Monday, July 28, 2008

Mount Your Mods with Speed Straps

Having spent much of my 20 years as a newspaper shooter with sticky-velcro-covered flashes, I have recently become a big fan of velcro speed straps for mounting all of my light mods to small flashes.

Hit the jump for why you want 'em, where to get 'em, and how to make 'em -- plus a whole mess of archive DIY links.
_________


At one point in the 1980's, I think my go-to SB-24 had so much velcro stuck to it that it looked like a burnt Chia Pet. The problem with the stick-on velcro is if when it wears out, it doesn't hold worth a crap. And it is a pain in the butt to unpeel and swap. To that, add the fact that you have a limited amount of surface area unless you want your flash to look like mine did.

With all of today's lighting mod options, you really want to have some kind of velcro mounting system on your flash. And the speed strap route is the way to go -- you can easily remove them and/or swap out for a new one if the velcro goes. Plus you get a whole lot more mounting real estate, compared to the typical amount of stuck-on velcro.

Truth be told, these little guys are not expensive. They are less than $10, so many of you may well choose to go store-bought in this instance. You can get them from LumiQuest ($6.95 - smaller size) or from HonlPhoto ($9.95 - bigger, w/more surface area and grip).

They are the basis for most light mods mounting systems, including those from LumiQuest and HonlPhoto. Quest Couch from LumiQuest notes that, for larger light mods, you can use two straps (strobe - strap - light mod - second strap on top) for a super strong hold.

If you just use one or two strobes, it probably makes sense to tap the Visa card. But if you are broke have a whole case of strobes and would be buying straps by the half dozen, you might want to consider making them. They are cheap and easy, especially of you wait until the next time your bike inner tube goes flat.


To make them, you'll be using the inner tube as a base. It's cheap, holds well and is nice and wide.

You can make a strap in less than five minutes, using the inner tube and some sticky velcro (available at craft and hardware stores.)


1. Cut your tube into sections long enough to fully wrap around the head of your flash with a full overlap on the wide dimension. Go a little long, then you can cut it for an exact fit when you are done.

2. Cut a length-wise strip from the tube, making a flat piece of rubber about an inch-and-a-half wide. There will probably be injection mold lines along the tube to make for easy, straight cuts. Mountain (and trail) tubes work better than the smaller road bike tubes. If you use the portion of the tube that would come in contact with the ground (if it were a tire) you'll avoid the curve of the rubber that would otherwise make it harder to fit.

3. Very important: Wash the rubber thoroughly with soap and water, and dry it well. It will have grime on it, and a powder residue on the inside -- both of which will cause problems if it is not clean and dry.

4. Totally cover the inside of the rubber section with two long strips of the "loops" part of the velcro. Trim along the edges to fit if necessary.

5. Cover the other side of the tube (formerly the outside) with "hooks" velcro at one end, to a length equal to the width of your flash head.

6. Wrap the strap around your flash, overlapping on the long end, and trim to length if necessary.


That's all there is to it.


Here's a view of the reverse side, which should make everything self explanatory. It's very important to make sure the tube section is totally clean and dry, or your sticky velco won't hold.

Normally, when I run a DIY post I get a few condescending comments from the deep-walleted DIY haters, which serve to offset the comments I get from the starving artists when I mention, say, Profotos. So, as long as they are gonna be pissed off anyway, here are lots more DIY posts dusted off from the archives:
___________


Selected DIY Posts

:: DIY Cardboard Snoots and Gobos ::
:: DIY Tupperware Diffuser ::
:: DIY Household Sync Cord Extension ::
:: $10 Macro Studio Box ::
:: Two-Cent Micro Studio ::
:: HD RIng Flash Adapter ::
:: $8 Flat-Fold Ring Light ::
:: Coffee Can Point-and-Shoot Ring Flash ::
:: Engineer Lamp Light Stand ::
:: Ball Bungee Softbox/Speedlight Mount ::
:: PVC Speedlight Aqua Housing ::
:: OMG DIY Off-Camera TTL Cord ::
:: DIY Beauty Dish ::
:: DIY Cardboard Grid Spots ::
:: DIY Macro Strip Lights ::


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41 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have four Honl speed straps and love them. They live ON the flash and it's a beautiful relationship.

