Put a Li'l Boom in Your Pocket: The Matthews Scissors-Clip

I had a few people ask about how I mounted the SB-800 in the ceiling for the John McIntyre photo last week. I used a Matthews Scissor-Clip, a sweet little light stand / cable clamp made just for suspended ceilings.

Hit the jump for more info and pics.

Here it is with nothing attached -- and upside down from its normal orientation. The grooved, "X-Wing" style base opens and closes to securely grab the panel-holding framework of a suspended ceiling, and drop down with a 5/8" male stud.

It'll hold any small light, obviously including an umbrella clamp and speedlight combo. Best yet, it wastes very little space beneath the ceiling before you get down to the strobe head. Which is usually a very good thing in a (low-ish) suspended ceiling environment.

An AlienBees light might be pushing it a little. (Please sound off in the comments either if you are doing that successfully, or had an AB drop and electrocute a subject.)

The little wire spring is a cable restraint. So if you stick a plug-in head up there, you can use a couple extra clamps to keep the cable out of the frame. Never had much use for that, as a few inches of gaff tape works just as well and takes up way less space in the bag.

But I will usually have two in the bag if I am headed to an office -- they are just too cheap and small not to. My Matthews brand clamp was less than $20, or you can get generic versions for under $10.

Here is a crop from the shoot which shows it all set up. It is serving as a mount for an umbrella swivel and an SB-800. The gaff tape on the flash head gobos it from flaring into my lens.

I can't remember what prompted this expression on John. I may be mistaken, but I think he was trying to remember the difference between "your" and "you're." Copy desk folks are picky about such things, you know.


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Blogger contact said...

I've been looking for something like this for years. I've been using duct tape.

January 29, 2010 12:21 AM  
Blogger thsman said...

No David he was pondering "yore" and "yaw".

Very nice light BTW and I want some of those clamps.

January 29, 2010 1:07 AM  
Blogger David Getsfrid said...

These look fantastic. Ordering 2 tonight!

-David Getsfrid

January 29, 2010 2:01 AM  
Blogger agincourtjim said...

This would be incredibly useful - does anyone know any UK stockists for this (or a similar model?).

January 29, 2010 4:21 AM  
Blogger Ian Pack said...

I normally resort to pushing the ceiling tiles up and using a gaffer grip on the metal - not good! Thanks for the lead.

January 29, 2010 7:18 AM  
Blogger steveburns said...

Don't know what an AB weighs, however I've been using versions of this clamp to hang Dynalite 2040blower heads w/ grids from them for years. Never had one fall.

January 29, 2010 8:42 AM  
Blogger RobertPeak said...

I have one of the Avenger scissors that I keep in my tricks bag and have used it a couple of times. When I first received it, I tried it in the drop ceiling in my studio and found it wouldn't work. For some reason, the inside part of the scissors came in too close to be able to close it on the drop ceiling rail. I had to grind away the inside part of the scissors and now it works fine.

January 29, 2010 9:02 AM  
Blogger RobertPeak said...

I have used the Avenger scissor clamp for a few years with great success after customizing it. When I received it, I tried it on the drop ceiling in my studio and found it wouldn't work. I ground away the inner part of the clamps that close on the rail and now it works on all the drop ceilings I have run into.

January 29, 2010 9:06 AM  
Blogger Keefe said...

This looks like a handy clamp but it's not clear to me how you attach the flash to it. What device do you use for that?
Thanks, Keefe

January 29, 2010 9:25 AM  
Blogger Keefe said...

This looks like a handy clamp. What device do you use to attach the flash to it?
THanks, Keefe

January 29, 2010 9:26 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Avenger also makes them. I got one earlier this week, along with an adapter to 3/8" threads so I can use my Bogen mini-ball head to aim the strobe. Used it Wednesday morning for an office group portrait hair light. The important accessory is the 6' stepladder so I can reach the ceiling.

And be careful if you hang a Lowell totalight up there because you can scorch the ceiling.

January 29, 2010 9:47 AM  
Blogger DevKom said...

Back in the day when I was a commercial shooter in Montreal, I used to use the Lowel equivalent of these by the dozen. My kit at the time was mostly Comet 1200's, so the heads were pretty compact and light. I used them not only for the heads, but also for flags and reflectors and to run the cables out of sight. The freedom to light without stands was great - although setting and especially changing the lights did take more time...

