Joe McNally Explains High-Speed Sync | Profoto (UK)

Joe McNally Explains High-Speed Sync

17 June, 2015

Written by: Rebecca Ahremark

Joe McNally is not your average Joe. With a career spanning over 30 years and including assignments in more than 50 countries, Joe McNally has shot everything everywhere in every thinkable sort of way. In addition to being an exceptionally experienced photographer, Joe is also known for his remarkable ability to share that knowledge. In this video he explains Profoto High-Speed Sync (HSS) and how to use it to improve your photography. Here is how it works, in Joe’s own words.

If you watch the video, you’ll see that we’re now giving up the relative control and security of the studio and heading out into the world. What we’re about out here in this bright sunlight is high-speed synchronization.

High-Speed Sync is right there with TTL in the realm of new developments for bigger flash units. I’m going to be looking at the sun and trying to kind of fight back against it, because the equation right now is against me. Even at a low ISO, it’s bright out here.


First, I take a test shot to see what the light is like. Looking at the result, I can see that we got a lot of highlights. Our subject is kind of backlit, okay?

At this point I’m shooting at f/11. If I go up to something around 1/200s, I still got a lot of highlights in the background. Generally now, in the industry, the max shutter speed you can get for normal flash synchronization would be around 1/200-1/250s. But what Profoto High-Speed Sync enables us to do is to synchronize our Profoto Off-Camera Flash to heretofore-unknown shutter speeds.

Thanks to Profoto High-Speed Sync and the Air Remote TTL-N attached to my camera, I can sync my Nikon D4S or my Nikon D810 up to 1/8000s. What this means is that you can work your f-stop all the way down to a wide-open aperture, to f/2.8 or something like that.

To give you an example of a practical use of that, think about the portrait of a bride at 1/250s at f/16, with all sorts of things sharp in the background, telephone poles, lights, whatever.

Now think about that same portrait done at 1/8000s at f/2.8 when the background is all blurry. In that case there is no question of what the eyes are drawn to, and we often end up with a much more powerful image.


1 x B2 Off-Camera Flash

1 x OCF Softbox 2’ Octa

1 x Collapsible Reflector Translucent L

1 x OCF Grid Kit

1 x Air Remote TTL-N



Written by: Rebecca Ahremark