lady wearing a white dress standing under trees

Using the Alpha 9 III with Flash

Martin Krolop

When photographer Martin Krolop got his hands on the Sony Alpha 9 III, he wanted to push the camera as far as possible with his Sony flash kit.

'I wanted to take portraits in extreme lighting situations. I wanted to see the full potential of the Alpha 9 III sensor and its global shutter.' says Martin.

For those unfamiliar, a global shutter is where every line of pixels on the sensor is read simultaneously rather than line-by-line as it is on most sensors. The result is that extremely fast shutter speeds can be used without any movement affecting the image. This speed is great for sports photographers, but Martin wanted to see what he could do with a flashgun. Traditionally the mechanical shutter blades of a camera limit the maximum shutter speed that flash can be used, usually to around 1/250th sec. If you shoot faster than the maximum shutter speed, the light from the flash and the mechanical shutter aren't in sync, causing a black band across the image. The global electronic shutter removes that issue, allowing the Alpha 9 III to shoot flash with an incredible shutter speed of up to 1/80,000th sec with the latest Sony flashguns.

lady in a flowery dress in front of a palm tree © Martin Krolop | Sony α9 III + FE 50mm f/1.2 GM | 1/16000s @ f/1.2, ISO 250

Martin demonstrated the power of the Alpha 9 III and the Sony flash system by shooting a series of fashion portraits with a shallow depth of field in very bright sunlight. Previously, this type of shot would have required large, heavy studio flash equipment, meaning the locations where you could take these portraits would be limited, particularly if you were shooting alone.

lady in a barren landscape wearing a hat © Martin Krolop | Sony α9 III + FE 50mm f/1.2 GM | 1/16000s @ f/1.3, ISO 250

'The advantage is that I can take images with flashguns, such as the Sony HVL-F60RM2, where previously I would have needed larger studio flash heads and heavy battery packs. Now I put my flash kit in a backpack and take portraits in places where previously I would have needed a team of people to help carry everything.'

The physics behind why this is possible is complicated. Still, the super-fast duration of the flash and its power relative to sunlight for that tiny fraction of a second makes it possible to take these types of photos.

'We always try and fight against the sun. So we underexpose for the ambient daylight, then use the power of the flash to light the model. People may say, 'I've seen photos like that before, taken with a large aperture in bright sunlight,' and it's true. But they have not seen those photos taken with a small on-camera flash.'

Martin's kit consisted of an Alpha 9 III and two Sony HVL-F60RM2, although he usually just uses one that he mounts in a large third-party softbox. Then, the flash is mounted to a lighting stand that he places a few metres from the subject. The flash is triggered wirelessly using the Sony FA-WRC1M Wireless Radio Commander, mounted to his Alpha 9 III.

Shooting at these speeds enables portrait photographers like Martin to shoot at a large aperture to create a beautiful shallow depth of field and alter the shutter speed so that even in the brightest of midday sunlight, skies are dark, and there is detail in clouds. The flash is then put to work, lighting the subject.

bride standing on volcanic rocks with a blue sky behind © Martin Krolop | Sony α9 III + FE 24mm f/1.4 GM | 1/16000s @ f/1.8, ISO 250

To show how this works, Martin took his small flash kit and modelled a wedding dress up the volcanic Mount Teide and photographed her against the bright sunlight.

'Usually, with this type of shot, there is a balance to how much stuff you can bring, and you must make compromises. However, this time, I was actually able to take bigger softboxes than usual because we had saved so much weight with the Sony flashguns rather than studio flash heads. Next time, I want to go even bigger and take a 12ft x 12ft diffuser,' says Martin.

bride standing in front of mount teide © Martin Krolop | Sony α9 III + FE 24mm f/1.4 GM | 1/16000s @ f/1.8, ISO 250

Martin works in such a way that the sun becomes a secondary light source to him. He moves the subject to where he wants the sun to act as a light source. 'It is the most beautiful light. The sun lights the model's edge and hair, but their face is completely dark; you light it just with the flash.' says Martin.

lady in silhouette standing by the ocean © Martin Krolop | Sony α9 III + FE 24mm f/1.4 GM | 1/16000s @ f/1.4, ISO 250
lady standing by the ocean illuminated with a flash © Martin Krolop | Sony α9 III + FE 24mm f/1.4 GM | 1/16000s @ f/1.4, ISO 250

More than just creative fashion, photographers will benefit from the power of the Alpha 9 III and Sony flash kit. The small kit and power of the Alpha 9 III's global shutter will create a world of creativity for wedding photographers and anyone working in awkward locations.

'You can use the flash however you want to get creative with your photography.' says Martin. 'You can bounce it off a wall or ceiling for natural looking light, or you can use a softbox, or you can use grids or gobos or coloured gels - whatever you like! Flash photography is all about potential. You can create your own aesthetic. For me, having a flash is the ultimate in technical creativity.'

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