Friday, November 16, 2007

HonlPhoto Product Review

David Honl lighting:

I was fortunate enough to talk with David Honl about testing some of his lighting accessories that are storming across the web. After receiving them, I understand why they are so popular.

I'm going to stray from my normal blog style and just talk about the gear and what I like about it. This gear is very simple and intuitive to use, so I won't bore you w/ the obvious. If you buy this gear, you'll know how to use it as soon as you take it out of the bag.

The components:

Four individual pieces make up the shoe mount flash tools product line:

  1. HonlPhoto speed strap.
  2. HonlPhoto Speed Snoot, 5" Shorty.
  3. HonlPhoto Speed Snoot, 8" Regular.
  4. HonlPhoto Speed Gobo / Flag / Barndoor /bounce card.

The speed strap:

This is the heart of the speed system. It consists of a loop side Velcro on the outside along with a non slip rubber strip on the inside. All you do is wrap this around your speedlight and attach any of the following three additional products. I had an old SB-26 that didn't work anymore, so I decided to really put this inside rubber grip to the test. I attached a long strip of extra Velcro I had to the strobe via the speed strap and spun it over my head at a speed where I would have bet money this strobe was about to meet it's maker. Happily though, no such disaster. The speed strap held tight and kept my strobe in one piece. *I'm sure my neighbors thought I was nuts, but that just enforces what I already know..

The Honl Speed Snoot, 5" Shorty & 8" Regular (respectively) attached to strobe:

The snoots easily attach to the speed strap. There is a Velcro seam on the inside edge that runs the length of the snoot so no light spill occurs. The inside is also lined with a silver cloth liner and maximizes light being cast out of the snoot. They store flat or can be rolled up (or crumpled up for that matter) and take up almost no space in my lighting bag. What do I like most about these snoots? The fact that the far end of the snoot's shape is naturally circular and makes it much easier for me create desired results. *My home grown snoots are all rectangular from end to end and create that shape with light when I use them. While square light has it's place. The round shape is much more conducive for day to day shooting.

HonlPhoto Speed Gobo / Flag / Barndoor /bounce card:

There is Velcro on both sides of the card so you can attach even more things to your strobe. (I haven't had a reason to yet, but it's nice to know I have the flexibility when the situation arises). You can attach the card to any of the four sides to create the desired lighting effect (or block light to prevent lens flare). It has a white inner surface to aid in reflecting light. For me the primary use of this is to prevent lens flare. The image below was taken w/ the strobe a full blast. While you see the light show through a little bit. This wouldn't create lens flare even if I was right beside it.

Side view of bounce card: (1/1 power, f5.6)

My tip for this gear:

Set up your speed strap up so the strap hangs over the edge of the strobe face by about 1/4". This will provide a bit of protection and absorb most of the impact if your strobe falls and lands on it's face.


The David Honl Shoe Mount Flash Tools are a great compliment to any photographer that uses strobes in a lighting setup. The quality is superb and has that feel that it's not going to let you down even if it is tossed around in the heat of battle.

I would definitely recommend this gear to any friend or professional looking to create (or expand) their lighting modifier arsenal.

You can find David's gear at his product website:

Here is a link to his professional website:

David's Blog:

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Are you gellin?

In this post I'm going to cover gels, how they are used, the best way to store and transport and a few best practices for gels in general.

What is a gel?:

Lighting gels were originally made from gelatin, hence their name, now they are made from plastic materials such as polycarbonate or polyester. They come in sheets (20"x24"), half-sheets, "paper sized" (8.5x11"), 25’ x 4’ rolls and various other odd shapes and sizes depending on your needs The predominant manufacturers of gels for use in both theatrical lighting and photography are Rosco, Norman & Lee. Lighting gels are used to modify the color of light, not the lens. Colored filters (such as Cokin filters) are optically flat and can be placed over the lens. We will be talking about light color modification using gels, not colored filters in this post though.

First, the details:

The size of gels you buy depends on your budget and storing capabilities. For photography, we need a lot less gel "real estate" than our theatre counterparts. I recommend 8.5x11" sheets of gels for storing ease. However, you can get better prices when you buy larger. For the typical photographer, a 2x3" gel can last more than a few years. I will only show you three different gels in this tutorial. This is so you don't get overwhelmed with different variables. These first tutorials are designed to ONLY show you how the gear works. I want you to go out and try this stuff. If you just sit here and read this blog and others, you will not become a better photographer. You need to do this stuff to make the magic happen.

