Hack 7 Flash Brackets for Pro Lighting

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If your camera accepts an external flash, you might think that will solve your problems with red eye. Well, almost.

Many prosumer digital cameras provide a means for attaching an external flash. More often than not, the connection is provided by what is commonly called a hot shoe: a postage-stamp-sized bracket on top of the camera into which you can slide an external flash.

Photographers usually think that purchasing an optional flash unit and attaching it to the hot shoe will make their red-eye problems [Hack #40] magically disappear. Indeed, an external flash does help reduce red eye. But sometimes merely sliding a flash into the hot shoe doesn't get rid of the problem altogether.

The best way to ensure that you'll never have red eye again is to use a special bracket to move your external flash even farther away from the camera. You'll also need a dedicated flash cord (made by the camera manufacturer) that allows the flash to communicate with the camera as if it were still mounted in the hot shoe. Typically, these special flash cords cost between US$35 and $50.

As for the flash bracket itself, I think the best commercial one is the Stroboframe Quick Flip 350 (catalog #310-635) distributed by Tiffen (http://www.saundersphoto.com). The Quick Flip is easy to use. You mount your camera to the base of the bracket by turning the screw into the camera's tripod socket. You then put one end of the dedicated flash cord into the camera's hot shoe and attach the other end to the top of the bracket. Now all you have to do is attach the flash to the cord on top of the bracket, and you're in business (see Figure 1-6).

Figure 1-6. Stroboframe Quick Flip bracket, ready for use

Depending on the height of your camera, the flash is now positioned six to eight inches higher than it was previously in the camera's hot shoe. Not only does this configuration eliminate red eye completely, it also serves the dual purpose of lowering those unsightly shadows cast on walls directly behind the subject. By raising the flash, you thereby lower the shadows out of the frame of view.

This Stroboframe model is called Quick Flip because it solves another problem. Normally, when the flash is mounted directly to the camera, the flash is above the lens (where it should be) for horizontal shots. But when you turn the camera to the vertical position, the flash is now off to the side, which once again produces those ugly shadows.

However, the top part of the bracket on the Stroboframe actually flips. When you turn the camera to the vertical position, you can flip the frame too, keeping the flash directly over the lens instead of alongside it, as shown in Figure 1-7. This is a great feature.

Figure 1-7. Stroboframe, flipped for vertical shots

Stroboframes cost about US$50 at your local camera store or online retailer, such as B&H (http://www.bhphoto.com). I've used one for years at countless wedding receptions and parties, and it works just as well today as it did the day I bought it. I can use the bracket for all of my 35mm cameras, as well as with any digicam I own.

You'll really look like a pro when you use the Stroboframe. More importantly, your pictures will too.