Sunday, August 5, 2007

The Dual Flash Umbrella Stand Adapter

As every Strobist knows, we're often working at the limits of what our flashes can put out, so anytime we can improve efficiency and output, it's a good thing. One way I wanted to do this was by using an improved umbrella stand adapter. The idea was to have an umbrella adapter that could mount 2 flash units to double the output and also allow them to lay perpendicular to the umbrella to minimize the amount of light that the flash bodies would block. Here is what I came up with:

Dual Flash Umbrella Clamp Adapter

Here you can see how much less light is blocked from the umbrella by laying the speedlights perpendicular (left) vs parallel (right) to the umbrella:

Dual Speedlite Umbrella Clamp Adapter

The components:

Dual Speedlite Umbrella Clamp Adapter

Here is a list of items you'll need to make one:

  1. Photoflex Shoe Mount Multiclamp.
  2. Mini ballheads with flash shoe mounts. I used the ones that came with my Novoflex Unimarm Flash Bracket but if you don't want to buy the entire Unimarm kit, these look like they will work also. They're pricey but they're nicely built and offer a lot of flexibility. This flexibility is useful not just for holding the flash units perpendicular to the umbrella but also if you want to manipulate the speedlites as independent lights with snoots (without the umbrella). Another advantage is the arc is shorter than if you mounted the flash on top of the multiclamp like it's typically done, this allows the flash to sit further back from the umbrella. Lastly, the flash shoe mounts are made from plastic so you don't have to worry about your flash shorting out.
  3. Reversible male stud that comes with the Photoflex Shoe Mount Multiclamp.
  4. A Bogen 3/8" to 1/4" adapter.
  5. A 5/16" lock washer (middle) to keep the stud and adapter from slipping. You can get these at any hardware store. This 5/16" washer will have to be reamed for it to be able to slip over the 3/8 threads. I used a Dremel with a cone shaped grinding stone to do this. In case you're wondering why not just buy a 3/8" lock washer, I tried these and they are just too big, the teeth protrude out from the stud which limits its ability to lock the pieces in place and interfere with the stud being able to slide in and out of the multiclamp.
  6. Two 1/4" lock washers to keep the Novoflex mini ballheads from slipping.
Putting this together is pretty straightforward (I hope). The only trick is to resist the temptation to Loctite all the parts together. You have to remember to keep at least one the mini ballheads off the stud assembly when you put it together so that you can pass the stud through the hole in the multiclamp.

The speedlites I used were a Canon 580EX and a 550EX but of course you can use just about any flash with a standard shoe. The umbrella you see above is the Photogenic 45" Eclipse Plus umbrella which I find to be more efficient than the Westcott collapsible umbrella but the Westcott is more compact so I'll use the collapsible umbrella when I'm tight on luggage space.


Jud said...

unfortunately, it doesn't look like the images are showing up. This sounds really cool, though, and I'd want to check it out.

Tommy Huynh said...

my web host for my site (where the photos are hosted) may have had an outage, should work fine normally

brian said...

i don't know if the light being blocked by the flash is as big a problem as not being able to control where the flashes distribute their light. with your mod it keeps the flash closer to the center of the umbrella allowing better light bounce. good shoW!

Anonymous said...

This looks like a good solution if you happen to have some of the parts required already iN FACT ITS genius!
. But if I want to do it I might as well buy a studio strobe for that similar cost. I have been toying with the idea of two vivitar 285hv setup like this but hanging them horizontally on the plastic shoes is just asking for them to snap off.. :-(

Tommy Huynh said...

If you're not going to be mobile, then yeah studio strobes make more sense but the whole idea behind this is to be as light and portable as possible. Most of the time I use it without the umbrella and without a light stand (mounted to my tripod). The entire setup fits in my camera bag.

Wouldn't worry about flash shoes breaking either just from being hung horizontally. If that were the case, all of our flashes would be broken simply from when we turn our cameras to portrait orientation.