A flash bracket is a device that attaches to your camera and allows you to keep your flash at a greater distance than your built-in or shoe-mounted flash. The result is lighting that is more attractive and consistent. But it comes at the expense of adding quite of a bit of extra bulk to your camera.
Parts of a flash bracket
Flash brackets typically consist of a metal frame that attaches to the tripod screw on the base of your camera. The top portion of the flash bracket will also have a cold shoe mount for attaching an external lighting source such as a speedlight flash.
As a result of your flash no longer being connected to your camera’s hot shoe mount, you’ll have to add an extra accessory to complete your flash bracket setup. You’ll need a flash trigger, which can take the form of a dedicated TTL cord, sync cable, or a wireless radio transmitter.
Once you put it all together, you’ll have a beast of a camera rig.
Why use a flash bracket?
The reasons for needing a flash bracket depend entirely on what kind of photography you do, and the gear that you have. Generally speaking, flash brackets are useful for the following reasons.
Predictable, consistent lighting
Flash brackets allow you to have predictable, consistent lighting. This is especially key for event photographers who may need to roam between rooms with differing ambient lighting conditions. A flash bracket can help you achieve consistent lighting no matter the ambient light.
Among the most common applications for a flash bracket is at a red carpet event. If you look a the photographers working the event, almost all will have a flash bracket of some sort. That’s because they have no control over the ambient lighting at the event and must quickly take horizontal and vertical images of a fast-moving subject.
No need for an assistant
It holds your flash slightly off camera without the need to physically hold your flash off-camera or use an assistant. Again, this is most useful for event or wedding photographers who may not have an extra set of hands.
Helps you shoot in a vertical orientation
If you shoot a vertical image with direct flash attached to your camera’s hot shoe mount, you might notice that your photo subject has a sideways shadow. You’ll have a similar challenge even when trying to use your flash’s built-in bounce card or a lighting modifier such as the MagMod MagBounce.
Most speedlights don’t rotate 90 degrees, with the exception of select Sony flashes with the Quick Shift Bounce feature. In order to keep your flash position consistent when shooting horizontal and vertical photos, you need a pivoting flash bracket to help you swivel the flash to always keep it above the camera.
Shooting a vertical photo with the flash mounted to your camera’s hot shoe means your flash is at a sideways angle.
Resulting image when shooting vertically without a flash bracket. Note the heavy shadow to the subject’s side.
Shooting a vertical photo with a flash bracket keeps the flash on top of your lens, allowing for more consistent lighting.
Resulting image when using a flash bracket. The side shadow is almost totally eliminated.
What about bounce flash?
Bouncing your flash off the ceiling or using the built-in bounce card is a great way to achieve nice lighting. But depending on the type of photography you do, you can’t always guarantee there will be a good surface to bounce your flash. When you need consistent lighting in unpredictable photography environments, a flash bracket could help you out.
Shooting a vertical image with a bounce card results in awkward angles when shooting without a flash bracket.
Resulting image when shooting without a flash bracket.
Shooting a vertical image with a bounce card and a flash bracket results in an image with more balanced lighting.
Resulting photo when shooting with a flash bracket.
Recommended flash brackets
Flash brackets can range from very simple and inexpensive, to more complex and thus more costly. A straight flash bracket such as this one by Vello will be pretty cheap, costing $20 or less. It’s much harder to find a rotating or swiveling flash bracket that will do so smoothly and without adding too much bulk. After much research, I ended up purchasing the model below, used mainly for my red carpet photography shoots.
Custom Brackets RF-PRO Rapid Fire Flash Bracket
This flash bracket (Custom Brackets RF-PRO Rapid Fire Flash Bracket) stands out for several reasons. First, it is somewhat thin and compact, especially when folded down. This makes it easy to store and carry with me on location. The layout of the flash bracket is also such that it keeps my speedlight relatively close to my camera body and lens, making for an overall low-profile rig.
Many other flash brackets such as this option from LimoStudio end up being extremely bulky as they elevate the flash way above the camera. This might be helpful if you need to move your flash around a lot, but it makes for a much bigger footprint.
Constructed of sturdy aluminum, the Custom Brackets unit is very solid, yet relatively lightweight considering the load that it is meant to carry. And finally, it is one of few flash brackets out there that easily and quickly rotates the flash.
So do you need a flash bracket?
If you have the luxury of setting up lighting and controlling your photography environment, you probably don’t need a flash bracket. However, if you do a lot of on-location photography and don’t always have control over your lighting factors, a flash bracket could help you out, and be a handy addition to your bag.
Do you use a flash bracket for photography? If so, tell us what brand you use and in what photography scenarios below in the comments areas.