Not all gels are created equal. When looking into purchasing gels, you want to make sure a gel can handle high temperatures. Some gels can dissolve on the face of a flash with one full power pop (flash heads can get very hot). A good place to get a starter pack is here. You can get them at better prices if you shop around though. The Rosco sample pack has become infamous for photographers. You can find it through Amazon here. This sample pack is perfect for speedlights and gives an immense array of colors to work with.

Note: All the small square images in this tutorial showing colors and density's of gels are representations of gels created through Illustrator, for consistency.

Different gel types and other variables:

There are hundreds of different shades of gels on the market. One thing to know is that even though there is a common naming convention, all gels are not created equal. For example, the Lee "bastard red" gel is not the same color as the Rosco "bastard red" gel. While they are similar, I recommend finding a single manufacturer of your choice and sticking with them to maintain continuity. I personally love Rosco and use them for all my gels. This is just personal preference though.

There are stops also associated with gels as well. Can't escape those pesky stops! ;) The most common stops in gels are 1/8, 1/4 & 1/2. Simply put, the number that corresponds with the gel you are using is the amount of light that your gel is "eating". Let's say you have your camera and flash set up so it is "perfectly" exposed and you put a 1/2 gel on your flash, the part of the exposure that is lit by the flash is now going to now be underexposed by 1/2 a stop. Same scenario but you use a 1/8 gel, then your shot will be underexposed by 1/8 of a stop. This rarely makes a deal breaking difference. But you should understand that every time you modify light in any way, you are losing light. Using a 3/4 gel will also give you a "stronger" color than a 1/8 gel since the gel has more color. The following images should help this make more sense.

1/8 CTO gel:

3/4 CTO gel:

Another thing to pay attention to is flash "ttl" functions. This automatic metering does not know that you are using a gel and will only meter what it thinks is right. So if you double up two 1/2 gels on a flash and fire a shot, your flash could under-expose a shot by a full stop. This doesn't have to be the case. You just want to pay attention to your shots and make sure you compensate for this if your camera produces these types of results. Shooting manual is recommended, but if you need to shoot in another mode (any setting other than manual) your exposure compensation may need to be adjusted. For this reason, full auto is not recommended.

Common color temperatures and how to compensate for them:

The Kelvin temperature for the average speedlight is 5400° K, direct sunlight is 5200° K, a cloudy day is 6200° K, shade is 8000° K, a new 100-Watt bulb is 2800° K, quartz lighting is 3200° K, fluorescent bulbs vary from 3000–6000° K, and daylight settings vary according to the time of day. Light banks/umbrellas/light modifiers/softboxes will vary in Kelvin temperature according to the color temperature of the flash tube and the fabric material used to manufacture these products.

For quick reference I'll tell you the most common ambient lighting conditions and what color gel you should use:

PLEASE UNDERSTAND THIS IS JUST FOR QUICK REFERENCE! If you really want to take your lighting techniques to the next level, you will want to refine this rough list to fit your needs. I have also just used a close example of color in the following images

Daylight is fairly simple. It's already around 5500K. Use standard film or set digital cameras on daylight. Use flash/strobes without filtration. If you find the flash too "white" use a CTO gel. You can also cover only a portion of your flash if your CTO is casting too much color. This will mix the white and CTO colored light to give a satisfactory result. (In case you haven't noticed, I'm all about fine tuning...)

CTO gel 3/4:

Daylight in the shade

Color temperatures can vary widely. Basically, it's all shades of blue. Blue is considered a "cool" light temperature (even though on the Kelvin scale it considered hot). It's a fine background color and actually helps lift the subject off the background if the subject is lit with standard flash or strobe (5000K-5500K). It allows the subject to reflect "warmer" tones and appear more alive than the background. So I recommend not using a gel for this. However, if you did want to match color temperatures, I recommend a 3/4 blue gel.

Blue gel 3/4:

Cloudy Days

Normally I don't use strobes in an environment like this since the sky is the biggest softbox out there and I like how it looks. Sometimes you need to add extra light though, so if you are using lighting, you will need to color balance ambient to around 8000K. Use a blue gel for this. The amount of cloud cover can dictate Kelvin color temperatures. So you will need to adjust accordingly when selecting gels. Just make sure it's in the blue family. If your just shooting w/o lighting gear, just adjust WB for shade. I personally don't make this adjustment and leave my camera on manual WB and just adjust my images globally in post.

