Could This Be The Best Dual Hotshoe Flash Bracket For Pocket Wizard Users?

Could This Be The Best Dual Hotshoe Flash Bracket For Pocket Wizard Users?

The other night I was asked "what is the most frustrating thing about shoot weddings?" I thought about this question for a second and shockingly my answer had nothing to do with bridezillas, wedding planners, hot and humid weather, or even post production. Easily the most frustrating thing about shooting weddings is dealing with unreliable radio triggers during the reception. Perhaps this simple yet unreleased hotshoe adapter could make this problem obsolete if only someone would create it.

Pocket Wizards and radio triggers in general are a touchy subject for photographers. On one hand, these helpful tools have opened the doors for creative use of wireless off camera flash, yet on the other hand every single photographer I know has been stuck cursing under their breath at one time or another when their radio triggers fail them at the worst of moments. Nothing, and I mean nothing, can be more annoying than framing up that perfect candid photograph only to have half of your lighting setup fail to fire when you capture that perfect moment.

Over the years I have been a big proponent of investing in Pocket Wizard triggers which are no doubt the industry standard. There are many reasons for buying Pocket Wizards including they can be found in any legitimate photography store, they use AA batteries instead of those annoying watch batteries, their customer service is great, they are the industry standard for sports events, studio rental spaces, and professionals around the world, and they also have a variety of specialized triggers that work on the same frequencies as all of their other products. The main problem I have had with Pocket Wizards is they have been extremely unreliable over the years. From personal experience, I have found that all alternative products have experienced similar reliability failures as well. In short, failed trigger firing is not isolated to one brand but rather it's an epidemic across most of the wireless trigger world (except for my Profoto Air Remotes, not a single misfire yet, fingers crossed).

Having shot hundreds of weddings in my career, I have come up with a pretty standardized way of lighting and shooting my receptions. Lee Morris and I produced a wedding tutorial called How to Become A Commercial Wedding Photographer where we outlined everything we know about weddings to help you get your own wedding business up and running. In that tutorial I outline 4 different ways I light my wedding receptions, and I've included a free excerpt of that section below so you can get up to speed if this is unfamiliar territory. Keep in mind there are many, many ways to light a reception but I would say most photographers these days are implementing one or more of these techniques we outline in this video.

There is much speculation on why you might have a flash misfire, some of which include dead batteries, over crowded radio frequencies, being near water, having interference from your on-camera flash's electronics, having a faulty pc sync cord connection (please kill the pc sync once and for all), or because your receiver/flash is falling into sleep mode. Even with all of these potential problems, in my experience the number one reason for a flash to misfire is caused by a transceiver not being oriented in the correct position.

What is the "correct" orientation for your wireless radio trigger you ask? In a perfect world your radio trigger's antenna should be pointed straight up or parallel to the ground for vertical shooting. Basically the ideal position is perfectly aligned against either the x or y axis as long as the transceiver is parallel with the accepting receiver. Here is what Pocket Wizard says directly on their website:

Whenever possible, maintain a line of sight between radios and keep antennas parallel. Make sure radios are not near any large metal, concrete, or high water-content objects. People and trees are mostly water! Make sure radios are not blocked by these objects or by hills.

The Plus III Transceiver’s antenna is fairly omnidirectional and its orientation should not significantly impact performance in most shooting scenarios, but optimizing for radio reception will always improve the maximum range.

Maintain at least a 12” distance between antennas. Avoid direct antenna contact with anything metallic. “Dead spots” have a number of causes, but the solution is usually the same: move the radio a few inches or feet away from the problem area

There are a number of ways to connect your transceiver to your camera with the most obvious way being to place it on your camera's hotshoe. However, if you want to use your on-camera flash while still having the freedom to slave other remote flashes then you will need to be a little more creative. Most photographers simply choose to dangle the remotes from their lanyards but this causes your remotes to flop around and position themselves in less than optimal orientations as seen below. I've been doing this my entire career, and while it is the most practical mounting method, I do find myself often having to hold the Pocket Wizard vertically in my left hand just to get it to perform consistently. Other photographers have used rubber bands, hair bands, velcro, or even expensive caddies to strap their radio triggers to the sides of their flashes. The problem with these methods is they are often not very secure, they make changing the direction of your bounce flash more cumbersome, and in some cases putting the trigger directly next to the flash can also decrease performance. The most obvious solution to this problem of where to mount your radio trigger transmitter is to have it attached directly to something out of the way of your flash but still hardwired to your camera's hotshoe sync.

Using a Lanyard vs Using a TTL Bracket

The above image shows the difference between mounting your trigger the way I always have, dangling off the lanyard, and mounting the Pocket Wizard in the ideal orientation near the flash and out of the way. This simple bracket on the right, which no one makes by the way, would allow the camera's TTL circuitry to pass through the bracket to both hotshoe connections. This allows your on-camera flash to still have all the same functionality as it would if it were mounted directly to the camera while also adding a second hard wired signal to your wireless trigger. If both hotshoe's were TTL enabled you could even mount two flashes to your setup with no extra wires. This would be great for HSS sync where you need as much power as you can get by doubling your flash output. By using a second hotshoe as opposed to a cold shoe like these brackets use, your entire setup can be PC SYNC FREE which will make it much more reliable and more universal. In a perfect world this dual hotshoe extension bracket would not have a cord at all and the wiring would be built directly into the plate for even less reliability problems.

