Friday, July 30, 2010

Cheap and Versatile Multiple Flash Bracket

Having gotten a second flash, I wanted a way to be able to fire both of my flashes as a single group, thus functioning as a more powerful single light source. (Fortunately, I figured out how to sync them...)  I saw some dual- and triple-flash brackets that I liked but they all seemed scandalously expensive for such simple devices.

However, I found a dual flash bracket on ebay that meets my needs perfectly, and actually is more versatile than many of the other designs I've seen, and cost me $25 (free shipping).

The bracket is made of the following components:
1. Bar
2. Rubber mount
3. 1/4-20 mounting screw (3), one with both a male and female 1/4-20 mount.
4. cold shoe (2)
5. umbrella riser

Other than the rubber mount glued to the bar, all of the parts can be disassembled, which is key to its versatility as discussed later.  I removed the rubber mount because it made the umbrella riser more unstable.

The materials themselves were ok but build quality wasn't high.  Sturdy, for sure, though the finish is marginal (for example the bracket is not evenly painted).  Definitely functional nonetheless and proportionate to the cost.  I don't need a pretty flash bracket.


1. Single flash bracket
The bracket can be used as a single-flash bracket for your camera.  Just remove the umbrella riser and transfer the middle mounting screw (with the female 1/4-20) to the side opposite the flash.  The camera can then be mounted on the mounting screw, with the flash beside the camera.

2. Dual flash bracket
When used as designed, the bracket allows two hotshoe flashes to aim their flash heads close to the axis of an umbrella.  If the flashes are mounted sideways (while the head turned to the umbrella), it is possible to handhold the assembly using the umbrella riser.  A *dual flash* handheld umbrella... YES!!!

3. Triple flash bracket

You can use this as a triple flash bracket by replacing the umbrella riser with a cold shoe.  The three flashes would have to be positioned sideways, with heads pointing at 90 degrees.  An upside-down umbrella bracket or mini-ball head can then position the bracket (with 3 flashes) so that the flash heads are pointing toward the umbrella.  The light from the three flashes would be closer to the axis than in some solutions such as the lastolite tri-flash bracket.

Another benefit of this design is that the three flash heads are fairly close together, possibly allowing them to fit within a light modifier for a studio strobe such as a large softbox or softbrella.  However, I don't have one to test.

A disadvantage though is that the controls to the flashes are inaccessible.  Power would have to be set beforehand.  Presumably the middle flash and possibly one of the other flashes would have to be set in advance, while the third one would be adjusted.

4. Multi-flash bracket (??)
Got multiple flashes?  Trying to outdo Joe McNally?  It is THEORETICALLY possible to put many flashes together (albeit with diminishing returns).  Note that the middle mounting screw has a female 1/4-20 mount, which allows you to connect the brackets together.  Here are sample configurations:
(here is how I calculated the numbers)

Not that this is practical, but if you wanted to go crazy, the middle mounting screws of each bracket can be moved to the side rather than the middle, and multiple brackets could be stacked, forming a star-like configuration that accommodates up to 2 flashes per branch, plus one in the middle (got 17 flashes lying around?), limited only by the size of the hotshoe flashes, the strength of the tripod mounts, and your machine gun tripod (you did remember to pick one up, didn't you?) to hold up the entire 7.5kg* or 16.6 lbs. assembly.

*350g/flash x 17 flashes = 5950g
17 flashes x 4 AA batteries/flash x 23g / AA battery = 1564g
total: 7514g

And if you were planning to burn a hole through your subject, it is theoretically possible to attach brackets to the ends of the foregoing brackets, and perhaps link the outer branches with more brackets... or you can just get a monolight.