Blue gel 1/8:

Tungsten corrections
In all cases where tungsten light (includes indoor lamplight, gymnasium and parking light bulbs, among others) is the prominent light source, it's use a 3/4 CTO gel. It converts 5500K daylight sources to 3200K to somewhat match ambient light.

CTO gel 3/4:

Fluorescent corrections
There really isn't a sure-fire correction for fluorescent light. Each tube is different and unpredictable since it's a pulsating light source. It's regulated by alternating current (60 cycles per second in the U.S.). This means any shutter exposure faster than 1/50th is still unpredictable. A window green gel will get you in the right area though. You should experiment and see what works for you though.

Window Green gel 3/4:

Refining which gels to use:

This is the part your not going to like to hear. Unless your shooting in tethered mode or have the luxury of being able to ingest your images right away. There is no accurate way of telling how close the you are balancing your color temp. The resolution on LCD's is just too low to accurately depict what you will see in the final image. Even if you do a bunch of "test pops" to see what your image will look like with your eyes. You still won't really see what your camera sees since the sensors in cameras read light differently that the human eye does. The human eye compensates and adjusts to give your brain what it wants to see. You can't trust your eyes in a situation like this. Most of the time after a few test pops, the scene will look over gelled and you think it will turn out terribly. This usually isn't the case though once you ingest your shots and see them on a color corrected screen.

Once you get the hang of things. You can make other adjustments like set the WB in your camera to match temperatures i.e. shooting w/ CTO gelled flashes in a gymnasium to tungsten on your camera. I prefer to leave it WB alone in a situation like this. I can ingest all my images and make global changes and call it a day in a few minutes in post. This is purely my preference though.

How to make a gel and secure it to a flash:

The first thing you want to do is take your gel sheet and cut it down to size. All it needs to do is be the same size or larger than the flash head your using. Here are two images for examples: You'll notice in the images I show you that the gels aren't perfectly cut. I did this on purpose to show you don't have to spend some ghastly amount of time cutting a gel to perfection. The only goal of cutting a gel is to cover the entire area that's transmitting light. That's it. If the gel hangs over the edge a bit, it hangs over.

CTO 3/4 gel cut to size above flash:

Gel cut to size. Staged above flash head:

After you have the gel cut down to size. You will want to have a means of securing it to the flash so it stays where you want it. The black tape I use is called gaffers tape. (Here's the Wiki on it. Read that and you'll know why it's so cool and you should really buy some.) I secure it by taking a 1 inch square of tape and fold over about 1/8 of the tape on top of itself so this part is not sticky. This part is my "handle". I then use about 1/4 of the tape on the opposite side of my handle and secure that to the outside edges of my gel. This leaves me w/ about 1/2 of my tape exposed so I can secure it to my flash. The following is a visual example:
Top view of tape secured to gel:

Bottom view of tape secured to gel:

Now that you know one way to attach gels to a speedlight. Lets talk about what it looks like when you use a gel and the virtually infinite combinations you can use to result in some great (and sometimes anywhere from strange to downright ugly) light coloring modifications.

What gels really look like when they are used:

Here's a head on shot through an umbrella with just a bare flash for reference:

Here is a shot using a 1/4 CTO (color temperature orange) gel:

This is a common gel to use when balancing for tungsten (gymnasium) light, and natural sunlight.

Here is a 1/4 shot using a "Window Green" gel:

This is a very common gel to use when balancing for florescent lighting. Florescent lights give skin a sickly green look. This isn't a big deal unless you have a fluorescent light and a "white" light from your flash. Then you have two different worlds of colors and it's almost impossible to correct in post production. It's possible, but do you want to spend hours on a shot or one simple temperature adjustment in post production? Up to you...

Here is a 1/4 CTO ON TOP of another 1/4 Window green gel:

Notice how the shot looks darker as well?

Here is a 1/4 CTO side by side with a 1/4 Window green gel: (Green on camera left, CTO on camera right)

How to store gels:

There are many ways to store gels from empty Altoid cases to just leaving them in a side pocket of your lighting bag (ugh). Gels are very slick and tape easily comes off of them. So when I'm not using a gel, I fold the tape over that I was using to secure the gel to the flash onto itself.

After I have folded the tape over so it doesn't stick to anything else. I store it in a folding business card case like this one. Then the gels tuck away neatly into the case and I close it up.