A variety of radio triggers with hotshoes. Note how not all have TTL pass through

Now before everyone complains in the comments below, yes I am aware that there are some radio triggers that already implement a TTL pass through type connector. This really should be the industry standard for connecting flashes and triggers to your camera's hot shoe but unfortunately not every brand offers this option. The only Pocket Wizard products that have this connection are the Flex TT5 and TT1 Mini systems. It is also important to note that some of the other wireless trigger brands that offer the pass through hotshoe still use less common batteries like AAA or the "never in your bag" flat watch batteries which are a pain to charge and stock in your gear bag. One final word of wisdom, just because a trigger has a hotshoe adapter on top of the unit does not necessarily mean that it has a TTL pass through signal on the bottom side of the hotshoe.  Some of these triggers only offer the hot shoe adapter as a way to connect your remote flash to the unit and do not have TTL compatibility when placed on top of your camera.

Why the PC Sync Cord Must Die:

I really wish someone would manufacture this simple flash adapter like Pocket Wizard, Paramount Cords, or any Chinese company looking to make a quick buck. It's not the most flashy or lustful product to add to your shopping cart but I believe this would solve the most frustrating issue I and many other photographers face at every single wedding.  What do you guys think?  Is there a product like this hidden somewhere on the internet or perhaps there is another simple, all inclusive solution to this problem?

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45 Comments

Mac MacDonald's picture

I'm absolutely serious, my Pocket wizards ONLY fail when I'm with paying customers. I can have a, non-paying, 2k photo weekend with zero trigger fails then BAM! A 30-shot paying headshot shoot and two triggers will fail constantly. So frustrating. I'm about to go old school and run a billion wires to all my strobes.

Patrick Hall's picture

I think with some of the brands like PW, the failure might also be because they use a longer frequency. I know longer radio waves go further distances but the triggers I've used in the 2.4ghz spectrum have been more reliable in general. Obviously it's tough for someone like PW to break away from their standard set of frequencies but it might be a wise decision to add 2.4 along side with the older 350mhz ones too. At most my strobes are about 100' away from my camera and the Profoto Air Remote has been awesome mainly because of this higher frequency.

All that being said, the orientation of PWs is still a major reason for failure and I think this adapter would solve this problem.

Tony Northrup's picture

Phottix Mitros (remote) and Mitros+ (on-camera)! We tried them and promptly sold our PW gear and other flashes. You can still get a good price for the PW stuff on ebay, so you can probably break even.

If nothing else, there are less components to fail, and fewer individual batteries to replace. I really do miss the analog-style controls of the AC3, however.

Hans Rosemond's picture

I'll definitely look into them. By the way, love your youtube channel. You guys do some fun work!

Mike Last's picture

Have used PW for 10 years, but the recent TT1 and TT5 units are the worst. Less than 50 feet before constant misfires, isolating the receiver from the heads and packs, changing orientations, doesn't matter. Tried the Phottix Odin with Over Drive Sync last week and hit 850 feet (rated for 300) with no misfires. I'm sold.

Scott Mosley's picture

Since there are 2 of us shooting with the same set of lights we use two systems:
1- Pocketwizard TT5s on SB910s plus on camera with tt1 (or another tt5) below the sb700 or 910. With a tt5 or tt1 mini you don't need any additional cords or parts hanging and orientation is always correct.
2- Yongnuo 560-IV these have a built in radio trigger and the range is every bit as good as PW with 100% (so far) reliability. These are manual flashes, but with the controls and transmitters built-in its a very easy system to fall back on. Battery life goes all night at a reception so we don't connect to battery packs. Did i mention they are $70ea?
We double-up lights on 2 heavy duty stands (one of ea type) and usually just nano clamp the rest to lofty or unique locations, eliminating the need for more stands.

I second the yongnuos! Seriously, since I used those YN flashes and triggers instead of PW, not only do I have something working, but also cheaper and with much less cable hassle, meaning also quick setups!! OK they are manual flashes, but I even like it more that way, especially with the new remote power control. In low light environments, you don't need more than speedlights anyway. Why are you guys still using PW ? I don't get it.

Patrick Hall's picture

Do the Yongnuos have the ABCD group options? Seriously those groups are worth their weight in gold on the PW Plus 3 units.

only ABC on the 622

Cameron Reynolds's picture

I have 4 YN560III's and a new YN560IV, I can use the IV to control the III's or I can use my YN560-TX to transmit to them all. The transmitter offers ABCDEF and allows me to adjust the power output on each channel individually on the fly. I shoot Sony and bought the Canon version of the Yongnuo equipment and have used it without any compatibility issues.