I really just wanted to say thanks for continuing to generate so much info for us and making easy reference to it all.

Much love

July 28, 2008 1:08 PM  
Blogger the Doug said...

David,
Thanks for always sharing both sides of the story, by that I mean the buy it ready made deal and ideas on DIY. I think both have their place and given the broad spectrum of people who are reading this site, it's wise.

I have learned a great deal from your site... although I like have to go back and re-read a few sections. Keep sharing, I for one love it!
Long live strobist!!

July 28, 2008 1:23 PM  
Blogger Stefano said...

David I have a single word ... G R E A T post as all other DIY posts .. I love DIY and I'm gathering what I need to build another great DIY mod, a softbox made with an IKEA tent. I also modded my SB-28 to use an external battery (and further reduce recharge time from 4 seconds to less then 2 seconds) :D .. Again .. GREAT post !!

July 28, 2008 1:37 PM  
Anonymous George K said...

I appreciate this kind of posts especially since they show that your readers come first and not (potential) sponsors.
but maybe you're smarter than I give you credit for and you actually know that this kind of policy pays off in the long run.
that said, I'll be getting me some of these Honl grids, with the cheapo $ it's probably cheaper than DIY.
however reading all these DIY posts, I kinda think Dave is deep in the pocket of big velcro...

July 28, 2008 2:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

David,

another source of the rubber is from garden centres - ask for butyl rubber for lining ponds (AFAIK tyres are butyl?). It's flat, preconditioned for accepting and bonding well with the adhesive on the velcro, and best of all is cheap - in the UK it's around £0.50 per square foot.

I'm not trying to be really anonymous - I just don't have a web presence or name....

July 28, 2008 2:12 PM  
Anonymous Jon Haverstick said...

Stefano,

Do you have a description of how you modded your SB for an external battery pack? Kirk Tuck describes the process in his new book for newer SBs. Wonder if it's a similar process...?

Thanks, David for all you do here!

Jon
www.pbase.com/haverstick

July 28, 2008 2:15 PM  
Blogger system operator said...

Hi! I'm true fan of DIY with Ikea softboxes and light tents! But what dumbfolds me is, that you are not using Dual Lock Velcro. It really makes sense, because now you don't need to worry about what part needs what amount of which part and it even then is wrong. That's what I usually get. And this dual lock is much sturdier, doesn't stop gripping after few weeks or month as with regular velcro.

So here's a link to this bear gribbing thing if you don't know what I'm talking about.
http://www.itapestore.com/index.asp?PageAction=Custom&ID=19

July 28, 2008 2:48 PM  
Blogger Paolo said...

David,
your post comes right the day after I finished doing that for myself. The only comment I have is that instead of tubes I used a stripe of one of those "sticky pads" for your car's dashboard on which you put your wallet or your cell phone and "magically" it stays there. It's not sticky at the touch but once it gets in contact with a hard surface it bonds wonderfully. And it works beautifully on the heads of my SB-600s!
I also made a couple of snoots and flags and gobos from a car windshield sunscreen, $7 at Target for enough material to produce light modifiers for a while. I'll probably post a few photo about how I did it on my blog.
Take care and keep posting your excellent work, it's very much appreciated by all of us.

Paolo
pfocardi.blogspot.com

July 28, 2008 3:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks -- I have been going to make my own but have not done so yet. At the fabric store you can purchase Velcro in wider pieces so you do not have to work with two sticky pieces of velcro also look on-line at web sites that sell outer wear fabric, you can purchase different sizes of velcro there too. The rubber stuff -- is that just to keep it from slipping??(obviously I have not used these yet) My thought had been to just use the velcro and snug it up tight. -- but maybe that does not work well?? This will save me some trial and error. My next question is the snoots -- do they have velcro in the ends also -- the hook part?? I'm going to make my own version of them also.

Just finished watching you lighting video's --they are GREAT. The first DVD telling about gear, you most likely saved me more then the cost of the DVD's. I would have spend lots more on the wrong things. I will be watching these LOTS of times. thanks kathyt

July 28, 2008 3:10 PM  
Blogger Jess said...