It's that simple.

In conclusion:

Gels are incredibly useful tools for lighting. Once you start to understand how to light things, your next step will be controlling the temperature of the light so it looks consistent (or not if that's your goal). After you start effectively using gels, you will start identifying non-gelled flash images and see why it looks the way it did. This is also (In my opinion) when you start becoming a lighting "professional".

For me, it's all a bout the details in photography. This is one of the most important details to understand.

Correctly modified light temperature also helps in post-processing more than you'll ever realize. If you have two color temperatures in a shot, no layer mask gradient is fine enough to compensate for color differences. Light just acts differently than pixels and you can't get them to match. So instead of having a shot that's OK, you'll have a shot that's what you wanted and everyone walks away happy.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


In this post we will discuss snoots. How can I make one or where can I buy one? And what is their application in a real world situation?

Snoots can create very dramatic lighting effects and help isolate a subject when using a flash. They help by stopping "light spill. " Light spill is when light falls in a larger footprint than you intend it to be. (Keep reading, the illustrations will help this make sense!)

DIY (do it yourself) snoot:

First, I'm going to defer to my new blog friend, Rui Leal who has written wonderfully detailed instructions on building a snoot. Even a klutz can follow his steps and come away with a functional snoot...this guy is the Merlin of DIY projects! Not to mention his posts on technology buzz...I now know what I want for Christmas thanks to his blog. (Even though I would probably have to mortgage my house to get it...)

Buy a snoot:

If you aren't big on DIY and would rather buy a pre-made snoot, I've got you covered. David Honl has made some very nice neoprene snoots to fit most flashes due to their flexibility. There are other options, but his product seems to be focused on the market that is being discussed here. (Check out his site while your at it. He has some powerful photographs.)

Before I show you how a snoot works:

Let's go over the details of the examples so you really understand what's going on:

  1. On the following examples, you will see 5 black squares on a wall. These squares are distance markers. Each square is 2.5' away form the center square.

Light area diagram:

2. I am using 2 different lengths of snoots. One is 3" long and the other is 5" long. I will always refer the lengths of my snoot to be from the face of the flash to the end of the snoot. (To me, the portion of the snoot behind the flash is not really a snoot. It's more of a snoot holder.)

There's been some confusion on the web and snoots as to what the length is.

The argument asks how a snoot is measured. Is it the TOTAL length of the snoot? Or the length of the face of the flash to the end of the snoot?

How long is a snoot diagram:

Snoot examples:
The following images show you exactly what a snoot does and how different lengths affect the flash differently.

3" snoot fired 5' away from target:

6" snoot fired 5' away from target:
3" snoot fired 10' away from target:

6" snoot fired 10' away from target:

3" snoot fired 15' away from target:
6" snoot fired 15' away from target:
What have we learned?
  1. Distance of flash to subject directly controls how large the diameter your light will look when you take your shot.
  2. The closer the snooted flash is to the subject, the tighter the beam of light is (resulting in less light spill).
  3. Conversely, the further away your snooted flash is to the subject, the more light spill (and less control you will have over the light).
  4. The shape of the light(fall?) is determined by shape of the "mouth" of the snoot. So for a rounder light, I'd shape the end of the snoot to be round instead the same shape as the head of the flash.

Best practices:

Most flashes have the ability to zoom in and out. Make sure your flash is set to the highest telephoto setting. This way the least amount of light is being wasted by hitting the inside of the snoot.

Try to have 3 different lengths of snoots in your light bag. These snoots fold up and take up very little space in your gear bag.

Next Week:

I have a list of things to cover, but I want to hear your ideas! Use the comment feature to submit your topic requests, agree with someone else's request, or ask me to expound on a previous topic if desired.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Using an umbrella

A photographic umbrella (also know as a brolly) is exactly what it sounds like. It is the same basic shape as a typical household umbrella. Instead of repelling water though these are designed to either bounce, reflect or soften a light source.

In this post I'll discuss the two basic umbrella types. Shoot through and bounce. I'll briefly describe each type and how it is used.

The bounce umbrella:

With this umbrella type, you point the flash into the umbrella and the umbrella directs the light back towards the subject your pointing the umbrella at. The easiest way to determine where your umbrella is going to focus the light, is line up the metal umbrella shaft to the center point of where you want the light to hit on your subject.

White Bounce Umbrella:

There are different results from different colored umbrellas. Unfortunately I don't have every type of umbrella to give you a visual. So I'll briefly tell you what each color type does and the best application for it.

