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Below is a list to some accessories I have found useful for off and on-camera flash.
Light stand, bracket and umbrellas
I only use light, battery powered flash units for portability. When I set up several flash units for wireless use, I found it most convenient to mount them on purpose built light stands. Earlier I used makeshift clamps to fit them to bookcases, etc. – but a small investment in purpose built light stands and brackets has made life so much easier in the studio and on location.
Below is links to eBay searches for the type of products I use:
- Light stand.
- Bracket and umbrella holder.
- Twin flash mount bracket.
- Triflash mount bracket.
- Silver umbrella.
- Translucent umbrella.
- Convertible umbrella.
To use the flash on a light stand, you need at least a light stand and a bracket. The bracket mounts on top of the stand by means of a quick release mechanism that fits a standard spigot on top of the light stand. The flash mounts on top of the bracket by means of a locking cold-shoe.
Sometimes you want more power than a single flash unit can give you. A twin flash mount bracket double your power. On eBay Studio-plus sells a clever design (shown to the right) where a twin flash mount is combined with an umbrella riser, letting you place the umbrella axis on the same level as the heads of the Speedlights for best centering of the light. (search eBay for this item)
You may use the flash without any modifiers on a flash stand or bracket, or you may add an umbrella to soften the light. The umbrella goes into a hole that is part of the bracket, and is fastened with a screw.
The main types of umbrellas are: Silver (with black backing) for reflected, sharper light, white translucent for direct, diffuse and softer light, and convertible, which can be converted to either type.
The benefit of using an umbrella is to provide a larger light source and therefore a softer and more pleasing light than the point source you get from direct flash light. The softness of the light is determined by the type of umbrella (silver or translucent), the size of the umbrella in relation to the size of the subject, and the distance from the umbrella to the subject. A small umbrella far away from the subject will not have much softening effect. You can make the light softer by moving the umbrella closer to the subject and/or by using a larger size umbrella.
Compared to soft-boxes, I find umbrellas more portable and also better suited for battery powered flash units such as Nikon Speedlights and Canon Speedlites. A soft-box really needs a bare-bulb type flash to provide a wide light spread as wide as the box itself. With a zoom-head flash as light source, a hot-spot in the centre of the light box may dominate. With umbrellas, you can slide the shaft of the umbrella so the flash is further away from or closer to the fabric to expand or contract the light spread. On the other hand, there is more light-spill with an umbrella, so you do not get the fine-tuned control of the light that is possible with a soft-box in combinations with barn doors and grids.
Coloured filters or gels allows for modification of the flash output to be matched to the background scene, or for creative effect.
For instance, when shooting with a flash under fluorescent lights the colour temperature of the foreground (lit by the flash) and the background (lit by fluorescent lights) will not match. This will result in an unnatural colour cast in either the foreground or background. using a Nikon FL-G1 or Roscoe #3304 green filter the flash output gets converted to match the rest of the scene, and the resulting image will not have a colour cast.
Blue, yellow, red and amber filters can be used for creative lighting control, and can add dramatic colours to the image, especially when more than one flash is used.
The links below takes you to product pages for attractive colour filter kits:
- Colour filter set SJ-1 for Nikon SB-600 and SB-800 (eBay).
- Generic colour filters (eBay).
- Roscoe 55 piece filter kit (B&H).
Wireless flash triggers
Wireless flash triggers let you trigger one or more flash units off-camera flash. Two types exist, those that use radio signals to communicate, and those that use optical signals (light). Products of either type are discussed in more detail on these pages:
The product I recommend for to trigger strobist type off-camera flash is the YongNuo RF-602 radio trigger (2.4 GHz – legal world-wide, 16 channels, can also be used as radio-controlled a remote release for certain cameras).
Rotating flash bracket and off-camera shoe cord
A handy accessory for flash users is a rotating flash bracket and an off-camera shoe cord. A flash bracket offer the photographer two benefits. First, it lets the photographer switch freely between having the camera in horizontal or vertical position, while keeping the flash centred over the lens. Second, it increases the distance between the flash unit and the lens, reducing the risk of running into the “red eye” effect caused by direct flash.
Below are links to short reviews of the two products I use for shooting with the flash on a bracket: