Shallow Depth of Field Portraits Using High-Speed Sync

shallow depth of field portraits

Shallow Depth of Field Portraits Using High-Speed Sync with Eli Infante

One of the advantages of using high-speed sync off-camera flash is for shallow depth of field portraits. This technique is how I create the WOW factor and make my subjects pop in front of beautiful, dramatic skies. Over the past couple of years, I’ve learned to create stunning photos using the techniques and equipment listed below. If you’re intimidated by strobe photography, this handy guide will help you create unique high-speed sync flash portraits.



First, you will need a strobe to light up your subjects. Strobes come in different sizes and power outputs; however, I suggest a 200-watt or 400-watt strobe for outdoor work with high-speed sync capabilities. If you are new to high-speed sync, it fires off a sequence of flashes as the shutter moves over the sensor to expose your subject. A 200-watt strobe like the Westcott FJ200 will be portable and easier to move around outdoors, especially if you don’t have an assistant. I recommend a 400-watt strobe that is versatile not only outdoors but in the studio. My go-to strobe is the Westcott FJ400 because it provides enough power outdoors at any time of day. The size of the 400-watt depends on if you have an assistant or if weight is an issue. The best option should fit your needs and shooting style. Start with one light first, then add on to your kit.

Flash Trigger

To fire your strobe wirelessly, you will need a flash trigger. Since I use the Westcott Lighting System, I use the Westcott FJ-X2m. This trigger sits on top of the camera’s hot shoe and signals to fire off when the shutter is pressed. The main thing you will need to set up on your trigger is the channel and group. The channel connects the trigger and the strobe. For example, I usually assign mine to channel 5. Once the channel is set on my strobe and trigger, pairing the group is next. If I am working with a single light, the strobe should be set to group A. What’s great about the trigger is that it communicates wirelessly to allow me to adjust the power of my strobe from power one being the weakest setting to power nine being the strongest.

Shallow Depth of Field Portraits

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