposure. What makes you think otherwise? \$\endgroup\$
    – Robin
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 12:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ok I see. I was just unsure since the exposure times were 1/10th and 1 second respectively. Just wanted to make sure. Great job! \$\endgroup\$
    – Hugo
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 12:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ I never noticed that before. The time being recorded in Bulb mode is definitely wrong. She couldn't do a full spin from a stopped position in 1/10th of a second if she tried. Of the images I have, they all seem to record 1/10s or 1s, even though some of them are definitely a little longer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Robin
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 22:02

I think that firing the flash manually gives you a lot more interesting possibilities than rear curtain sync.

If you want to have rear curtain sync, just push the (flash) button at the end of the exposure (just before releasing the shutter button)

That being said, you can fire the flash at any time during the bulb exposure. If a dancer jumps, you probably want to freeze him in the air and not at the end of the exposure when he/she is on the ground again, which rear curtain sync would do.

You can even fire multiple flashes during the bulb exposure, freezing the dancer multiple times in one image. To do this, you either need short recycle times of your flash or multiple flashes. (or dance moves that are slow enough to allow the flash to recycle)

In fact, using a stroboscopic flash for this kind of shot is also possible (and people do this).

  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't understand your point about freezing them in the air instead of on the ground like rear curtain sync would do. If you want to freeze them in the air, then that is when you would end the exposure for a rear curtain sync. \$\endgroup\$
    – Robin
    Commented Oct 20, 2015 at 2:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Robin this limitation is what I tried to point out. With manually triggered flash the end of exposure and time of flash can be chosen independently. \$\endgroup\$
    – null
    Commented Oct 20, 2015 at 16:48

Pocketwizard's wiki says you cannot use 2nd curtain together with bulb mode if you are relying solely on the camera to trigger the flash in sync with the second curtain. Because in bulb mode the exposure is terminated by the photographer after an arbitrary period of time, there's no way for the camera to predict when that will be, and therefore no way for the camera to tell the flash when to fire just before the end of the exposure.

You can, of course, trigger the flash manually at any time during the bulb exposure using the flash's test button (see null's much better answer on this).

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ This is one of those situations where wiki's hold the opinions of experts equal to random members of the public... There is no technical reason why bulb mode couldn't have time to trigger a flash pop through the hotshoe before closing the 2nd curtain. It doesn't need any warning. Cameras may not do that - but it would be wrong to even suggest it's in any way impossible. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 15, 2015 at 10:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ Agreed--I'll add the assumption of "if you are relying solely on the camera to trigger the flash." \$\endgroup\$
    – inkista
    Commented Mar 15, 2015 at 18:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ It must be different if no PocketWizard is involved. Trying to do it's own Rear Sync I suppose. Rear Curtain sync works perfectly with Bulb shutter with the flash on hot shoe of my Nikon D800. Rear Curtain and Bulb also works fine remotely on an inexpensive Yongnuo RF-603 radio trigger. A radio trigger gets the same camera hot shoe flash trigger that the flash gets. It's the same hot shoe pin, the trigger signal is there. The trigger happens when it happens, the flash fires, and the flash doesn't really care when the shutter closes. \$\endgroup\$
    – WayneF
    Commented May 20, 2015 at 4:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @WayneF For Nikon gear, that's the way it works. Canon's rear-curtain apparently doesn't work that way. Canon's own optical wireless system cannot do 2nd-curtain sync, unlike CLS. \$\endgroup\$
    – inkista
    Commented May 20, 2015 at 19:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Actually, that is only partially true. Canon's system cannot do it with the pop up flash. It will still work with a 580EXII, for instance, that will work as a master. \$\endgroup\$
    – Robin
    Commented Oct 20, 2015 at 3:01

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