73 Comments, Add Your Own

  1. 1 says


    I just bought the Magic Slipper and the Manfrotto 679B hand holding pole but I seem to need a connector piece for the Manfrotto pole to attach to the slipper. The screw in the top of the Manfrotto pole is too wide to fit in any of the available magic slipper screw holes. I took a picture of your set up when we were in class and you have some sort of connection piece in between the slipper and pole. What is it?


  2. 4Adi says

    Hi Neil, between umbrella and softboxes which one that you prefer? If I go with softboxes, what size should I get. I mostly do a baby portrait or family portrait. thanks

  3. 5Adi says

    Hi Neil, on b&h photo site it said that Photoflex Litedome Q39 – 24×32 (medium) is good for a half length adult. So do I need the large version for group portrait or a full length adult? thanks

  4. 6Neil vN says

    Adi … for a shoot outdoors with a couple or a single subject like a model, a softbox allows me more control.

    But for lighting for family formals at a wedding, then umbrellas are much faster to set up and easier to use.

    So for the group shot, I would definitely use an umbrella. I prefer the 60″ size umbrellas. They are large, but give better light than a smaller umbrella.

    Neil vN

  5. 7 says

    Hello Neil, my question is about Camera bags. Do you often carry any bag on shoulder during ceremony? And are they really practical bags above?
    I need to choice bag too and my think is that one is necessary to transport equipment and must be large but to carry a second flash or body it is neecessary to have second one. Maybe this Velocity is more often on your arm?
    It is hard to buy 7 Million Dollar in my country cause for Europe are different models, “Muffin”, “Messenger” and “Master Delhi”. Could you choose similar to yours from these new types today? What reason you selected 7 Million Dollar instead typical photo bag. What is your opinion?


  6. 8Neil vN says

    During the ceremony, I often just have the two cameras over my shoulders. The one has a 24-70 and the other has the 70-200. But when I can, I have a bag with the 14-24 and an 85mm f1.4 as well.

    What I liked about the 7 Million Dollar bag, is that I removed the inside dividers (and threw them away). This way I have a roomy padded bag, that I can put a variety of equipment in, as I need it at any point. The bag then also folds flat so that I can put it inside my usual luggage that I fly with.

    I know there are hordes of options out there, with so many manufacturers, and each of them with multiple lines of bags. The Crumpler is just one of the bags that I settled on at the time. And I like it.

    Neil vN

  7. 9Debra Wallace says

    I don’t know if this is the right place for this question, but I was curious why you use a Better Bounce Card instead of a white piece of craft foam (e.g. a white version of the black foamie thing).

    Also, without a dual card reader in camera, do you have any recommendations for protecting images during a wedding (besides the obvious like having an assistant)? Have you ever had a memory card failure?


  8. 10Neil vN says

    Debra .. I rarely use the Better Bounce Card. As such it doesn’t really matter whether I use a piece of white foam, or the Better Bounce Card that I was given.

    No real advice on protecting the CF cards. I think there is more of a risk in losing a card or physically damaging it, than the card going corrupt in the camera. But the dual card capability is reassuring.

    Neil vN

  9. 11Brandon says

    Hi Neil,
    Just wondering do you recommend a diffuser or the Stofen? Sorry what kind of situation would you use them? Thanks.

  10. 13Mick says

    Hi Neil,

    I’m really enjoying reading your book and your website, and find it a great reference to flick back to when I am pondering a scenario…

    I would like to ask a bit about the Pocket Wizard PlusII set up you use – in your book there is an image of it fixed to your 580EXII flash that your assistant is using on camera. Is this being used as a Master to a wireless slave, or as a slave, or both, alternating? If used as a master, is the TTL metering also transmitted from the PC connection on the 580EXII and then wirelessly through the PW? Then if used as a slave, the same in reverse? Do you set the 580EXII to master/slave or leave it as standard?

    It just seems too easy and too clever :) It seems the pocket wizard system is well and truely superior to the ST-E2 I am using, and far more versatile than just the 580EXII as a master.

    I do love the ST-E2, and use it within it’s limitations, but having the ability to have a long range transmitter and receiver on camera as well as having the flash on camera, is an awesome concept.

