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:
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:
Here is a list of items you'll need to make one:
- Photoflex Shoe Mount Multiclamp.
- 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.
- Reversible male stud that comes with the Photoflex Shoe Mount Multiclamp.
- A Bogen 3/8" to 1/4" adapter.
- 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.
- Two 1/4" lock washers to keep the Novoflex mini ballheads from slipping.
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.