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A burst of flash lets us freeze motion and a long exposure lets us create motion blur. Both are great skills to learn in their own right, but if you’re looking for a creative approach to action shots, the slow sync flash technique lets us have it all in a single frame. Sometimes called shutter dragging, this is where we use a flash with a longer-than-normal exposure to introduce motion blur. It’s a great trick to try for action or sports subjects, like our taekwondo expert here. By using a combination of flash and gelled LED lighting, we can create streaks of blur to convey the movement of the subject, along with flash to freeze the motion.
Whenever we are putting the best flashguns to good use, we are effectively making two exposures in one. First there’s the flash exposure, where the subject is lit by the near-instant burst of light. But there’s also the ambient exposure, where the light in the scene – whether it be natural daylight, room lights or other artificial lighting – plays a part. The flash can be so powerful that the ambient light plays a negligible role but here, by stretching our shutter speed to a second or so, the divide is obvious. The ambient exposure creates the blur, and the flash exposure freezes the final movement of the subject.
It might look like a Photoshop effect, but this is done entirely in-camera. There’s an element of trial and error in timing the motion of your subject and balancing the lighting, but when the combination of light sources comes together, the final results can be jaw-dropping.
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