White bounce:

Out of all the colored bounce umbrella's, this will produce the image w/ the least contrast and the softest light because the majority of hard light is eaten up in the white reflection material.

Best applications: Main lighting of portraits, lighting backgrounds.

Silver bounce:

This will produce an image w/ the most contrast and the hardest light (along with any other metallic type reflective material). Opposite of the white bounce, almost all the light is focused back to the subject w/ next to no light being 'wasted'.

Best Applications: Rim lighting, keeping light focused without excessive "light spill".

Gold Bounce:

This will give you the same amount of contrast in an image as a silver brolly. It will give a warmer cast to it though so this type of umbrella can be good for outdoor shots when you want to try and balance the flash to the sun.

Best Applications: Outdoor daytime light balancing. (A.K.A. fill lighting)

Grey bounce:

I honestly haven't seen a grey used well in an application yet. I'm sure there's a good reason out there to use them. If you know, please post a comment w/ a link or email me and I'll update this post.

NOTE: I prefer gels to change color temp instead of brollys. This way you can carry and buy less. (I'll link this note to gels when I make that post)

The shoot through umbrella:

This is a great portable way to really soften light from a flash and give you the softest possible light w/ using an umbrella. The material is usually white but it is very easy to change the color of the umbrella by just placing a gel on flash.

Side view of a shoot through umbrella:

What you should know about using umbrellas:

There is a common misconception that the larger the umbrella you use. The larger your relative light source is and the softer your shadows will be. This is only partially true. Another major contributor as to how large your relative light source is the amount of light that hits your umbrella. I will show you a few images to show you exactly what I mean.

NOTE: While I am only showing examples of the shoot through brolly for these images, the principal remains the same for any light diffuser/reflector. I will also only use one umbrella size so you can take these images at face value and don't need to consider different sizes.

In the following image you see the back of a 43" umbrella w/ a flash being shot into it (this is the same exact setup as the previous image shows).The zoom on the flash is at 85mm (telephoto). Notice how there is one concentrated area where the light is mostly focused? This is the real relative size of the light source that your using.

While the light spilling outside the area of this 'hot spot' is still helping light your subject. This excess light is barely noticeable and at this point in your lighting won't make any difference.

In the following image you see the back of a umbrella w/ a flash being shot into it. The zoom on the flash is at 85mm (telephoto).

In the following image you see the back of a umbrella w/ a flash being shot into it. The zoom on the flash is at 24mm (wide angle). Notice how the relative size of the light source is much larger than the previous image?

What does this mean to you?

No matter how large your umbrella, if you don't have a light source that can fill it, you are not utilizing the entire umbrella's ability. So buying a 60" umbrella won't necessarily give you a 60" light source.

More ways to control the size of your light:

As mentioned before, a bigger light source is not always better. I've shown you how to use the zoom on your flash to control the relative size of your light, another way to control the size of the light is to bring your umbrella closer to the umbrella. How you do this is slide the umbrella all the way into the umbrella adapter as far as you can make it go, so the flash is closer to the actual umbrella.

In the following image you see the back of a umbrella w/ a flash being shot into it. The zoom on the flash is at 85mm (telephoto) with the brolly as close to the flash as possible. This setup gives you a very small relative light source.

In this image you see an umbrella w/ a flash being shot into it. The zoom on the flash is at 24mm (telephoto) with the umbrella as close to the flash as possible.

With the combination of these two variables, you have broad control over how large your relative light source is and how to control it.
How does this help you as a photographer? Instead of bringing three different size umbrellas to a shoot. You can bring a large umbrella to a shoot and still have all the versatitlty of having smaller umbrellas on hand.

How to make your umbrella last twice as long.

I learned this trick from a blog posted by Rui M Leal from Portugal. He has gone into excruciating detail as to how to do this DIY so I won't steal his thunder or re-invent the wheel. But I'll give you the skinny on what it is and how it works for you.

Most common umbrella shafts are made with a hollow octagonal shaft. The inside diameter just happens to be a hair larger then the size of a standard #2 pencil.

All you do is measure the length you need to slide into the core of the umbrella shaft, cut the pencil to size, put a little glue on the pencil, then slid the pencil in! Now you have a solid core instead of a hollow one. You'll find this especially useful when you clamp down an umbrella for the first time and see how the retaining screw on the umbrella adapter seems like it will sandwich your hollow umbrella shaft!