    Cheers, and thanks for your help,

    Mick (from Hong Kong)

  11. 14Neil vN says

    Mick .. you’re referring to this image, which I also posted in one of the articles on using additional lighting at a wedding.

    The on-camera flash in this case was in TTL mode, and controlled by the camera and the FEC that is set.

    The pocketwizard triggers other additional flashguns that are set to manual mode. These flashguns are typically set to 1/8th power or such, and bounced into the room (with or without umbrellas), just to lift the light levels a bit in large rooms.

    Since the additional flashguns are in manual and tripped by the pocketwizards, there is no intelligence between the camera (and on-camera speedlight), and the remote flashes.

    So this isn’t like using Radio Poppers (for example), where there is TTL control of the remote flashes.

    Neil vN

  12. 15Melak says

    Hi Neil
    I just arrived on your website. It was wonderful. I found your webpage very compelling and influential on me and I believe for others. I have a question for you. I have 1 Nikon D700 CAMERA with NIKON lenses of 24-70 f/2.8 and 70-200 f/2.8 VR II lenses and NIKON SB 900 flash. i am about to order the following camera accessories for wedding photography. Would you please be open and advise me with the following. Would these materials have an effect on my camera body and flash. From you experience what is the long term effect?
    Thank you
    ALZO Flip Flash ® Bracket Umbrella Kit w/ Tilting H-Bar
    (1) Shutter Release for ALZO Flip Flash® Bracket – NIKON PRO
    (1) Porta-Flash Ultralight Photo Umbrella Kit – 2 Lights w/ Case
    (2) Light Stand – ALZO 8′ max – Air Cushioned
    (2) Rapid Battery Charger w/4AA bats -2900 mah
    (2) AA Rechargable Battery 2900mah – Set of 4
    (1) Tripod / Light Stand Soft Case – 38″
    (2) Photo Umbrella – ALZO 33″ Silver Black Backed
    (2) Sync Cord 11″ – AUTO Flash
    (2) ALZO Flash Photo Umbrella Mount with 1/4 x 20 screw
    (2) Manual Speedlight with Optical Slave
    (2) ALZO Wireless Flash Trigger Receiver – 4 Channel
    (1) ALZO TTL + Wireless Double Hot Shoe Cord – Nikon
    (1) ALZO 42″ 5-in-1 Reflector/Diffuser Kit
    (1) Light Stand – ALZO 10′ max – Air Cushioned
    (1) ALZO Reflector Holder Arm
    (1) SALZO 42″ 5-in1 Reflector/Diffuser
    (1) SWireless Flash Trigger kit – 4 Channel

  13. 16Neil vN says

    Hi there Melak .. That’s a truck-load of equipment (and searching on websites to see what they actually are). I’m also not familiar with the ALZO products.

    As a short-cut, let me say what I think would make a minimum core of lighting gear for weddings:

    You’re going to need at least one more speedlight! And a backup camera.
    At this point, I’d recommend the speedlights over anything bigger. I do use Q-flashes and really like them, but they don’t offer much more power than a speedlight. (Although their recycling is faster and the flashgun itself more durable)

    A basic set-up for lighting the formals
    2 lightstands,
    2 umbrella clamps,
    2 umbrellas (at least 45″, but I prefer 60″ umbrellas .. but depends on what your lightstand can hold safely)
    2 battery packs. Start with the SD-9 /CP-E4 battery packs.
    more batteries!

    This is what you would need for formal photographs inside.

    Then … radio transmitters .. I still use (and prefer) PocketWizard Plus II units,
    but the Radio Poppers might prove to be more versatile.

    Don’t get optical slaves! Get proper radio slaves. You will just make your life miserable as a wedding photographer if you use optical slaves. With optical slaves, every time someone else takes a shot, your flashguns would fire.

    Get larger umbrellas than 33″ .. get at least 45″ sized umbrellas.

    Items that are superfluous for now:
    – flash bracket
    – shutter release cable
    – reflector & reflector holder arm
    – sync cords? You need wireless radio transmitters and receivers and their appropriate cables.

    With weddings you don’t want to load yourself down with gear. Unless of course your style is more methodically traditional.

