Gear I Use At 21c Studio

As a photographer who shoots or works with photography daily and leads a lot of workshops and group shoot events, I receive a ton of questions about the gear I use. What do you use, where can I get it, why that not this, what do you think is best for me, are there alternatives, etc. All good questions.

Here’s a list of what I use both in-studio and on location, and what I am often asked about as alternatives. I’ll add more items, what I like or not about an item, and how I use a particular item as time goes on. Check back periodically for new gear and more detailed descriptions and technique.

The list of gear, starting with what attendees at 21c Studio Workshops have asked most about recently:



The new, the improved, the Nikon SB-910…I have one and love it. Gets a lot more use than my three SB-900’s. Expensive, rock-solid, extremely dependable, and worth every penny if you’re a pro shooter who uses and depends on your Speedlights to perform every time.

Nikon SB-910 Speedlight Flash for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras


Nikon SB-700 AF Speedlight Flash for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras

Two hundred and twenty dollars less expensive than the SB-910 above and not as full-featured, but still a nice unit. I’m reaching for it more and more often, too, to supplement my other SB units, though I still regularly fall back on my SB-800s as the workhorses of my lighting cart. Hard to find nowadays, if you find one for sale used and in good shape at a decent price, snatch it up.


Yongnuo Speedlights and Triggers

The Yongnuo Speedlights are gaining a lot of ground among both hobbysists and serious photographers for their impressive capabilities and very low prices. I have noticed, though–and have heard from others users as well–that they are not as sensitive to being triggered from just your pop up flash as your Nikon or Canon speedlights may be, both in-studio or on location. More than one user has said they bought the Yongnuo Triggers as well so they would have a more consistent firing of flashes.

Read the user reviews and question/answers on Amazon for the units or triggers you are considering; they are often very helpful and informative.

Yongnuo YN-568EX II, High speed, Ultra powerful Off-Camera Speedlite for Nikon & Canon

This is the newest version of Yonguo’s Speedlight series (about $181.99) and is said to be fully compatible with Nikon and Canon’s TTL systems and can be controlled from your camera. Haven’t used it myself, but this Speedlight gets good reviews from those I know who do. Nowhere near as expensive as Nikon or Canon flash units, this unit will no doubt become more and more popular among photogs, both amateur and serious hobbyist.


Yongnuo YN 560 III (for Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Olympus)

I bought this flash unit to have on hand in the studio, because a number of my students have been purchasing them. Having one of my own to use helps me better understand how to help my students use them.

You sure can’t go wrong on the price (about $75 US at the time of this writing), though you do need to know this is not a TTL unit, nor can you control it from your camera, just trigger it to fire. Some students have reported they need the Yongnuo Triggers to fire it more dependably and consistently, but I haven’t had problems in the studio yet with mine. Line it up so it can see your pop up as commander, and it should be fine. At least most of the time 😉


LumoPro LP180 Official Strobist Flash

These are the nice Speedlights that MPEX has been offering for Strobists. Again, can’t vouch for them personally but I know a lot of shooters who swear by them. About $199 at the time of this writing.


Light Stands

LumoPro Compact 7.5ft Stand with Carrying Strap

These are great little double-fold light stands. Very similar in build, size, and dependability of the only-slightly-more expensive Manfrotto double-fold stand (below). I have a few of both and find them interchangeable. Whether you get this one or the Manfrotto below, these lightweight, easy-to-transport stands, coupled with the right umbrella adapter and cold shoe, are great for impromptu street work as well as serving in the studio for most lightweight needs.


Manfrotto 5001B 74-Inch Nano Stand

A nice lightweight light stand that double folds to a nice compact length (just under 19″) for transporting easily to location shoots. Suitable for holding Speedlights; bare, with umbrella adapter & umbrella, or with a lightweight softbox. If you have Amazon Prime, this is less expensive than the Lumo Pro stand above.


Dot Line Umbrella Holder

Though I don’t use umbrellas very often, I use these adapters on all of my light stands to mount my Speedlights and softboxes or other light modifiers. There are several other Umbrella Adapters on the market, but I’ve found these to be the best for general all-purpose use. Lightweight, very sturdy and very durable, they come with a simple one-piece cold shoe (sometimes with screw tightener in the cold shoe, which I prefer as extra security when locking down the Speedlight with its own lever) in one end and a hole to slip an umbrella shaft through in the top half. Included are two brass removable, reversible, studs with different threads on each end.

The one above comes from Adorama via Amazon, and though you can also get the same Umbrella Holder from 2 Sisters in TX for a wee bit less, they often only have a couple in stock.

I also use the Manfrotto 026 Swivel Lite-Tite Umbrella Adapter, which are wonderful too, but these lighter-in-weight Umbrella Adapters (above from Photoflex via Adorama or Dot-Line from 2 Sisters) are the ones I reach for when packing gear for location work, so have more of them. Both the one pictured above and the Manfrotto pictured below mount on the light stand securely, hold their angle well when tilted, and both have levered handles that are adjustable to different positions to get them more towards or away. Simply pull away from the adapter on the handle (spring loaded), rotate it to the desired position, then let it rest back in place. Never had a single one break or malfunction, whether the one above or the one below. Beware the smaller, shorter, umbrella adapters with holes too small for some umbrella shafts.

Here’s the Manfrotto 026 Swivel Lite-Tite Umbrella Adapter:

Metal, can’t be beat for being rugged and dependable, but often too heavy when packing a light on-the-go bag for shooting alone, when every ounce can count.


Hoodman H-LPP3 HoodLoupe 3.0 Professional 3-Inch Screen Loupe

This is the newer version of the loupe I’ve used regularly over the last four years when shooting outdoors and fits the larger screens of newer cameras. It allows the user to view the LCD screen unhindered by sunlight or bright cross light and adjusts to individual vision by a simple turning of the eyepiece. It’s plenty soft and flexible, too, on the end that comes in contact with the camera.

