What is a Flash Bracket and Why Do You Need One?

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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.

In this day and age of MagMod and other portable lighting modifiers, are flash brackets still relevant for photography? Perhaps. Let’s dig into when and why you might need a flash bracket (or not).

Camera flash bracket

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.

Camera flash bracket

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.

Camera flash bracket on a Canon camera

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.

Camera flash bracket

Shooting a vertical photo with the flash mounted to your camera’s hot shoe means your flash is at a sideways angle.

Camera flash bracket

Resulting image when shooting vertically without a flash bracket. Note the heavy shadow to the subject’s side.

Camera flash bracket

Shooting a vertical photo with a flash bracket keeps the flash on top of your lens, allowing for more consistent lighting.

Camera flash bracket

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.

Camera flash bracket

Shooting a vertical image with a bounce card results in awkward angles when shooting without a flash bracket.

Camera flash bracket

Resulting image when shooting without a flash bracket.

Camera flash bracket

Shooting a vertical image with a bounce card and a flash bracket results in an image with more balanced lighting.

Camera flash bracket

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.

Camera flash bracket

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.

Read more from our Cameras & Equipment category

Suzi Pratt is an internationally published Seattle event and food photographer. Her photos appear regularly in Eater and Getty Images. She is also a blogger who teaches others how to run a successful photography business.

  • miker33

    Great explanation, thanks!!

  • Gene Jenkins

    I shot many weddings with a Stroboframe RL 2000. It gets the flash higher above the camera than the bracket shown. I used it with both 35mm and medium format cameras. They can be found used on eBay for a fraction of what they originally cost new.

  • Joe Dusel

    Nice article Suzi. The Custom Brackets flash bracket looks nice, but it sure does look like a bulky rig. When I shoot indoor events I have two camera bodies hanging off an Op-Tech dual strap. I have a 17-50mm on a crop body with a flash setup with a Gary Fong diffuser, and my full-frame camera with a 70-200mm for tighter shots of event speakers and sometimes audience members. The camera with the flash and diffuser works well enough, but it makes for a bulky/cumbersome rig, especially when walking around a large convention hall. Do you think that the flash bracket setup is less cumbersome?

  • Petegeoff

    I use a Stroboframe. Used it for many years. Retired now but still do stuff for friends and charities. It really does make a difference. Regards from the UK.

  • Samuel I Beard Jr

    I have and use a Custom Brackets Digital Pro-M flash bracket. I was shooting First Communion Masses at the local church, and having the flash on top of the camera for portrait shots just wasn’t cutting it. I did a LOT of research, and I ended up with the CB bracket. I found one used and bought it, and then I remember showing it to someone, and the next time I went to look for it, I couldn’t find it! I went out and bought another one, but new and full price. It was and is still worth the price!

    I use it for the Masses as indicated above, but also for pretty much any other event where I need flash and don’t want to worry about how the lighting is set up. Often, when I shoot the triathlons and mountain bike races I shoot these days, I’ll have it for the awards ceremony, depending on the lighting. I use a Rogue Flashbender on my flash to help bounce the light more evenly over the subject. Works great! Yes, it’s a bit bulky, even more so than the one you show. But I don’t shoot such events without it!

  • Michael

    I use Tiffen Stroboframe flash bracket that rotates the camera not the flash. Plus the flash is about 10″ to 12″ above the camera lens axis that eliminates ugly shadows behind an object. I love this flash bracket and I have been using it for years.

  • This is definitely serendipitous.

    On Sunday on a photo trip to Nymans, I came across a fellow photographer crouched down clearly taking macro images and was intrigued with the contraption he had attached to his camera with a Speedlight extended on the arm of it. So I asked him what it was and he explained how it worked and its benefits to his macro photography. He showed me a couple of stunning images he’d just captured of a bee on a flower with perfect lighting.

    Well, being a Macro fan, I decided I had to have one and bought one yesterday – the Custom Bracket CB Folding-S – not that cheap for my budget so had second thoughts when I got home questioning if I really needed it.

    On opening my mail onto DPS later in the day, out leapt the headline of your article “What is a Flash Bracket and Why Do You Need One?”. and I felt so much better for getting it. Today I go back with camera, Speedlight and the bracket to buy the right connection I’ll need between them.

    Now I have to teach myself how to use it helped by your article and so I say thank you Suzi, it’ll be fun learning.

  • Jack62

    One of the original reasons was that the bracket gets your flash further off axis and reduces the amount of red eye created in your subjects. The pop up flash allows the light to enter the eye almost straight on and illuminates the naturally red back of the eye brightly creating the zombie look.

  • Hey Joe! Thanks for the comment. From my research, Custom Brackets seems the least bulky of them all, but definitely still adds some heft to your camera gear. I’ve needed it specifically for my vertical shots taken with flash as specified by some of my photo clients. However, if not for their input, I’ve found that flash modifiers such as the Gary Fong or MagMod diffuser will work for most folks.

  • Nice! Always glad to be of help. Have fun with your new toy, Dinah!

  • Thanks for the suggestion! I had a tough time finding viable options during my research, but saw some good things said about Stroboframe. I’ll have to check out that particular model.

  • I once bought an expensive flash bracket, after having purchased some cheap ones that really did not work well, and I realized I would never use it. Too cumbersome. Looked ridiculous, too. So I got my first Fong which was rather heavy. They have a newer model that is much lighter. In addition, I have a Rogue Flash Bender that I like a lot. Will look at the brackets you and your commenters suggest, but I am one who likes to go light. I photograph destination weddings in New Orleans. I have to be on the go and go lightweight because most often we hit the streets and are not just indoors or ever indoors but still need sometimes to use a flash. So I love the Fong… Still evaluating the Rogue Flash Bender. I will look at the brackets again because I have to still shoot indoors!

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