Here's the link to the step by step tutorial

Here's a shot of the end result on one of my umbrellas. I prefer using gorilla glue since the stuff is made on mars or some place where the glue Gods have got some serious skills.

I won't go over soft boxes since most small flashes can't throw enough light to make these a valid option. There are some small soft boxes on the market that you can use a strobe with. I don't have any of these though. It will be a while before I post using studio lighting and those techniques.
Next post I will go over snoots and give you the skinny as to why they are so cool!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Adobe Lightroom 1.2 update

This evening as I was about to do a hunt for some shots when Lightroom kindly let me know that there was an update.

The Adobe® Photoshop® Lightroom® 1.2 update includes these enhancements:

  • Corrections for several issues including XMP auto-write performance, Windows Vistaļ¾® grid display errors, and noise reduction for Bayer patterned sensors
  • Additional camera support for the Canon EOS 40D, Fuji FinePix IS-1, Olympus EVOLT E-510, Panasonic DMC-FZ18, and more
  • Adobe is also dialing down the default amount of noise reduction in Lightroom 1.2 (download for Mac OS X and Windows) and Camera Raw 4.2 (for Mac OS X and Windows), adding support for the Canon EOS 40D and 13 other new cameras.

Lightroom is definitely some great software. I hated it at first. Now that I'm used to it, it's like I don't know how I worked w/ photos before.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Setting up your lights on your hardware

So now you know what methods you can use to trigger a flash and how to make your camera make those flashes work. Now it's time to set up your gear to some light stands.

After this post, you will know exactly what kind of gear you need to make sure you have a complete kit.

In the world of professional photography and big studio lighting, flash photography (in the sense we are discussing it as) doesn't even exist. All the light stands are much more heavy duty and all take a variety of adapters. So don't take this information as the end all of light stands. If you want to know more detailed info on any types of light stands or how they are used in a more commercial environment, please post a comment and I will go into more detail at your request.

Which lightstand should I pick?

Which light stand you choose is completely up to you. In this section, I'll go over the basic outline of what makes stands different from one another.

I'll go over some of the basic terms that you'll see when looking at light stands and what they mean:

Damped (or air cushioned):

These light stands have an 'air shock' in them. What this means to you is that if you loosen one of the retaining nuts on the lightstand, it won't come crashing down right away. It will slowly let itself down while you hear a small hiss of air. This addition is nice, but can be annoying if you are trying to break down your gear quickly. You have to wait for the air to release out of the chamber before you can completely collapse it.

Free Sliding:

This is the same exact type of stand w/o the 'air shock'. When you loosen a sleeve it comes down with the quickness!

Stud size:

Most common sizes are 3/8" and 5/8". Which size you pick depends completely on what your use for it will be. For all lighting purposes mentioned in this blog, the 3/8" stud will be fine. (As my photography knowledge base and 'goodies' grow, this may change.)

These are just the basic terms. This will be enough for you to make an educated decision on what type of stand you want to buy though.

Folded light stand w/ 3/8" brass stud attached:

NOTE: You always want to make sure you can use your gear w/ new purchases down the road. If you have ambitions to build a big studio, make sure to get the 5/8" stud. The studs are usually fixed to the light stand, so when you buy a 5/8" stud, you are getting the more heavy duty light stand to go w/ it.

NOTE II: A light stand is exactly what it says it is. There are no clamps or brackets to attach anything to. This is why you need an umbrella adapter mentioned in the next section.

Umbrella adapters:

There are a few different types of umbrella adapters on the market. For all intents and purposes though they are the same plastic construction. There is a guy machining them and selling them on Ebay, but these are very hard to come by. I'd trade a piece of glass for three of them though. Since they are built like tanks and parallax corrected for proper light alignment (I'll link to this term when I post that blog).

What this adapter does is connect your light stand to your umbrella and flash. In the image provided, you will see the bottom 'port' that clamps over the stud on the light stand. Then the port on the top will connect to your flash.

WARNING! All of the umbrella adapters I know if have metal shoes where the flash attaches. Make sure to put electrical tape on the 'cold shoe' (the metal piece where the flash attaches) , so that it does not short out your flash contacts and cause great sadness.

In the image below, you see a visual representation of what this looks like and it's functionality.

Umbrella adapter:

With these two items and the flash trigger of your choice. You now have a basic light kit that you can use to light your photographs.

