GPP 2016: Dubai, Feb 5th-12th Schedule is up!

Gear Bag: Five Great Tips for Dealing with Cables

If your lighting gear includes sync cords, power cables and/or extension cords, this could happen to you. Don't laugh, pictured is my actual Ancient Sync Cord Burial Ground from the past 20+ years.

But over that time I have also gotten a lot better at dealing with cords, and picked up a few cool tips along the way. Keep reading for my favorite five.


1. Cable Ties: A Godsend

I can't tell you how much I love these things. They are cheap ($7 for 100) and that's a good thing because you'll be glad you bought a hundred.

The roll of 100 is seen at top, followed by a single tie and then a cable thusly contained. If it's a cable in my house, it gets one of these. For sync cords and power cords, it turns a pile of spaghetti into an easily manageable collection of cords.

Better power cables will come from the factory with the ties included (my Profoto power cords did). It took me about a week to realize I wanted all of my cables to behave like this.

2. Also: Use Them For Strain Relief

When the wires are uncoiled, I use the cable ties to fasten the cords to my light stand. Whether sync or power, you don't want the strain to be at the connection itself. You want it to be absorbed by the cable tie.

Also, securing your cords further down the light stand makes the whole operation much more stable should the cord get yanked or caught by a passerby, etc. No brainer.

3. Color-Code Your Coiled Sync Cords

My sync bag (remotes, cords, extra batteries, etc.) is kinda universal. So I pack it separately from my other gear in a small, swappable case. That way you know you have everything you need (and backups) to sync your flash, every time.

But that means I have different connectors on different cords. PC for my cameras and SB-800s, ⅛" for my LP's and Einsteins and ¼" for Profoto. They are all very easy to find in the sync bag because of color-coded plugs: red for ⅛", blue for ¼" and bare for the $@#! PC cords.

At a glance, I can easily tell which is which. At top is ⅛" <-> ⅛", bottom left is ⅛" <-> PC and bottom right is ¼" <-> PC.

4. Swap Power Cords for Better Lengths

Often the power cords that come with flashes are not the lengths you need. (Usually, not long enough.) Rather than use extension cords all of the time, you can cheaply swap out to different cords if your flash uses a common plug at the flash end.

Remember, if you are going to go to a longer power cord, go for a gauge thicker than your original OEM cord. (Here's why.)

Whether swapping out to nice, long power cords or short, stubby cords for my Einsteins and Vagabond battery packs, is my favorite source in the US. Great quality, service and price.

5. And While we are Shopping at MonoPrice...

If you are on the ⅛" sync cord bandwagon at both ends (i.e., thru use of a Universal Translator on your camera) you can get your sync cords for next to nothing there, too. As in, like, $2.

6. Be Kind to Your Extension Cords

Did we say five tips? What the hell, special today: buy five, get one free.

Using extension cords with your AC flashes? Don't coil them around your elbow if you can help it. It makes sense (i.e. it's easy) while you are coiling, but introduces twists and tangles. Learn to coil cable like the pros. Here's a dude with a British accent from the London School of Sound to teach you how:

He's doing mic cables. But this works great for a 100-foot extension cord, too. (Just make bigger loops.) By using this coil over/coil under system, your extension cords will unfurl tangle-free every time. And trust me, with long cords that's a godsend, too.


Brand new to Strobist? Start here | Or jump right to Lighting 101
Connect w/Strobist readers via: Words | Photos
Got a question? Hit me on Twitter: @Strobist