The B&H Flash Bracket Buying Guide
A flash bracket is a straightforward device that enables you to produce flattering light, compared to the brilliant head-on blast that comes with simply mounting a flash atop a camera. At its most basic premise, a flash bracket attaches to your camera and allows you to position an electronic flash unit, or even a small continuous light source, at a greater distance from the lens's optical axis than a built-in or shoe-mounted flash. This results in lighting that is inherently more attractive, natural looking, and less harsh, yet still retains some directionality to highlight your subject. Additionally, by moving the flash farther away from the camera, you can also minimize the dreaded red-eye effect.
Beyond these simple principles, there are other key benefits of using a well-designed flash bracket:
- Most provide a pivoting adjustment that allows you to keep the flash above the camera, whether you’re holding the camera horizontally or vertically, to maintain consistently oriented shadows from your subject.
- It assures you of having attractive, predictable lighting dialed-in, without having to physically hold the flash off camera or make adjustments in the field.
- It puts the camera and all necessary lighting equipment, including the flash unit and umbrella or softbox in one place and, under your direct control, eliminates the need for an assistant and allows you to concentrate on the subject.
All these advantages allow you to move from room to room without having to deal with the inevitable changes in ambient lighting, to work quickly and easily, and to focus on capturing expression, poses, and perfect moments more efficiently. When used with a flash, plus an umbrella or softbox, a flash bracket can essentially play the role of a portable mini-studio setup that helps you use off-camera lighting on the fly. Indeed, this is why virtually all professional wedding, event, and portrait photographers and many pros who shoot close-distance sports, like martial arts or table tennis, consider a good flash bracket to be an essential part of their working gear. And they’re also great for covering family events, such as holiday celebrations, birthday parties, reunions, and groups of kids at play, whether they’re indoors or outdoors.
Flash brackets provide all of the advantages enumerated above when they’re mounted on a tripod, as well, and this is an effective technique to use when shooting a series of portraits against a predetermined background, panning to cover an event, or shooting remotely from a fixed location. Most flash brackets provide a standard tripod mounting socket or a quick-release mount that allows you to detach the entire setup instantly and move about freely to respond to other picture opportunities.
When a flash unit is mounted on a flash bracket, it is no longer connected directly to the camera’s dedicated hot shoe, so some additional means must be used to trigger the flash when the shutter fires. Many pros use radio transmitters and receivers to sync the camera to the flash wirelessly. This has the advantage of eliminating dangling wires, but it does require battery power. That’s why many experienced pros opt for a simple and reliable sync cord or dedicated TTL cord like the ones that are included with some flash brackets.
Anyone who’s cruising the Internet forums in search of flash bracket reviews and recommendations, especially ones posted by experienced pros, will discover that certain names always come up as the most popular choices among knowledgeable shooters—in effect, the industry standards—and they’re the ones we’ve described below. A good flash bracket is a relatively inexpensive investment in predictable picture quality that will literally last a lifetime, even under the rigors of professional use. When searching online, be aware that the term “flash bracket” can also refer to a device meant to secure a flash unit to a light stand.
The most popular flash brackets among pros shooting in the field allow you to change the shooting orientation instantly from landscape (horizontal) to portrait (vertical) by simply turning the camera. In other words, the flash unit will still be in the proper position atop the camera as you turn it 90 degrees. With some models, you rotate the camera to achieve this; with others you pivot the flash unit as you turn the camera to obtain the proper orientation. With a well-designed flash bracket on your camera, you can consistently achieve the kind of flattering, natural-looking images that earn professionals and serious enthusiasts worldwide the admiration of their friends, family, and clients.
Editor’s Selection: Top 10 Flash Brackets
Stroboframe PRO-RL Bracket Widely used by working pros, this robust unit lets you rotate your camera instantly from horizontal to vertical with a flick of the wrist, as the flash remains centered over the lens. A fingertip-actuated lock secures the camera-rotating system in horizontal position. Other features include one-handed instant flash height adjustment to between 11 and 18 inches above the lens; the one-hand TiltTrigger lets you set the angle of the flash to any one of 12 click-stopped positions; a unique “kickstand” pivots out to safely support the bracket, flash, and camera when you set it on a table or floor; and an integrated quick-release (QR) plate with optional QR Receiver allows the bracket to be detached from a tripod instantly.
Wimberley Combo 3 Telephoto + Macro Flash Bracket This is a truly versatile and modular flash bracket system that allows the components to be connected in various configurations without the need for additional tools. Parts are captive to prevent unwanted detaching or unscrewing in the field and, with the ability to attach directly to an Arca-Swiss-style plate, this bracket is especially well suited to macro and telephoto shooting. Additionally, you can extend the flash forward or to the side of the lens, as well as adjust the vertical distance between the lens and the flash unit—great for shooting wildlife from a blind. This well-made, ingenious system is designed for easy stowage in a small space, too, and has a total weight of only 1.3 pounds.
