Monday, November 26, 2012

Supporting Gear - Clamps

If you are into using flash photography, then you almost certainly have some types if not various different kinds of clamps in your arsenal or gear.

Today, we are going to look at the various different kinds of clamps, their uses and some interesting stories to boot.

Let us look at the different kinds of clamps.

Spring Clamps(various sizes)
These are the ones that look like the oversized springy clothes pins.  They are really inexpensive and can be found at just about any home improvement area or home improvement store.
I use these a lot for holding backdrops that do not have a rod pocket onto backgrounds.
I've also used them to make clothes fit on models.
Standard Spring Clamp
Quick story.   All the spring clamps I have are the type that are made out of plastic.  I am considering replacing my larger ones with metal clamps that have the rubber end on them.  Why?  I was hired to do a photo booth at a location that I had never been to before.  The booth that I had would not fit inside the building.  Hind site being 20/20, I should have brought the background stand as well.  I did not.  So, having to make due with what I had, I grabbed 2 of he biggest spring clamps I had and wedged the black background fabric onto the molding of an overhead archway.  Had the booth setup for almost three hours - working great.  Right at the very end my wife and I were taking down the booth and one of the plastic arms of the spring clamp broke.  They were under so much pressure that the broken piece launched across the room and almost hit my wife in the face.  This was a good 5-6 feet!!    I've learned my lesson and am glad that no one got hurt.

Irwin Clamp(various sizes)
These are the kind of clamps that you might use in wood working to hold pieces of wood together.
Found these the other day at the Home Depot - same time I found the Husky 22 in Organizer.   They come in a 2 pack and I believe that these will replace my large spring clamps due to the incident above.  The Irwin clamp has a small, metal, black lever that release the arms.  There is a ratcheting trigger that is used to tighten the arms down.  It comes with rubber feet to prevent damage.   Note - the clamps that I got are medium size and are rated at 100lbs of pressure.   If you choose to use these, please be very careful!!

Another cool thing about the Irwin clamp that I discovered is that the flat metal bar that runs through the middle of the clamp is a perfect size to fit inside an umbrella adapter!  This allows you to use these clamps as a portable flash holder as well!

Justin clamps(build your own) / Flashpoint knockoff
These are great.  Pretty close to a standard clamp for the photo industry.  They are very similar to a spring clamp as mentioned above, but they are made of an all metal construction and have some photography specific features.  There are studs on the frame like you would find in an umbrella adapter as well as a mini ball head.    I use these a lot for holding reflectors and flash units.
Manfrotto makes the Justin clamp, and in comparison to the other clamps they are the most expensive.

To save on cost, you can look for alternatives.  I do have a Flashpoint clamp.  It is smaller and only has the ball head on it.  It cannot support the same weight as the ball head on the Justin clamp.
The other cost saving alternative is to stick with Manfrotto parts, but do a sort of DIY.  I am fortunate enough to live a few miles away from Midwest Photo Exchange.  I searched their website and found that they have the regular Manfrotto spring clamp(which is the base for the Justin clamp) and some Manfrotto mini ball heads.  The standard spring clamp was $17 and the mini ball head was $15.  So for $32, I have the equivalent to the pre built Justin clamp that runs $60.  Based on those saving I built 2.

I'd be interested to hear what all of you are using out there.  Using the same, or are you using something I don't have listed here?  I'd love for you to share it with us!!


  1. This was a good 5-6 feet!! oetiker clamps I've learned my lesson and am glad that no one got hurt.

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting. Yes, there are some things that you cannot be cheap about, especially when others safety is involved.