Funny, I posted something almost identical to this in the flickr forum before and my idea got bashed to no end and I was told it was the most useless idea to even bother.

July 28, 2008 3:34 PM  
Blogger David said...

Jess-

Sorry to hear that. FWIW, I obviously think it is a good idea, so I was not one of the haters.

Looking at the Flickr threads, it seems there are a few different versions out there on the boards, each one a little different.

Cool.

July 28, 2008 4:07 PM  
Blogger M. S. Kirk said...

Kinda scary that i just was thinking about how to best mount the new Alien Bee Radio Triggers...and you post this

do you read minds too?!

July 28, 2008 4:58 PM  
Anonymous NicoBZH said...

Well the idea for wide straps is excellent. For simple gel holding, I have been successfully using simple velcro straps made to manage cables. You know these cables organizers you use to make your home video or computer cables look less messy. They have loops one one side, hooks on the other so you are good to go. I am talking about this kind of straps :
http://www.thegrillstoreandmore.com/image/products/thumbs/1536581d.jpg

They are cheap, you lose one, you get another ready to go. Work for gels so if you can find wider ones you probably are good to go with larger attachments.

Just my 2 cents, litterally.

July 28, 2008 5:09 PM  
Blogger Pat Morrissey said...

Hi david,
I've done something similar with stretchy mouse mats. Been using them as snoots, but they're good for flags too!
http://solasandlight.blogspot.com/2008/05/snoot-hoot.html

July 28, 2008 5:37 PM  
Blogger captaindash said...

Crazy timing. I just opened my box of Honl grids and they say the speed strap is 'required' so you can separate the flash head from the grid so you don't melt it. That kind of irritated me because i already ordered thinking i'd just use the velcro already on my flash. Live and learn. I think i'll DIM now.

July 28, 2008 5:47 PM  
Blogger carlos said...

system operator - I'd never heard of the dual lock stuff, but even though it's cool (it looks cool anyway) it's not completely helpful when the industry is using hook and loop stuff on their attachments. Since the hooks come on the accessories I buy I stick with loops on my flashes. If I were straight DIY though I might switch.

July 28, 2008 6:42 PM  
Anonymous Josh Marshall said...

I've made my own "speed straps" as well, but using the rubber from a mouse pad instead. The rubber normally peels easily off from the top laminated surface, and then proceed as with the inner tube.

Making them in this way makes them a fair bit thicker than I presume the inner tube-based straps would be, but they work fine for me.

I'm not sure where I saw this idea originally, I think it was the Flickr group or one of the DIY photography sites.

Cheers,
Josh
Living Light Photography

July 28, 2008 6:44 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

I love the barn doors and gobo possibilities created with this in place. I'm definitely going to grab some from Honl (on payday).

I kinda just used the last of my lunch money on the Strobist DVD set. WHOOP! Can't wait to lock myself in a room for 8 hours watching nothin' but strobist material. >:-D

--
Chris
http://www.PichadoPhotography.com

July 28, 2008 8:00 PM  
Anonymous Victor said...

I've been using strips of non-slip mat (aka car dashboard pad) to keep the velcro on the flash head. It doesn't smell as much as inner tubes but it's fiddly to attach and not very "speedy".

Someone in a Flickr forum mentioned that silicone bathtub caulk, spread onto the back of the velcro and allowed to dry, would also do the job. It works great and grips just as well as the non-slip mat.

A short how-to is here.

July 29, 2008 3:55 AM  
Blogger Kingsley said...

OK - quick question to those lucky enough to have a SB900.... do the Honl speedgrids fit the 900?

Cheers

Kingsley

July 29, 2008 4:29 AM  
Blogger RichNikon said...