View your composition, histogram, and any other information you would normally use the screen for without the reflection and glare normally associated with outdoor use. Read the user reviews to see what others have experienced.


Background Stands:

Two Prism 10×20′ 100% Cotton Muslin Backdrops and The Ravelli Full Size 10×12′ Background Stand Set

I have two of the sets above (each set has a full black and a full white), and if you’ve been to 21c Studio fora workshop or meetup, you’ve seen and used these. The stands are heavier and more stable than the typical lightweight stands a lot of Strobists use, and reach nice and high, about ten foot, actually.


Ravelli 10 Pack of Photo Video Muslin Background Clips

I use these clamps all the time for a variety of things, though mostly to stretch and clip background fabric to the uprights. That usually takes care of any smoothing that needs to take place. The rubber grips on the business end have come off one or two, but are easily put back on. I may rubber cement them all in place some lazy evening (Ha! Who am I kidding; I haven’t had an evening off since opening the studio in Mar 2011).


Lastolite TriGrips Page : an overview to various Tri-Grips; poke around and check out the various versions and what they include. Some favorites are listed below:

Lastolite LL LR3641 33-Inch TriGrip Reflector (Gold/White)

Lastolite LL LR3607 30-Inch TriGrip 2 Stop Diffuser < this may be only the diffuser, not the covers too

Lastolite LL LR3628 30-Inch TriGrip Reflector (Sunlite/SoftSilver)

Lastolite LL LR3631 33-Inch TriGrip Reflector (White/Silver)
< Be careful of the sizes when ordering; this image is smaller, but the actual Tri-Grip is 33″, not 30″ like some other Tri_Grips.


LumiQuest Softbox III


Giottos AA1900 Rocket Air Blaster Large


Lastolite LL LR1250 12-Inch Ezybalance Card (Grey/White)


Kacey Pole Adapter: This is the adapter I use on the end of a painter’s pole to be able to mount umbrella adapters and Speedlights.

at Midwest Photo Exchange

at Kacey Enterprises


Shur-Line 06572L Easy Reach Extension Pole, 4-Feet to 9-Feet

This is the long version of the cool extendable painter’s pole used with the Kacey Pole Adapter above.

The shorter version: Shur-Line 06570L Easy Reach Extension Pole


HonlPhoto Speed Strap for Shoe Mount Flashes

The strap used for mounting a variety of grids, gels, flags, snoots, etc. I use these constantly both in-studio and on-location and leave them mounted on several of my Speedlights. No tape, no glue, no sticky residue left behind, etc. Easy on, easy off, but provides a sturdy mounting place.


HonlPhoto 8″ Regular Speed Snoot for most On-Camera Shoe-Mount Strobes

This is a great snoot when formed into one as shown below, and a good bounce reflector when used open as shown in the images here: Honl Snoot


HonlPhoto Color Correction Filter Kit

Set of 10 high quality Rosco gels w/velcro pre-attached for mounting to your Speed Strap


HonlPhoto Color Effects Kit


Sanyo Eneloop Rechargeable AA Batteries


La Crosse Technology Alpha Power Battery Charger, BC1000


Lastolite LL LS2462M2 Ezybox M2 Hotshoe Kit (24-Inch X 24-Inch)


CowboyStudio Photo / Video 24in Large Speedlite Flash Softbox with L-Bracket, Shoe Mount & Carry Case: A less expensive alternative to the Lastolite Ezybox, it folds up pretty much the same, though has a very different bracket for mounting your Speedlight.


Westcott Compact 43″ White Satin Umbrella with Removable Black Cover – Collapsible


Nikon SG-31R IR Panel for Built-in Flash Repl – 4905


Nikon SB-910 Speedlight Flash for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras


Natural Full Spectrum Sunlamp


Q: Where do you get your gear?

A: To be honest, I do almost all of my shopping for photographic gear at Amazon, and have for years. It’s fast, convenient, and shipped right to your door or wherever you may be around the country if traveling. Shipping addresses in my Amazon account number in the dozens. Amazon sells for Adorama, Ace, Midwest Photo Exchange, Samy’s and just about whoever your favorite camera and gear supplier may be. I buy a lot of other things through Amazon, too, like things for 21c Studio (true daylight white bulbs, wardrobe for shoots, props, a ton of books, art supplies for my figure drawing groups), all my music, gifts for family, and on and on. They provide an easy and efficient Wish List, too, to help keep track of potential future purchases.

Even if you don’t purchase through Amazon, the end-user reviews alone are often worth their weight in gold in helping to determine whether or not you want this item or that. Very qualified users, in-depth tech reports quite often, and a good way to find out details and usage info you may not have otherwise. The user reviews are actually what led me to Amazon in the first place.

The thing to do, if you buy much gear at all throughout the year, is to become an Amazon Prime member ($79/yr) and you’ll receive free two-day shipping on most items (they’ll display the Prime logo), or one-day shipping at $3.99/item. In my experience of about eight years, having Amazon Prime has always paid for itself. There’s a free trial to try it out, with no obligation.

Amazon Prime members also get Prime Instant Videos (unlimited, commercial-free, instant streaming of thousands of movies and TV shows) at no additional cost, which alone makes membership worthwhile for some.

Note: Some of the items above lead to purchasing your gear through Amazon, which provides a small referral fee to 21c Studio when it reaches a certain point. Which hasn’t actually even happened yet. No checks so far. Ha!. Your cost when purchasing from Amazon will be the same whether you go through these links or not, though your purchase through these links does potentially help me to be able to continue providing workshops, seminars, and free open shoot events. Some consider it tips for tips.