    Neil vN

  14. 17Fred Silver says

    Hi Neil;
    I work at ‘street’ & ‘essay’ photography w/ and w/o flash, but mostly available light. As I’ve been finding that my shots with 70-200 L IS & 100-400 IS are not as sharp as I would like, I’ve been considering a Monopod. At a recent trip to Miami Beach I tried using my tripod on one leg and RRS ball head to approximate a monopod. It’s a bit clunky, but seemed to work better than hand held and also forced me to concentrate and be more selective.
    I don’t see that you mention a tripod or monopod in your gear.
    What advice can you offer on such an acquisition: monopod? ball or swivel head? any experience with make or model, twist or lever action etc?
    As always your input is trusted and appreciated.


  15. 18Neil vN says

    Hi there Fred ..

    I do have two Manfrotto tripods. One is a monster, and the other a remarkably light-weight carbon-fiber tripod. They are always with me in my van. Yet I rarely use them. And I can’t remember when last I used a tripod at a wedding. I use monopods, but only to carry softboxes on.

    So with that said, I’m not exactly an authority on tripods and such. : )

    Neil vN

  16. 19Gregory says

    Hi Neil,
    Been a longtime reader of your blog and also have your book. Really tried out some of your techniques including the black foamie thing and just got great results. I am just a serious amateur and i have been asked to help to shoot an Indian wedding by the bride (they are know to me and they happen to like my pictures). The groom has a pro covering the wedding. I was wondering if i can use NIKON CLS instead of Pocket wizards(I dont have them). was planning to set up two speedlights off camera. And other diffuser than your suggestion of umbrellas what option do i have for something more portable. Can i use your black foam on the two speedlights. I shoot with D700, nikon 24-70mm,F/2.8, 70-200 f2.8VR, 50mmf1.4, 105mm micro nikkor. Any advice from you will be appreciated a lot

  17. 20Neil vN says

    It depends on what you want to achieve with the two off-camera speedlights. You can definitely control it with CLS, although the line-of-sight constriction can be a pain at times.

    The black foamie things aren’t diffusers like an umbrella or softbox or plastic modifier. It’s merely a flag. So I don’t they would have immediate use on off-camera speedlights, unless you want to make sure you block them from directly hitting the front of your lens, etc.

    With a camera like the D700, you can easily shoot the reception at 1600 ISO or even faster. And you have f2.8 optics. Much less need for additional off-camera lighting as in this example.

    Neil vN

  18. 21Greg says

    Neil, Thanks for answering my question. Much obliged. I have to shoot some close ups in a wedding ceremony of intricate designs that are drawn on the hands of the bride and female members of the family in an Indian wedding. I have D700 and also the 105 nikkor micro and 50mm f/1.4. Location is indoors. Should i use SB400 with diffuser or with a Sb800 TTL off camera held at the edge of lens with a sto ofen diffuser. Or what is your expert opinion. How about if i want to take close up of elaborate jewellery on the bride.
    Thank you

  19. 22Neil vN says

    Greg .. there are too many variables there. eg, indoors or outdoors? It’s not the kind of thing that specific advice can be given about, I think.

    Neil vN

  20. 23Debra Wallace says

    Does the pocket wizard II work with Nikon? I’m confused on their site regarding what’s compatible with Nikon and what isn’t. Do you need one for the camera and each flash? Thanks!


  21. 24Neil vN says

    Debra … the Pocket-Wizard Plus II units are simple devices to trigger the flash. There is no intelligence between the camera and flash, other than the camera tripping the Pocket-Wizard transceiver, which in turn trips the transceiver attached to the flash.

    No information about aperture or ISO settings are transmitted. Therefore you have to set you camera’s aperture and ISO, and match your flash’s output and distance for that, to give you correct exposure.

    In other words, these Pocket-Wizard units will work with any camera system. So you’re good there with the Nikons.

    Neil vN

  22. 25Greg says

    Hello Neil,
    Sorry i wasnt specific. I meant shooting some closeups indoors with existing light. I have read thru your book and most of your blog but couldnt find anything about close up photo techniques. So i was wondering what your advice would be for shooting maybe folded hands or bangles/rings on the hand or patterns drawn on the hand, maybe an elaborate ornament the bride is wearing etc or any other interesting stuff that begs to be shot in macro or close up. How do you augment the existing light with flash and how would you do it in on location in a wedding.
    Do you have any plans to hold any workshop in atlanta. I would die to participate in one.

