If you are a professional photographer — regardless of whether you’re mainly shooting weddings, portraits, products or fashion — it’s understood that you have a number of light mounting options, including light stands, clamp systems, rails, etc. But if photography represents a side income for you or it’s a hobby, or you carry around a light stand with accessories most of the time, chances are you’re going to want light stand accessories that can be used for more than one purpose, and that excludes flash/umbrella holders.
A flash shoe umbrella holder might indeed not be your best choice, because those are one-trick components only. Most of them aren’t even up to the job and the ones that are, don’t come cheap. If you want to also use, let’s say an Amaran 100/200, you can do better with multi-trick components.
The multi-trick alternative costs less than 50 Euros in all, which isn’t cheap either, but for that money you get a grip head, two studs, and a small but very robust ball head.
The grip in polished alu costs around 30 EUR on Thomann’s EU web store, and you can use it for a lot more than mounting a light. It’s the Avenger D200 Grip Head 2 1/2in I’m talking about and it’s made from cast aluminium. It weighs in at 0.5kg, has a 5/8in mount that fits all light stands, and — unlike any other grip head — uses a series of washers for extra locking torque and the use of automotive-quality brake pad discs for secure, non-slip security.
I have two of those and I can tell you they are very robust useful grip heads. So far, I’ve used it as a boom holder with a heavy microphone/mic cable hanging from it, as a mount on a 9cm stud for my Amaran 100x, and as a flash holder with the Rogue 38in umbrella’s shaft firmly held with its clamp — the topic of this article.
Then there are the studs. According to my fifth edition Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, a stud in this context is a short rod or pin fixed in or projecting from something and serving as a support, axis or stop. Your light stand comes with a permanently mounted stud, which usually has a 3/8in screw (and sometimes a 1/4in adapter piece screwed on top).
You can mount a 3/8in-to-3/8in or 3/8in-to-1/4in female stud adapter on top of it and then another male stud on the female one with opposite mounting threads. The male stud will likely have a bulbous middle part that won’t fit in the Avenger’s 5/8in mount, but the female stud won’t have that, so the trick is to first fit the female part, then attach and fix the Avenger and then lower the male stud and fix that in place. The Manfrotto 119 adapter will fit fine.
Some male studs are short — usually around 4cm — and that’s too short for our purpose. What you’ll need is a 6cm (or slightly longer) one. I personally like the Bresser JM-59 adapter 65mm, because it’s made of steel instead of aluminium. Its “belly” in the centre has a good, solid grip when using a pair of pliers. Alternatives include studs made by Manfrotto and its Avenger brand.
The Avenger’s rotatable grip has several openings to grab booms with different diameter or, in our case, accept the shaft of the umbrella you’re going to use with your flash.
On the stud that protrudes from the Avenger’s 5/8in mount, I mounted a small ball head, in my case the Roadworx Universal Ball Joint. This is a ridiculously low priced ball head that fits the palm of my hand, yet which I found to be very strong and very small. I tested this good-looking head by hanging a 600g boompole from it at 45 degrees and it did not budge.
For such a small item — it measures about 3cm in diameter and is about 5cm high — it’s amazing the Universal Ball Joint will hold that boompole without the ball slipping under the weight. It makes me trust it will securely hold even my LumoPro LP180 and even heavier lights with no problems. You can rotate the base which has a 360 degrees scale. And its mounting head is reversible. On one side you have a 3/8in mounting screw with a 1/4in adapter. Loosen the base and turn it on its head and you have an aluminium cold shoe.
And all that for only 12.40 EUR. I have camera ball heads that perform far less and were far more expensive.
Finally, if you want to quickly mount and unmount the flash and replace it with a continuous light instead of just having a multi-usable mount, you’ll also need a Manfrotto 014BIM adapter, which is a hollow 6cm tall 5/8in diameter aluminium tube with a 3/8in male screw on top and a fixing bolt on the side. If you have that adapter, you can quickly unmount the flash while the umbrella stays in place on the Avenger grip head.
I know, it’s unconventional, but it works well and with each component you can do more than only use it for mounting that umbrella and the flash.