fbpx
Home Camera Settings Understanding Rear Curtain Sync (What You Need To Know)

Understanding Rear Curtain Sync (What You Need To Know)

Rear Curtain Sync

If you have fiddled with the built-in flash on your camera or with an external flash unit, you may have probably heard about the term flash sync. For the uninitiated, flash sync or, as it is sometimes referred to, flash sync speed is nothing more than syncing the speed of the flash with that of the shutter on your camera. There is some advantages in doing it.

A Brief Explanation of the Mechanism of Shutter Curtains

The shutter on your camera is composed of two curtains – the front and the rear. They are sometimes also referred to as the first and the second curtain. When you press the shutter button it activates a mechanism that moves the first curtain. It in effect exposes the sensor to light coming through the barrel of the lens. Once the first curtain has reached the other end, the rear (or second) curtain starts to travel. It covers the sensor and it is no longer sensitized by light.

QUICK OVERVIEW: Online Courses about Photography

IMAGEPRODUCT
Learn how to make the most of your camera from DSLR and enhance your photography!
ENROLL NOW →
In this course, you’ll learn and master camera settings to take better photos like a pro.
ENROLL NOW →
This course is designed for new photographers. Learn to configure your camera to give you the best possible quality.
ENROLL NOW →
In this course, you’ll be able to understand different types of camera, how it works and choosing the right settings while shooting.
ENROLL NOW →
Learn in this course about advantages of shooting in the manual mode. Also has a 30-day money-back guarantee.
ENROLL NOW →



Rear Curtain Sync & Flash

Ok, now we understand what the curtains do, but how does it relate to flash and what’s rear curtain sync? More importantly, why rear curtain sync is important to learn? Rear curtain sync is basically syncing the flash so that it fires just before the rear curtain starts to move. Ok, so how is that expected to impact your photography? Read on.

For the Sky by Adrian Fallace
For the Sky by Adrian Fallace

Scenario 1

You are shooting at your daughter’s birthday party. She is in a playful mood with her friends. The room is lit with home lights and basically something that isn’t good enough for a proper exposure without a flash. So you mount an external flash to your camera. Now, the problem is with your Nikon you are limited to a shutter speed of 1/250 of a second (1/200 of a second for Canon cameras) or less. This is because of the flash-sync speed limitation I discussed in an earlier article. This creates a problem, especially if you use the default shutter mechanism, i.e.; front curtain sync. What happens is the flash fires immediately after the first curtain has finished travelling. So, the flash fires, freezing the subject, but as the rear curtain moves over the course of the next fraction of second, the movement of the subject (remember, she is in a playful mood) is captured as a blur.

Scenario 2

You are shooting light trails in low light conditions. But you decide to use the flash to freeze the movement of some of the cars in the shot. If you use the default front curtain sync, the flash will fire first, freezing the cars. But the lens will remain open and continue to make the exposure. This will result in the front lights to appear shooting out but the backlights will appear protruding into the car. This is unacceptable.

The Solution

Running to stand still by Dave Herholz
Running to stand still by Dave Herholz

To avoid these problems rear-curtain sync is used. In the first scenario the flash will fire at the end of the exposure, freezing the subject and the blur of the initial movements, though recorded, will come after the subject has been frozen. In the second instance the backlights will appear more natural, coming after the car and not shooting into it. Needless to say both are more natural and is thus acceptable.

Vogel_motion_3 by Kate Vogel
Vogel_motion_3 by Kate Vogel

You would argue that the blur is unavoidable in either of the technique, so why do we have to shoot in rear curtain sync and not in the default front curtain sync. The thing is blur, if any, is acceptable right after the subject and not in front of it. That’s not natural. In 90% of low light situations rear curtain sync thus gives more appropriate result compared to front curtain sync.

2 FREE Videos on Rear Curtain Sync

Rear Curtain Sync: Stay Focused with Doug McKinlay

Second and Rear Curtain Sync: You Keep Shooting with Bryan Peterson





Photography Course
Photography Coursehttps://photographycourse.net/
Photography Course offers free courses, tutorials, tips, and tricks for photographers of all skill levels. Browse our collection of courses from photographers all around the world to take your passion to the next level.

1 COMMENT

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Must Read

What is Lifestyle Photography?

This seems like it would be easy to answer, but there is more than one answer to the question, “What is Lifestyle Photography?” It’s...

Megapixels

What Are Megapixels? Megapixels are an important facet of photography and important to getting quality photographs, but they aren't the determining factor to good photography....

21 Sports Photography Tips For Beginners

Sports photography is a thrilling genre. It involves constant action, variable light conditions, and of course, there are the fans.  For the photographer, all...

How to Take Pictures of Pregnant Women

Expectant Mother Photography The natural beauty that shows when a woman is expecting is such a wonderful thing, but how you capture it may not...

Photography App of the Week (11/14/2014)

Photography App PicLab HD is an amazingly user friendly app that is actually quite powerful. Best used for creating graphics, simply take a picture, and...
Cart Item Removed. Undo Have a coupon ?
  • No products in the cart.