  23. 26Debra Wallace says

    Thanks! They have a bunch of different products on their site, including the Mini T1 and Flex TT5 which are for Canon and I think do have intelligence between the camera and the flash. Then on the site, they don’t call anything a Pocketwizard except the company, and the unit you have listed on your site is called the Plus II. Hence my confusion. Thanks for your response.


  24. 28Jaco Wolmarans says

    Hi Neil
    I’m taking your advice on the Photoflex Litedome Q39. I need a speedring to attach my SB800 and Quantum Flash to it, but the BH Photo link to the appropriate speed ring page is bust. Do you remember which one you use?

  25. 30Neil vN says

    Jaco .. it works with a universal speedring. The one I use comes with the Magic Slipper. But you should have no problem in getting a speedring that will work.

    Neil vN

  26. 34Debra Wallace says


    It was the “to attach the flashes” comment that made me think he might me using the wrong term. I had a hard time figuring out everything I needed when I bought my softbox. It seems obvious now, but if you’ve never put one together it’s hard to conceptualize.


  27. 35Tim Hodges says

    Got the book and love the website. I’m new to flash photography having avoided it for a long time but you’ve given me lots of enthusiasm to give it a go.

    I’ve hit my first snag though. Purchased a cheap (eBay) 5″ by 4″ softbox attachment to experiment on my new Canon 580-EX11 flash with Canon 5D mk11. I’ve noticed in certain situations that the photo is underexposing by about 1.25 stops with the modifier attached. My understanding is that the ETTL technology (yes it is switched to ETTL) should automatically compensate for this. With a bit more testing it seems that the flash exposure is much more easily fooled by large dark or light areas with the softbox attached. i.e if I shoot a scene with a mix of tones the exposure is ok.
    Is this just a feature of E-TTL or is it because I should have bought a better quality softbox?


  28. 36Neil vN says

    Tim, I don’t have a specific answer for you. This may very well just be one of those times where the theory behind the technology doesn’t quite match the practice, whether through some limitation in the design or the technology … or just the way the camera and flash’s metering algorithms work.

    But now that you’re aware of this quirk, you can work around it and get to the actual endeavor – the photography.

    Neil vN

  29. 37 says

    I discovered an interesting thing when I went to B&H to buy a second Smith-Victor “Brass Adapter and Stud” featured on this page. Apparently, the vendor has changed the adapter. It is now 1/4″ longer in length, looks gray (instead of brass-colored), and when you reconfigure the two pieces so the 1/4″ male thread is on top, the two pieces do not tighten fully (this was the deal breaker). I returned the item back to B&H, and they brought up a replacement, and it was the same thing. I brought the adapter I was looking for, and the clerk went to the lighting department and brought back two Manfrotto adapter pieces (B&H product number MA118 and MA119). When these two are put together, they are the same length and thickness as the old Smith-Victor adapter. However, one piece has a hole in it. I decided to put the Manfrotto adapter into the umbrella bracket and use the adapter without the hole as the mounting piece for the Lastolite Ezybox.

    In the similar turnabout, the brass adapter that comes with the umbrella bracket on this page no longer has a hole in one of its pieces at B&H recently.

  30. 39Ruben says

    Do you recommend using a softbox like the, Lastolite EZYBOX softbox kit 24×24?, or is it better to use umbrellas? Going to be used on location…

    Also, does the SD-9 battery pack reduce the overheating problems on the SB-900?

  31. 40 says

    Neil has an unscientific comparison of the light spread and falloff between an umbrella and softbox.


    The softbox is slightly more stable, because it does not catch wind like an umbrella does. If there are strong winds, expect the umbrella to fall over.

    The SD-9 does not reduce the “overheating” problem. It recycles the flash charge faster for your next shot. However, this will cause you to hit the thermal protection limit sooner as you shoot one after another in rapid succession. You can always remove the limit in the SB-900 menu.

