A flash bracket is one of those accessories, I have always known about, but never really needed. Frankly, most of my shooting is horizontal, and the biggest advantage of using one of these things, is when you’re shooting verticals with flash, to avoid the ugly shadows behind your subject, particularly when subjects are close to walls or other backdrops.
I might have been content to not think about this accessory, but when I took my bike for a ride here in New York City, there happened to be a film premiere as part of the Tribecca Film Festival down the street, so I slowed down to see what was going on. There was a lull in the action, and there were about 30 photographers all standing around behind the cordon, waiting for someone famous to take pictures of.
I don’t like generalizing as a rule, but it’s safe to say that every single one of the paparazzi had a flash bracket, except for one who told me he forgot his. For these shooters, it’s essential. As one bored photographer told me, he’s “shooting vertical all the time”.
Magazines want verticals, it’s that simple and you give the client that’s paying you what they want. “When was the last time you saw a horizontal shot in a magazine”, he quipped.
This is my horizontal paparazzi shot of actress Clare Danes. Taken with a pocket Fuji F10, I turned off the flash, to get this striking ambient light effect, unlike the boring flash shot below. Or maybe the flash didn’t fire and I got lucky; I’ll never tell.
Frankly, I never paid it much attention, but I guess magazines in the market for photos of celebrities want verticals, and a quick look around at some celebrity photo sites, confirmed what he said.
Why the flash bracket? When you shoot verticals, with on camera shoe-mounted flashes you get an ugly shadow cast behind the subject, particularly noticeable on red carpets, with advertising banners close behind.
You can also get harsh shadows in the subject’s eye sockets or under the chin, which is also not so flattering. But you don’t need one when you’re using flash as fill in bright light situations, or when using bounce flash.
Wedding photographers have long used these flip brackets that allow them to flip the flash on a pivoting arm so it is always over the lens and not beside it. Since off camera cords are available for most TTL flashes, maintaining TTL flash metering with flash on bracket is not a problem.
And even when shooting horizontals, the higher flash position these brackets give you can minimize red eyes and add a bit of “three-dimensionality” to your photograph, as well as keeping shadows out of site. I like the Gary Fong diffuser, which gives a really nice, soft quality of light; which many of the “beautiful people” don’t really need.
Now I admit, I haven’t used a bracket in years, but I’m looking at the Stroboframe Cameraflip, because of it’s small size, which folds neatly into a camera bag.
But from all I know and have read, you’re best to go down to the store and try out different brackets to see what feels best for you, and for the camera you are using. (some brackets won’t work on bigger, medium format cameras or when bulky motordrives or external batteries are attached)
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