Putting the pieces together:

Here I will briefly discuss and show you how all these pieces fit together to make a light setup (or "light rig")

A side by side view of a light stand and umbrella adapter:

A side by side view of a optical slave about to be attached to a flash:

A side by side view of a optical slave about to be attached to an umbrella adapter and flash:

F.Y.I...You don't need a light stand to use your flash. You can get creative by using bungee cords to hang it from door knobs or branches. Use gaffers tape to tape a flash to the wall or ceiling. This Umbrella stand is just the first step in getting a basic light setup so when you show up to shoot something, you don't look like a complete toolshed!

In the next post.

I'll discuss umbrellas and how they can be used. Along w/ a killer tip to make your umbrella last twice as long for less than 25 cents!

You bought these flash sync items. Now what?

In the previous post here, we discussed the various ways flash can be fired from the camera. In this post we will see how these peripheral devices actually connect to your camera. So when you squeeze on the shutter release. There will be light!

How to connect cables to your flash:

At a minimum you will need the following items:

These cables come in a variety of flavors. You can get a standard PC to PC cord that just sends a simple low voltage pulse of electricity to fire your flash. Or you can go all the way up to a i-ttl (Nikon) or e-ttl (Canon) cable that carries all the 'smart' knowledge from the camera.

What's the difference?

  • With ttl technology, you can set your camera on auto and just hammer on the shutter. Every picture won't be exposed with the flash perfectly, but they will be very close to spot on every time.
  • With regular PC cables (non ttl) you will only trigger your flash. If you have your flash set on half power, it will obediently flash away at half power, oblivious the the fact whether it is actually doing what you need it to do or not.

Here is an image of connecting a PC cable to a hotshoe adapter. (This is the same exact principal as connecting the PC cable directly to the camera)

PC cable to hotshoe:

Here is an image of connecting the PC cable to the flash. (This is also the same principal as connecting any camera to a light source)

WARNING! With the advent of sensitive digital cameras, there has been much discussion on the web about the danger of using older photo flash strobes on the hotshoe connector. The primary concern comes from the two major SLR manufacturers, Nikon and Canon, listing the maximum hotshoe X-sync voltage being no higher than 250V and 6V, respectively. Many older flashes had a trigger voltage of over 200V on the X-sync contact relative to the mechanical ground shoe connector. This high voltage has the potential to damage or destroy expensive modern digital cameras. If you have questions or concerns about the voltage of your strobe. Just Google your flash name + sync voltage. You should easily find the voltage within the first three hits.

PC cable to flash: (two images of the same thing)

Using an optical trigger:

At a minimum you will need the following items:

  • Optical trigger
  • Flash

This is by far the easiest way to trigger a flash in regards to setup. All you do is attach an optical trigger to the bottom of your flash the same way you would connect the flash to your camera via the hotshoe.

Optical trigger sliding onto the hotshoe of the speedlight:

Using wireless transmitters:

At a minimum you will need the following items:

  • Wireless transmitter x1
  • Wireless receiver x1 (you will need one receiver for each flash you want to trigger wirelessly)
  • Cable to connect the wireless receiver to the flash (this cable comes in almost all wireless kits)
  • Flash

While this is the most complicated way to sync your flash. It's still pretty easy. There are certain proprietary steps that belong to each wireless transmitter. The images you see below are using Pocket Wizard's (PW's). I won't go into these steps unless your having a difficult time with a certain type. If you are, make a comment on the bottom requesting additional posting and I will add it within a day or so.

The wireless transmitter will have a hotshoe attachment on it that fits directly onto the camera. I'm not going to show an image of this at this time unless it's requested later. It's pretty straight forward.

The wireless receiver is where it can be a little confusing. There will be a sync cable that connects from the wireless transmitter to the PC port on your speedlight. This image should do a good job explaining how this connection works. Although, some wireless setups connect directly to the bottom of your flash via the hotshoe and don't need this cable at all.

Wireless receiver hooking up to flash: (I made this third image a little larger so you can really see what's going on here)

I'm not going to go over Infrared Transmitters due to the proprietary nature of them. I strongly recommend just cracking open that hardly been used owners manual and finding out the best way to use it. Just remember, the transmitter has to 'see' the receiver for IR technology to work. It MIGHT work around a corner since the signal can bounce off walls. But never through walls and things like that.
In the next post. I will discuss how this gear attaches to light-stands and what options you have.