  32. 42Patti says


    Love your work and your articles, I have both of your books and have read them cover to cover several times now. Thank you for introducing me to flash photography. I truly have a good understanding of the basics now… A question for you. I am trying to limit additional investment of equipment for a few months as I alreayd have two cameras (D90 & D700), flash (SB-600), stand, 45 inch shoot through umbrella, black foamie thing!, 50 1.4, 24-70 & an 80-200… I ahve been doing professional family and children’s portraits since 2010 but I have my first formal setting event coming up and I have instructed the event committee to make sure to set up any scenery on a white background in a well lit area although the lighting will definitely be flourescent. The formal photography will take place probably over a 2 hour period and I am wondering if I should rent some continous lighting instead of a strobe kit. This is mainly for couples, maybe small groups or individuals but nothing large. Your thoughts?

    I was just about to ask a stupid question but answered it myself…as I look through my equipment the only back up I don’t have is another flash so I am think at a minimum I need to invest in that in the short term with an extra lightstand and umbrella (I am thinking silver reflective)…so I guess it’s an SB-900 on the list for me! Can I mix shoot through and silver reflective or should I have two of the same? Agani, sounds silly once I read it back so I am thinking 2 of the same…
    I may reach out to you about your upcoming workshop in NY in May.


  33. 43 says

    Hi there Patti

    For this, I would definitely use flash. Continuous light is usually not as bright as flash. For its size, a speedlight can pack a huge amount of light in comparison.

    If you only have one speedlight, I would strongly recommend getting another. You need back-up for any professional shoot, or any shoot where equipment failure would embarrass you. Ideally, you should then have 3 speedlights here, and use 2 of them for lighting. If you can’t afford two speedlights, then rent two. There are a number of companies that rent out photo gear, like Borrow Lenses.

    At the same time, rent three PocketWizard Plus II units.

    You could mix’n’match the two umbrellas you have.

    However, you need to test your setup before the time, and make sure the results look good. There’s only so much research you can do on the internet, and then you’re going to have to try it out with a camera in hand to learn.

    Neil vN

  34. 44Clifford says

    Neil, great book first of all. Such an excellent resource for off-camera lighting.

    Much of the time in the book, you have an assistant hold up the softbox that is attached to a monopod. The aim is for a 30 deg angle above the subject’s head. Now, you have recommended the 1051BAC, but would it be prudent to get a stand with a taller max height?

  35. 45 says

    Clifford, the decision forever balances between portability, convenience, affordability and what is practical. If you need a taller light-stand for people that will be photographed in a standing position, then get taller light-stands.

    Neil vN

  36. 46Trina Cheney says

    Hi Neil,

    I bought the new book “Off Camera Flash” and love the website. I have the Nikon D90 and I use the on camera flash to trigger my SB800 off camera with a shoot through umbrella. My question is should I invest in the Pocket-Widzard Plus II tranceivers or purchase two Pocket-Wizards Flex TT5’s to trigger my SB800 off camera? I am trying to trigger my flash with out worring about being in the line of sight.

    My other question is which softbox is the best out of the lastolite Ezybox 24×24 and the westcott apollo 28×28 which is cheaper and larger?

  37. 47 says

    I’d suggest the TT5 PocketWizards. They are a lot more flexible than the older Plus II units in what you can achieve with them, like high-speed flash sync.

    Re the Ezybox … it would appear they have discontinued the 24×24 model and now have a 30×30 model. I found it much quicker to set up than the Westcott Apollo.

    Neil vN

  38. 48kirubel says

    Hi Neil
    First of all I am one out of many readers who benefited from ur website. I thank immigration for making u wait 2 years to get ur paper which gave u time to creat a website. I have been following for many years from disorganized ,slow upload and now to this magnificent website. I do my part to help ur site by ordering product through ur link.

    1*The link u have for umbrella bracket ( impact mfr# 9101880), does it come with shoe adapter ontop or i have to order it separate.
    2*I am planing to buy mini TT1 and Flex TT5 canon. I am reading mixed reviews where some photographer stating that 580ex speedlight stopped working after using this products. Pls comment what is ur findings. I dont want to kill my 580ex II. If I had known u will go nikon i wouldn’t purchase canon equipments.