I purchased some of David’s flash mods a couple of speed grids a snoot and one of the speed straps, I was surprised at the width of the strap, especially as when using the Speed Grid the Speed Strap should protrude ½” forward from the flash lens as the Speed strap is only 1-1/2” wide with the weight of the Speed grid tends to creep a little.
I decided to make my own Speed Straps and used 2” self adhesive Velcro and a strip of rubber cut from a non slip mat having an open weave the unique design give a far superior grip to any surface being designed to hold wood wile hand planing, gripping the top of a speed light is a doddle. Job done, I now have 6 speed straps for the cost of the one that David supplied.

July 29, 2008 12:49 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

I love DIY posts, and I happen to have a ton of the non-sticky Velcro. I bought it on sale at the fabric shop long ago, and my wife sews the pieces back to back in strips to make cable wraps. Great for organizing extension cords, monolight cables, guitar cables, etc. No need for the stretchy rubber, since friction is unnecessary.

So stock up on Velcro next time it's on sale.

July 29, 2008 3:21 PM  
Anonymous Matt J said...

George K,

I love The Strobist as much as the next guy (and don't we all?), but your comment swung and missed three times:

1. The commercial options were mentioned first.

2. They are not *potential* sponsors, they are *actual* sponsors (check side bar on right for both of the aforementioned).

3. Maybe he's smarter and the policy *might* pay off? Your very next line says "I'll be getting some of those ____ grids...", so you answered your own question there!

If I've missed the wry sarcasm of your post, my apologies! :)

July 29, 2008 5:50 PM  
Blogger WillT said...

The Honl Speed Straps work just fine on my 580 flash units, but not on the Vivitar 285HV. I'd be interested to know what others are using for their Vivitar units.

July 29, 2008 5:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You don't really need to make them or mess around with inner tubes or anything else. Simply google "velcro stretch straps" (no quotes) and you will find all types, sizes, and configurations at a decent price.

July 29, 2008 9:51 PM  
Anonymous Nabityphotos said...

Great post and it was just in time, too. I combined many of the suggestions above and used a rubber mesh non-slip pad (the kind you put under a floor rug). Cut that into 1" wide strips and then attached some 1" wide Velcro strips to it. No mess, no smell and very fast to make.

Got both of these items at the local dollar store - enough Velcro to make 4 of these. Total cost=$2. Job done.

Thanks again for another simple DIY idea that just makes sense.

- Ron

July 30, 2008 1:22 AM  
Blogger Andrew said...

Blatant commercialism warning :)

So I started reading Strobist.com a while ago. Back then I thought I knew a lot about photography. Well, David what I have learned from strobist.com has really made a difference in semi-pro hobby/job.

I handle operations at ecobags.com and when I joined 1-year ago. I was determined to increase the quality of the photography here, also I really enjoyed the blog (behind the sceens) aspect.

So fast foward 1 year:
1 x Nikon D300
3 x SB-800
2 x 285HV
1 x DIY product photo table
light stands, umbrellas, ebay triggers
1 blog.

So here is my first behind the sceens photoshoot bloged at blog.ecobags.com

I am going to do some more.
Oh, yes I am going to purchase some velcro straps 3 x SB-800's
hope you enjoy it.

Andrew
andrew.w3@ecobags.com
blog.ecobags.com

July 30, 2008 5:40 PM  
Anonymous George K said...

hey Matt,

1. well maybe, but then he explained how to DIY and thus probably killing of sales of sponsors.

2. that's why "potential" got the brackets. so it both means current and possible sponsors. my thought behind this: if i'd be some company considering to sponsor this blog, i'd maybe reconsider after seeing that the owner is not afraid to post entries killing of my sales.

3. you kinda mixed sth up there. i'll get the grids not because of, but in spite of daves diy posts.
the policy i was referring to was the one of putting your readers first and not the sponsors. although it might hurt at first when losing sponsors, in the end you get way more readers.

hope i cleared it up for you ;-)

July 30, 2008 7:58 PM  
Blogger Bryan said...

Outdoor Wilderness Fabrics sells the elastic hook and loop for $2.09/yard.

http://www.owfinc.com/Hardware/Shardware/H&L,%20elastic.asp

July 30, 2008 8:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I made something similar a while ago and bought a ribbon of black 2" elastic fabric. I think it was $1.50 for a yard or so. I chose this because it's easy to slip on/off and doesn't leave any residue on my SB800.

