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Rear Curtain Sync - Put motion in your underwater photography

Articles » Photo Techniques » Rear Curtain Sync - Put motion in your underwater photography

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Rear Curtain Sync - Put motion in your underwater photography

The team here at Backscatter is celebrating recent advances in TTL circuitry for underwater housings. You can read a summary of these new options in our TTL roundup article. Personally, I'm most excited with the ability to use rear curtain sync with Canon DSLR cameras. Back in the days of film, most of us shot Nikon cameras and had rear curtain sync set as default. Nikon, Olympus, and Sony cameras continue to offer this feature today, but rear curtain sync has been missing for most Canon DSLR users.

While Canon DSLR's have a setting for rear curtain sync, it only functions with compatible Canon brand strobes. These new TTL flash circuits will allow Canon cameras to shoot rear curtain sync with most underwater strobes.

Nikon D2x - Subal D2x Housing - YS-250 Strobes - Nikon 16mm Fisheye Lens - f14 - 1/10th - ISO 100
Select shutter speeds from 1/15 to 1/2 depending on the speed of your subject and the amount of blur you desire.


Most photographs are 1/60th of a second or faster, but photography gets fun when you capture a longer period of time. You can warp time by shooting slower shutter speeds and allow your subjects to blur across a still image. Rear curtain sync is a setting that fires the flash at the end of a long exposure and gives your subjects a more natural look of motion.

Canon 1Dc - Nauticam 1Dx Housing - YS-250 Strobes - Canon 16-35mm Lens - f18 - 1/6th - ISO 100
When rear curtain sync is off, the strobe fires at the beginning of the exposure producing an unnatural blur in front of the subject.

Nikon D2x - Subal D2x Housing - YS-250 Strobes - Nikon 16mm Fisheye - f8 - 1/15th - ISO 100
With rear curtain sync on, the strobe will freeze the subject at the end of motion for more natural results.


If your camera is capable of rear curtain sync you'll find an option for it in the flash menu. Some cameras only offer rear curtain sync as a TTL option. To test proper function, fire a test shot with a shutter speed of 1 second or longer. Some cameras will fire a preflash before the shutter opens, but you should see the primary flash fire at the end of the long exposure. Make these tests before your next dive trip as you might need to add electronics or modify your type of sync connection. If you have any trouble, please don't hesitate to give us a call.

Nikon D2x - Subal D2x Housing - YS-250 Strobes - Tokina 10-17 Fisheye Lens - f11 - 1/5th - ISO 100


It's easy to over expose images when using long shutter speeds. Shoot early or late in the day for best results. There's not one shutter speed that will work for every situation as it really depends on how fast your subject is moving. Start at 1/15th and continue to drop shutter speed until you get a blur that looks good to you. Zoom into the image during playback so you can really see the effect. To compensate for the long shutter speeds, you'll likely need to use an aperture that's higher than normal. If so, you'll need to boost up your strobe power to match. Plan on shooting 10-20 shots just to get the look dialed in and then don't hesitate to fill that card.

Nikon D2x - Subal D2x Housing - YS-250 Strobes - Tokina 10-17 Fisheye Lens - f13 - 1/3rd - ISO 100


Give us a call or even better join one of our educational photo safaris for hands on help in the field.

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