Kirk KC-1F King Cobra Flash Bracket Designed to provide a flexible lighting platform when using a side-mounted lens on a gimbal head, this well-designed bracket connects to a Kirk lens plate that’s mounted on the lens's tripod collar. Once it’s secured, you can glide the flash along a horizontal rail to achieve direct or off-center positioning, resulting in a wider range of lighting options and quick, seamless operation in the field. The vertical arm is hinged to swing out of the way when not needed, or to be folded for convenient storage. The unit includes a KC-1FP quick-release plate for mounting and is constructed from anodized 6061T6 aluminum.
Kirk Telephoto Flash Bracket This cleverly conceived and specialized bracket is designed for mounting on the foot of the tripod collar of a telephoto lens or any Arca-Swiss-compatible plate. The bracket then fits around the barrel of the lens and raises the flash unit 9.5 inches above the base. The flash itself fits into the supplied QR-FP ¼"-20 quick-release plate and, once mounted, can be rotated a full 360 degrees for a versatile array of lighting options. The unit also comes with a KC-1FPA quick-release plate for mounting on lens plates, and a T-handle wrench. It’s precision-made in the U.S.A. of high-grade aluminum alloy and steel.
Custom Brackets Rapid Fire Pro Flash-Rotating Bracket with RC-2 Quick Release Receiver Popular among pros, this is a fully adjustable roller-bearing bracket that provides consistent lighting with the camera held in either the horizontal or vertical orientation by simply rotating the flash unit itself. It has a built-in Manfrotto RC-2 quick release for mounting the camera on a tripod and features a captive ¼"-20 screw for attaching the flash unit. This bracket will accept cameras with or without vertical battery grips, features an anti-twist design, and an additional ¼"-20 mount for a tripod. It stands upright using a fold-out leg, features lightweight aluminum-alloy construction, weighs 10 ounces, and folds flat to 7 x 4.75 x 1.5 inches for easy storage. Optional connectors are available for attaching the BlackRapid ConnectR, Spider Camera Holster Systems, Sun Sniper, Custom SLR, and Joby straps.
Vello QuickDraw Rotating Flash Bracket This straightforward and economical unit positions your flash well above the camera’s lens axis and can quickly rotate the flash as you switch from horizontal to vertical shooting positions, eliminating side shadows and providing well-balanced, even illumination. Five mounting holes on the camera platform accept cameras having a wide variety of sizes and shapes, and hold them in position with a simple and effective mounting knob. A red knob attaches the flash unit to the bracket’s accessory shoe, which can be placed in two positions or removed to accommodate off-shoe camera cords. The flash arm rotates 180 degrees and a padded grip offers comfort for long shooting sessions. The QuckDraw features sturdy lightweight aluminum-alloy construction and a locking mount for tripod use.
Stroboframe Camera Flip Bracket A simple yet versatile bracket, well suited for use with cameras without a battery grip, this low-profile model utilizes the Rotary-Link system to maintain a centered flash position regardless of whether you’re working it in horizontal or vertical shooting orientations. The arm incorporates a machined shoe-type flash mount, which can be interchanged with other optional mounts to fit different flash connections. A neoprene grip lends stability and comfort while its compact form factor fits easily in gear bags and provides a 12-inch flash-to-lens distance.
Custom Brackets Folding-T Flash Bracket Conceptually simple and elegant, this taller-than-average bracket allows larger cameras to be accessorized with off-camera flash units. Because of its basic “C” shape it can be mounted to either the right or left side of the camera, depending on which position is most comfortable for the user, and it holds the flash unit 11 inches above the lens. Other features include a soft foam grip, anodized-aluminum construction, and a folding design for enhanced portability and easy storage.
Stroboframe Digital PRO T Bracket This sturdy, popular bracket has a flash arm that swings to keep the flash centered above the lens when the camera is held in either a horizontal or vertical shooting position. The top surface of the camera mount has a precision-machined, cross-sectional recess covered by a dense textured-rubber material, providing an ultra-thin barrier that protects you camera and grips it securely to prevent twisting. No anti-twist camera plates are required, and the new ergonomic flash-height adjuster knob allows height adjustments up to 10.75 inches above the lens. Other key features include a convenient foldaway kickstand, solid T6061 aluminum-alloy construction, and a net weight of 14 ounces.
Custom Brackets Digital PRO-M Camera Rotating Bracket Kit Optimized for use with DSLR camera systems, this bracket's unique system rotates the camera around the center of the lens axis and allows for locking it in not only in the vertical or horizontal position, but also anywhere in between! The kit includes the CMP universal camera-mounting plate, the FCN flash-mounting plate for Canon/Nikon off-camera flash cords, and the QR quick release for mounting the whole system atop a tripod. Other features include maintenance-free roller bearing rotation system, upright stance when fold-in legs are deployed, vertical flash-height adjustment, left-hand foam grip, and anodized black aluminum-alloy construction.