I also made snoots and gobos from the paper 'foam' you can buy at craft stores for .99c a sheet. You can do wonders with this stuff! When cut and glued properly, it looks clean and professional, and unlike a cardboard snoot, folds easily in the camera bag. I even made a quickie lens 'muffler' thing to use on tour buses and block out light reflecting off the window (from the interior of the bus). No award-winning shots (the tour bus moves, after all), but photos don't have the heavy band of reflected light off the window.


And a white 'foam paper' snoot gives some interesting light quality since it directs light out the front and diffuses out the sides.

TIM

July 31, 2008 6:00 PM  
Blogger Boaz Arad said...

Gotta love those DIY posts!
You've made a broke student happy :)

Here's a little 1$ project you might want to take notice of:
http://www.metacafe.com/watch/1041948/1_image_stabilizer_for_any_camera_lose_the_tripod/
Haven't had the chance to try it, so I wouldn't really know how good it works...

Boaz.
www.flickr.com/boazarad

August 03, 2008 4:07 AM  
Blogger Rikk said...

David,

You've inspired me to make a modification using the speed strap system. I chose a gel holder for the Roscolux sample gels.

You can read about it here on my photography blog:
Gel Holder


Thanks for the great place to learn.

Rikk

August 03, 2008 8:54 PM  
Anonymous guybrush said...

A question to the DIY instruction.

How elasic are these velcro strips? When the tube and the velcro are glued full face the whole thing can't be that stretchable than the rubber tube alone. So you have to build that thing more precisely to fit on different strobes or you cut the velcro in small pieces to create spaces for better expansibility.

August 04, 2008 3:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why do you need the tube? Just use clear hockey tape on the sticky side of the velcro.

August 04, 2008 5:49 PM  
Anonymous AgusMartin said...

I have already done mine. I did for my Vivitar strobes but run out of velcro for my Olympus ones... I owe a visit to the shop again.

I also have done, with some remaining material, a reduced version (1/2 inch wide) in order to fix the PW to the fash stands, since I really hate my wizards to be bouncing on wind days. I saw people using ball bungees to do this, but thought it was worth it to give it a try... and works!

August 07, 2008 1:11 PM  
Anonymous Todd said...

A great alternative to inner tube is the over grip used for Tennis rackets. I used Prince Duraperf which is about 1" wide. It's durable, very cheap, easy to find at any sports store and has amazing gripping ability without adding a lot of weight.

August 16, 2008 1:40 PM  
Anonymous Juha Sompinmäki said...

I had a go at the DIY speedstrap as well, without the inner tube though. I constructed one out of velcro and fabric elastic band and they work just great. One size fits all too :) It's basically a velcro loop with small part of the elastic band. Here's a link to my site with image of the finished item.

http://www.juhakuvaa.com/blog/2008/08/askartelua-paskartelua/

August 28, 2008 3:18 PM  
OpenID Anthony Bouch said...

Excellent. This plus your lighting 101 posts have been a great help and we're lucky to have you in the blogosphere. (Your reference to Nick Turpin's stuff was also gold - I love his stuff).

January 04, 2009 2:18 AM  
Blogger haddonist said...

When buying rubber for speed straps at a local rubber supplier, I asked for a suitable cleaning solution.

The response was to skip soap & water and "cleaning" products and go straight to methylated spirits.

A small amount on a sponge got everything off the rubber, grease included. And because it's alcohol based it evaporates almost instantly, leaving the rubber dry in seconds.

Cheers
Paul

March 16, 2010 10:09 PM  
Blogger Dwaine said...

In a fit of laziness I've developed an even simpler speed strap. A couple rubber bands provide 'grip enhancement'. Double sided velcro (hooks on one side, loops on the other) get wrapped tight and Bob's your uncle. Maybe not 'Strobist Strength', but it has worked well for me.

Image that shows the double velcro at my blog: http://dwainasaurus.blogspot.com/

March 17, 2010 5:54 PM  
Blogger Joseph said...

I have used gaffers tape in place of the inner tube and this works well.

June 15, 2010 5:18 AM  

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