I've had this problem forever with wedding receptions. Tried all the pocket wizard combos and had issues with them all, partly the changing environments, partly interference on the Flex TT5, partly PC plug/cables failing, etc etc. At the last wedding I did I picked up 4 of the Yongnuos speedlites. Set them to optical slave... problem solved. I can have them in the corners for back/kicker lights, have my speed light on camera for key on the front and both me and my assistant can trigger them without having to have 2 kits going. Which gives consistency across the look of all the images. I swap batteries midway through to be safe, but both my assistant and I were amazed at how simple and consistent the setup was compared to everything else we've tried.

Patrick Hall's picture

When you say optical slave you mean using no radio or IR triggering right? This is a big no no for weddings because your flashes will fire with every guest's point and shoot snapshot. Also since most point and shoots use pre flashes, as well as your on camera flash in TTL mode, your little flashes will be firing over and over throughout the entire reception. You def don't want to use optical slave mode.

Dean Chambers's picture

Yongnuo YN-622 i-TTL Wireless Flash Transceiver = PROBLEM SOLVED! Ive used many types of triggers but these are by far the best. Most importantly they have High Sync Speed capabilities as well as pass trough connection. Not to mention they are $80 a pair.

Reggie Hughey's picture

I'm a die hard PW FAN!!! In 10 years of using the PW, the only failure was I forgot to turn them on! Yes, PW's are more expensive, yes, there can be issues with interference, but that hasn't been my experience. I use PW's because they just work. Also, no other manufacturer has a way to wirelessly trigger from your light meter.

Never had a PW fail. Forget to turn them on once in a while, but they always work for me when they are on.

I've got a rolling toolbox in my studio. Somewhere in the flash drawer is a pair of 285 units, with AC adapters. Before we ditch the PC cord, I will need to update the metal shoes again. Anyone who ever used the Vivitar cords knows there is something worse than PC connections.

David Eckmier's picture

Cactus V6 transceivers.

$60 a pop, able to transmit AND receive, up to four groups, hot shoe pass through, AA batts, and solid as a rock. BONUS: you can use them interchangeably with just about any cameras out there - no brand-specific models.

The only down side is the lack of HSS and TTL, but I never use TTL anyway. Also, I would love it if they built an IR assist beam into them, since I don't use an on camera flash and focusing on near darkness without an on camera flash can be tricky. Currently pair it with a Yongnuo transmitter for the sole purpose of having an IR assist beam.

Agreed here. Once small correction, the V6 does allow TTL Passthrough to the on camera flash, just not the remotely triggered ones.

Shannon Wimberly's picture

Excellent article... i thought it was only me who had these issues.... thank you

Guy Daudelin's picture

God bless the Canon 600EX-RT. Seriously, since you sometimes talk about things that should be invented, I think Canon should expand that system with generic triggers for other compagnies flashes to make it universal. If all you are doing is working with speedlites and you are shooting Canon, the Canon RT system is awesome, if only for allowing you to get rid of triggers.

Patrick Hall's picture

What is really frustrating is Nikon used to have the best flagship flash system of any brand. From like 2004 - 2013 they were simply the best. Now Nikon's flash system needs a massive overhaul. CLS is not reliable enough, despite what Joe Mcnally says, and here comes Canon with radio communication built directly into the 600EX. Hopefully Canon and the 3rd party flash companies will force Nikon to make a move soon.

Mike Last's picture

The Mitros+ from Phottix brings radio communication to the Nikon iTTL system.

The Mitros+ has it's own set of problems too though. I had high hopes but they eat batteries very quickly, and the TTL isn't always accurate. Plus I even had issues with the locking pin. It got stuck on my camera a few times.

NAIKY CABRERA's picture

... and the Yongnuo Speedlite YN600EX-RT...

Ryan Breeden's picture

I ran into PW plus iiis not firing in a few different indoor environments. Sad panda. Tried running repeaters around the rooms to get select units to fire with no results.

I use the Canon ST-E3-RT and the Yongnuo equivalent YN-E3-RT with a few 600-EX-RT for receptions. Zero misfires so far.

Someone tell me that I can use a 600-EX-RT on camera with flash as master and control other 600-EX-RTs from this master unit on the camera. As far as I can tell when using a 600 as a master the flash won't fire. It would be nice to use this system with on camera flash at my disposal.

Ryan in menu 2 you can toggle whether the master fires or not. I think that is what you were asking.

Ryan Breeden's picture

Well hot damn. So simple. The master fires in group A. My life just got a whole lot easier. Thanks Danny Munson!

Phottix Strato II's. Very reliable, cheap enough, allows TTL passthough. Two downsides: The transcever will break if you use a flash on it often and the power switch comes on too easily in your bag.

Patrick Hall's picture

If the transceiver will break with a flash mounted to it then that is enough to not buy one ever! That's a huge problem!

It won't just snap off instantly. They usually last me about 40-50 weddings before I need another one.

Paul Saxby's picture

I am pretty sure that Michael Bass has probably already made something like this. He makes just about every gizmo for photography you could ever think of... http://michaelbass.blogspot.co.uk

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