Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Lighting Tip: Decreasing the Minimum Power of Your Speedlight

I use a Nikon SB-800 and its minimum manual power level is 1/128.  That is true for Canon's 580EX II as well.  But what if you needed to get even less power than that?

If you use TTL, you can get a lower power threshold, but I know many strobists are loathe to use TTL.  The solution is easy - increase your shutter speed to force the flash to go to high speed sync.  HSS will reduce the power of your flash by at least 2 stops.  With HSS, the 1/128 output effectively becomes as low as 1/512!


  1. Good tip, Mic. This method is great for powering down all speedlights. To go even further, increase shutter speed even more in HSS mode. Since in HSS flash acts like continuous light, doubling the shutter speed will cut light by 1-stop.

    ND gel may be useful if only specific speedlight needs to be powered down.

  2. Hi Mic,

    I can think of a few other options as well:

    - "bounced flash". This would have the benefit of getting softer light that must travel over a longer distance, hence losing power. Double the distance, and you get half the power. Please note that is the distance is 1m to subject, you only need a wall 0.5m away since the ligth will travel 0.5m to the wall and 1.5m from wall to subject.

    - change to a longer lens and increase the distance between camera & subject. You'll end up with harsher light and a slightly more compressed picture.

    Disadvantage: this applies to manual flash only
    Advantage 1: you keep your entire range of shutterspeeds (up to max sync speed, mostly 1/250), to control the ambient light in the picture.
    Advantage 2: this works equally with off camera flash, although you would only move the flash independently of the camera in such a way that the light travel path increases (forward or backward, depending on bounced/straight).

    Good point, though.



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