In the first part of this series I looked at getting your studio set up going with a good tripod, a backdrop system, some basic light modifiers and some a/c monolights from Godox (who I think offer the best value for money flash system right now). Now I want to look at some of the smaller items I use that make the work I do a lot easier.
I’m using some oder Bowens Esprit monolights at the moment and they are great, but they don’t allow me to control the power output from the Godox XPro radio trigger I use. However, once I have replaced those older strobes with some Godox DP400 units the X-Pro trigger that I already have for my Olympus and Panasonic cameras changing the power on any flash units in up to 5 different groups is as easy as pushing a button for the group and then turning the dial up or down on the trigger itself.
The Godox XPro trigger is made to work on specific camera models, so you will find they have a version for each major camera brand. The reason for this is because many of the Godox flashes are built with TTL and high speed sync capabilities and they are reverse engineered from the proprietary systems that those camera makers use. So for instance, if you have a Nikon system and you want to use the camera’s TTL metering, the Godox system mimics that. This means that a Godox XPro N unit will not give you the same functionality on a Canon system. You’d have to buy the Canon version of the trigger.
That said, the triggers are not prohibitively expensive, so if you are using two different camera systems getting one for each system isn’t going to break your budget, and of course you don’t need to buy the XPro version. There is a cheaper option called the Godox X2T that does the exact same thing but has a less user friendly interface.
Shooting in the studio environment gets a lot easier if you shoot tethered to your computer. In my case I have a very old 2010 Apple Mac Mini that serves as my tethering station and it’s able to run both the Olympus and Panasonic tethering software. This gives me a Live View of the subject and also lets me control all the camera functions without having to touch the camera at all.
If you can get your computer close to the camera you can probably get away with using the USB cable your camera came with, but if your computer is a bit further away then getting the Tether Tools cables is going to make life a lot easier for you. On my Lumix G9 the camera also gets powered by the USB cable, so that’s a fantastic bonus.
I have two of these cables, one for each camera I have, so when you are making your selection be sure to get one that is going to work with your camera.
You can never have too many clamps in photography studios! There are a variety of different types of clamps and some of them are quite specific for the intended purposes.
The Manfrotto G-clamps (Godox calls them Nano clamps) are the most versatile and robust of the clamps. You can use these to clamp your gear just about anywhere. I use three of them in my studio in a variety of different applications, from holding poles for overhead shooting rigs to reflector support arms and even the occasional ballhead.
A-clamps I normally use to hold backdrop material to stands and C-clamps have a similar use to G-clamps but are not quite as robust. Currently I have over 20 clamps of different types and I am always looking to add more. At the moment I could probably do with a couple more G-clamps and also a few more reflector clamps.
Here’s a page full of the different types of clamps from my favourite supplier.
Spigots & Thread Adapters
If there is one thing I use more than anything else it is these little things. They come in so handy! Spigots of the male variety normally come with a 1/4” thread on one side and a 5/8” thread on the other side. I have used them on just about every contraption I have ever needed to support a camera or light. Invariably you will find that sometimes you need the spigot to be 1/4” on both sides, so these little adapters will help with that. CameraStuff sell this very handy collection of spigots and adapters that I highly recommend.
Another handy adapter is the one that lets you use microphone stands with your camera gear. I am particularly fond of the Samson MBA mic boom arms which fold out of the way when clamped onto my product photography table and if correctly tensioned can support small cameras at just about any position. I also used these types of arms to hold my Godox ES-45 LED lights when I was shooting product with continuous light.
So in this arrangement pictured below I am using the Samson MBA-48 boom arm attached to a ball head that is connected to a cellphone holder for doing overhead videos like the one I did here.
On the other side of the table is a Hylow Double Boom Articulating Arm that is held onto the table with a G-clamp and on the other end is a Hylow Accessory Clamp with a mini ballhead that is attached to the arm with one of the thread adapters I mentioned above.
For my line of work, mainly product photography, these are indispensable. I normally buy them from art supplies shops. Overseas they call them “foam core” but here in SA you will find them called “project boards”. They aren’t that cheap at about R100 for an A3 size board, but if you look after them they will last for quite a long time. There’s one attached to the Hylow boom arm in the photos above.
I only recently got one of these and am wondering why it took me so long to discover just why they are so highly revered by so many photographers. They are heavy and solid stands, much more so than your typical tripod legged light stand. They are also much more versatile in terms of how tall they can go, where you can put them and what you can attach to them.
Make sure that when you buy one you get the grip arm attachments that let you do a variety of things, from supporting reflectors to entire backdrops. This is a great set to get you started.
So that’s it for this blog series. If you buy the items listed in the articles you’ll have all the basic things you need to take on a variety of studio photography jobs. Thanks for reading this and if you have any questions be sure to get in touch.