Flash and Flash Accessories
Flash brackets raise the flash. Courtesy of Really Right Stuff.
Quantum is well known for their large battery packs.
A Metz battery pack and powerful handlemounted flash.
A camera mounted umbrella made by BKA.
The Kirk Flash Extender fits over the flash head.
A Metz slave flash trigger from Bogen Photo that's powered by a solar cell. It works with both hot shoe and PC Cord connections.
Flash has been discussed earlier in this book, but there are also a number of flash accessories that you may want to consider.
Flash brackets, often used by event photographers, elevate the flash to move it farther from the lens axis. This reduces red-eye in photos of people but also changes the angle of light so it's not as flat. These units mount onto the camera using its tripod socket. You then slip the flash into the bracket's cold shoe. To connect the camera and flash you use a sync cord.
You can also use an extension cable to connect the flash to the camera without mounting it in the hot shoe. This lets you hand hold the camera some distance from the camera, or even mount it on a tripod.
Battery packs containing large rechargeable batteries let you extend your shooting time. These units, small enough to attach to your belt, connect to the flash by cable. They not only extend your shooting time, they also shorten recycle times—the time it takes the flash to fully recharge for the next picture. With one of these units you won't be caught missing a shot because your battery isn't charged or the flash recycled. (If you have ever taken a series of flash pictures and one is much darker than the others, it's because the darker one was taken before the flash completely recycled).
Reflectors and Diffusers
Flash mounted reflectors bounce the light emitted by the flash and soften it because their reflective surface is larger than the flash's. One version has cutouts in it so some light bounces off the ceiling and the rest is reflected forward on the subject.
Flash mounted diffusers, like these from Lumiquest, are like translucent soft boxes that spread out the flash so it bounces off more surfaces, softening it.
Umbrellas, basically large reflectors, are used to bounce the flash. As the flash from the small flash unit hits the large umbrella and reflects back onto the subject, it is softened.
Kirk Photo's Flash X-Tender is used with focal length lenses of 300mm or longer and, by focusing the light, can increase your flash output by a minimum of 2 full stops. This unit weighs less than 3 ounces and folds flat for storage.
If you have one or more external flash units, you can make them into mini strobes using remote flash triggers. One of these inexpensive devices (some flash units have them built in) make any flash into a slave unit so it fires when it senses another flash firing. This allows you to get lighting effects you couldn't possibly get with a single unit. More advanced flash units accomplish the same goal using optical or radio signals. You mount a master flash or a transmitter on the camera's hot shoe and it transmits wireless signals to the slave units telling them what settings to use and when to fire. The master flash on the camera can be enabled or disabled. When disabled, it still transmits signals to the remote units.
With expensive units, the output ratio of different slave units can be set to finely tune exposures. This is ideal for background or accent lighting when shooting in a studio setting. When using wireless remote flash, you can use a modeling light that illuminates the subject for a full second so you can preview flash effects such as shadows and highlights before taking a picture.