High-speed sync is a hot topic in the world of portrait photographers today and Francisco Hernandez is someone who has this technique dialed in.
Advancements in lighting technology over the last few years have led to affordable, portable, and powerful strobes that are capable of overpowering the harsh midday sun where previously you had to choose between using ND filters or investing in some seriously expensive gear. In short, high-speed sync allows you to shoot at a shutter speed that far exceeds most digital camera’s native sync speed which is typically 180–250 of a second. Conversely, you can then shoot at a wider aperture, say f/1.8, to produce that shallow depth of field look even in the harsh midday sun which is simply not possible when using a relatively slow shutter speed.
Hernandez is a portrait and wedding photographer based out of Mission, Texas, that has been using off-camera flash in his work for several years now. Francisco started his own Facebook group, Learn to Light-An OCF Lighting Community, after noticing how scattered information was on the topic of off camera flash, particularly in the arena of high speed sync. Turns out others felt the same way and within a year, his group ballooned to over 14,000 members leading him to start producing tutorials on YouTube with detailed behind the scenes takes on actual shoots. He is constantly adding content that is hard to beat given that it is totally free.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Francisco about his technique which has a unique, dramatic look as he tends to shoot outdoors while underexposing ambient light. “Growing up, I played around with disposable cameras, many of which I still need to develop! But it never occurred to that photography would become a passion of mine. After toiling with the idea of becoming a lawyer, then a graphic designer, I finally settled on TV and film which led me to picking up a camera and eventually finding my passion.” Francisco started out with a Canon 60D and currently uses a Canon 6D, although he is in process of transitioning to Sony’s line of full frame cameras. Having started with the Busy Bees kit from Paul C. Buff, his light of choice is now the Flashpoint XPLOR 600 HSS TTL battery-powered moonlight, also referred to as the Godox AD600 on Amazon, which features an internal lithium ion battery capable of 450 full power bursts on a single charge, internal radio receiver/trigger, and high speed sync up to 1/10,000 of a second. Next up is the Flashpoint Streaklight 360W/s which is essentially a smaller, lighter version of the XPLOR yet fully compatible with the transmitter. Francisco is an avid proponent of sharing his techniques with others and truly believes in using social media to connect with the community. “In my opinion, photographers should be more open minded. You can give someone all the tools but that doesn’t mean they will be able to replicate your artistic eye. There shouldn’t be any reason not to help others out.”
Do yourself a favor and spend a few minutes, possibly hours if you’re like me, checking out his Facebook group and YouTube channel. Chances are you’ll walk away ready to approach your next outdoor portrait shoot from a different angle. In the mean time, here's some inspiration!