January 29, 2010 9:55 AM  
Blogger me said...

Believe it or not- drop ceilings can hold a lot of weight if you place it near the anchor points to the steel above.

I work in the stage lighting industry, and we regularly hang 30+ pound fixtures from that same scissor clip(with a bolt on it instead of a photo lighting stud), sometimes for whole weeks!

Of course- if you're hanging anything of significant weight, you should ALWAYS have a safety cable. But with that said, I've yet to see one fall.

January 29, 2010 10:26 AM  
Blogger John said...

I use the little foot that comes with an SB800 (and can be ordered separately). It can be tucked up into the corner of a drop ceiling and works great. I wouldn't hang an Alien Bee from this either...

January 29, 2010 11:12 AM  
Blogger Brad Wallace said...

I concur with "me" I've been hanging Arri 650's, or the like, with these for 30 years with no problem but again always safety cable anything you put overhead

January 29, 2010 1:22 PM  
Blogger BeachMama said...

What an awesome clamp. It would be perfect to have in the bag, less tape and easy to use.

January 29, 2010 1:39 PM  
Blogger Rory Laubscher said...

LOL @ "X-wing" style base.
Photography is cool, but we're all still nerds at heart. Love it!

Triple points if you work a Star Trek reference into the next post!

Keep up the great work, this blog is a godsend.

January 29, 2010 1:49 PM  
OpenID kmarciante.wordpress.com said...

Great image.. Thanks for sharing. I loved the comment about the pose. Too funny!

January 29, 2010 2:06 PM  
Blogger T.J. Wells said...

I've used these clamps with Alien Bees for several years without incident. I do generally check under the ceiling tile and try to clamp lights directly beneath one of the suspension wires (that hold the metal ceiling grid) just to be safe. As far as cable management, I generally just lift the next ceiling tile and stuff a little of the cord under the edge and the pressure of the tile will generally keep the cord in check. For situations where I absolutely need to keep the cord up, I generally use a small "A" clamp to hold it in place (clamping it to the metal ceiling grid.)

January 29, 2010 3:20 PM  
Blogger Debbi_in_California said...

Is that a clamp in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?


January 29, 2010 4:27 PM  
Blogger 807stevens said...

I, too, have been using the Lowell versions for years with all sorts heads like Norman, Comet & Dynalite. I've also used them to support seamless, muslin & canvas backgrounds. You'll be amazed by what is possible.

January 29, 2010 9:30 PM  
Blogger Scott said...

These clips would also work well. I haven't hung strobes with them, but I've used them for other, heavier items.


January 29, 2010 11:25 PM  
Blogger David said...

I too would be interested to know if there are any of these lil things in the uk

January 30, 2010 12:31 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

@agincourtjim creative video and mitcorp do them for about £14. can't see anywhere else sadly, or anywhere near US prices :(

oh, and please remember to use a safety when putting anything above anything else, people!

January 30, 2010 2:12 PM  
OpenID realitytourist said...

Lowel has a number of cool doo-dads like this intended for Tota-Lights etc, you check their list here: http://www.lowel.com/clamps.html

Handy stuff for hanging from ceilings, over doors and more. The spring clamp with stud and C-clamp with stud are cool, and if nothing else, can inspire you to make your own.


January 30, 2010 3:26 PM  
Blogger Jerry said...

What i do is to bounce the light or simply put the speedlight on a lightstand and ask someone to hold it 4 me...

January 31, 2010 3:18 AM  
Blogger jphphotography said...

It looks like he's just using a standard umbrella swivel. They're widely available, just google "Umbrella Swivel" and you'll find it;)


January 31, 2010 5:08 PM  
Blogger admin said...

Looks like a funky little unit. I have been using a gorilla pod as a flexible small light stand to hang strobes from doors, poles etc.Not seen one like this before.

BTW David, Happy birthday for last Saturday.

January 31, 2010 9:12 PM  
Blogger Neil Gaudet said...

Hey David

We are putting the Alien Bee on a scissor clamp:


February 27, 2011 2:28 PM  

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