    God bless you and ur family

  39. 50mike says

    I am doing a lot of family outdoor portraits where I am forced to use direct flash. I have been using a diffuser but like you said if you arent making the light source larger its not going to be any softer. What do you think about an on camera softbox?? ty

  40. 53mike says

    ezybox speed lite soft box arrived and i LOVE it, about 1-1.5 stop light loss. thanks for the recommendation. mike

  41. 54Angelo says

    G’Day Neil

    A quick question about the PW Plus II and possible use with the AC3 Zone controller.
    From what I understand, the AC3 is used to adjust Nikon or Canon flashes via the camera when used with the Flex or Mini.
    There are several modes, Manual and Auto. The Auto I understand as its uses the TTL technology.
    The Manual mode confuses me as it states – “control ITL compatible flashes will use the manual power output value set in the AC3 dial”.
    The Plus II are strictly manual mode, no TTL.
    My question is – Can the AC3 adjust the power of my 580EXII when triggered by the PLUIS II.



  42. 55 says

    With the TT1 / TT5 units and the AC3, the “manual” setting is exactly that .. manual control of the flash. (But the remote / slave flash has to be in TTL mode for the master TT5 + AC3 to be able to control it.)

    With the TT1 / TT5 in Auto mode, the slave flash operates in TTL mode.

    So no, the AC3 can’t adjust the power of the slave triggered by a PLUS II unit.

    Neil vN

  43. 61 says

    This may sound like a dumb question, but is the Pocket Wizard Plus II Transceiver a totally separate radio transmitter in itself or do does it have to be used hand-in-hand with the Mini TT1 Transmitter and the Flex TT5 Transceiver? I am interested in doing some off camera flash at an upcoming wedding and before I put the order in for rent, I just wanted some clarification. Thanks so much and I received the books, just haven’t had time to read them!


  44. 62Trev says


    The Plus IIs are totally self-contained, as is they work with themselves [you do need 2, 1 to transmit, 1 to receive; they are identical since the name Trans-Ceiver: Transmit and or Receive].

    But there is a newer and much improved version of them, the Plus IIIs. The Mini and Flex are another item, however they can work together also the Plus II versions are totally manual and the Mini/Flex ones can work in TTL also.

    New Plus IIIs: http://plusiii.pocketwizard.com/



  45. 64 says

    Hi Neil,

    Do you know which is better or more reliable, the radio poppers or the pocket wizards plus III?

    I have the TT5, TT1, and AC3 but I have had problems with them at weddings getting a good connection when time is of the essense. I need something really fast and reliable for lighting groups using a 60″ umbrella. As you know, sometime I have only 30 minutes for group portraits.

    Thanks, Trina

  46. 67 says

    wonderful web site…thanks for sharing your knowledge. One question.
    Are you concerned about effecting the camera lens mount by having a lens such as the 24-70 or even more so the 70-200 “dangling” on a camera strap or other non-supporting device? I have researched this and so far have found varying opinions. can the weight of these lens impact the mount on the camera? Would a Holster system be a better choice? thank you

  47. 68 says

    LOVING your website! I am a true follower now! Thank you!
    Quick question regarding flash equipment.
    I am starting my first wedding season and know I will need additional lighting. I currently have only one flash the Canon 580EX and plan on purchasing another flash to have an assistant hold on a mounted stand during the reception hours. I am trying to save money in every aspect and was considering purchasing the YN-560III (works with canon, Nikon, and more). Will I need to still purchase a pocket wizard? I get a little confused on the radio slaves, transceivers, transmitters. What would you recommend for a more affordable price to add a flash in which I can do off camera flash in addition to my on camera flash?


  48. 69 says

    You will still need a way to trigger the Yongnuo YN-560III, since it won’t be compatible with the Canon 580 EX that you have.

    A better, but more spendy suggestion – start buying into the Canon 600EX wireless flash system, since it is back-wards compatible with your 580EX to an extent.

  49. 70Clifford says


    I am happy with my Manfrotto 1004BAC stands however I do find the flexibility of a c-stand appealing. What are your general thoughts on c-stands for location work?

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