The essential Lovegrove photo accessories list

Sep 9, 2009 | Flash, Location, Wedding | 15 comments

Here is a list of my most treasured set of photographic accessories. I have dozens of bits and bobs that come in and out of favour with me but these items are my current favourites.

Honl Speed Straps. You will probably need two of these little straps if you have multiple Speedlights. Attach them around the front of your Speedlights to give them Velcro functionality without leaving a sticky mess. The non slip rubber backing does the job it’s supposed to do. With a Speed Strap in place the rest of the Honl system of gels and accessories is at your service.

Honl Speed Strap in place on a Speedlite

Note: The Holn Speed Straps fit the Broncolor Mobil flash heads too. They’re great for gels, flags and snoots but don’t use the ‘Honl grids’ with the Broncolor Mobil kit because the power of the Mobil literally vaporises the plastic tubes. Ouch!

Honl short snoot. The short snoot makes a perfect flare buster for 3/4 kick Speedlights or angled backlights. I don’t know how I coped before I had these. It can also be used to make a more defined spot of light from your Speedlights.

Honl colour correction gel set. I use the full CTO (colour temperature orange) gel the most. I set the camera white balance to tungsten or 3200K and off I go. when the CTO is used on one Speedlight and a 1/2 blue is used on another the colour difference effect is enhanced further. I normally set the camera white balance to 4000K.

Colour correction gels by Honl.

Manfrotto monopod with a 486 RC2 ball head. Even with the ability to use ISO 1600 that the latest generation of DSLRs afford us, I prefer to shoot at ISO 200 or 400 and use a monopod. I can shoot down to 1/15th of a second on any of my lenses with the monopod but I limit myself to 1/60th of a second without it.

Billingham 445 camera bag. My trusty Billingham has been with me for over 10 years now and only now am I considering replacing it. Will I buy another? Absolutely, only this time I might choose the slightly longer 555 version as I usually carry four Speedlights when teaching. Like a great pair of boots, a Billingham takes a bit of breaking in, but once supple, it is a joy to use. They are waterproof forever and look smart too.

A pair of Arri 050KA lighting stands. I own and I’ve tried many lighting stands in my time and I can honestly say that my compact stand of choice is definitely the Arri 050KA. It has the same dimensions as the Manfrotto 051NB but the tubes are more substantial without seemingly adding more weight. How do they do that? I use these stands out and about on a near daily basis.

The Arri 050KA lighting stand.

The Arri 050KA lighting stand.

Lowel Grand Stand. This is my ultimate mid sized stand. I’ve had mine for over 15 years and Lowel still make them today. The Grand Stand has a ‘lazy leg’ that can be extended to allow rigging on non-level surfaces or stairs. It goes up a long, long way, has a great spread and can even support studio monoblocks with softboxes or umbrellas. Contact Pro Kit, the UK importer of Lowell equipment for prices and availability.

A pair of Lovegrove Flash Brackets. After lots of research these are the best solution I have formulated to attach a Speedlight to a stand. Every off the shelf solution I have found don’t allow a Speedlight to be rigged downward and in a vertical orientation – This is essential for location portrait shooting. The Lovegrove Flash Bracket is Nikon SB-900 friendly too and will not short out any delicate electronic terminals as its cold shoe is fully insulated.

Clear plastic food bags. It sounds strange but there really is no better waterproofing solution for a Speedlight on a lighting stand than a clear plastic bag popped over it. The infra red or radio trigger signals pass straight through the plastic and so does the light emitted from the flash.

Radio TTL trigger systems from Pocket Wizard. I’m not sure if Radio Popper systems will ever be available in the UK. We do however have the Pocket Wizard Flex and Mini TTL units. I’ve been working within the restrictions of IR for so long now I’ve been at the limits wanting to break free. This new system from Pocket Wizard gives us all the opportunity to reinvent Speedlite shooting and with the efficiency gains over other systems high speed sync is now a great option for daylight shooting. ST-E2 and SU-800 commanders will not be obsolete either. They will take on a new role as directors rather than commanders in this new era. [UPDATE – Damien now uses and recommend the Cactus wireless flash system]

Canon shooters:

ST-E2 transmitter. This unit will allow you to make the most of your Speedlights without tying one up as a master unit. And if you decide to go for the new Pocket Wizard TTL system the ST-E2 can sit comfortably on the mini TT1 to give you access to ratios.

430EX II Speedlite. These Speedlites are great with the new Pocket Wizard TTL system due to a lack of radio interference and are nearly as powerful as the much more expensive 580EX11. It is the zoom lens at its tightest setting of 105mm that does not quite compare with the 580 EX11.

Visual Echoes Better Beamer. When used with the 430EX11 Speedlite at a zoom setting between 50mm and 105mm I have found the Better Beamer remodels the light to a very useful tight and intense spot of flash. It utilises a thin Fresnel lens, like the ones used as reading aids, held a distance in front of the Speedlite by a rigid plastic frame. The unit fold flat and is attached to the Speedlite by a non-sticky Velcro strap. There is a Beter Beamer model available for all Speedlites. The main benefit is that I can set my Speedlite stand further from my subject and safely out of shot when taking full-length portraits on location. The original use of these accessories is to allow 300mm and tighter lenses to be used at a greater distance from the subject when using on camera flash. There is a small amount of spill light from the open sides but this can easily be masked off if required.

Visual Echoes Better Beamer on my 430EX11 Speedlite

Visual Echoes Better Beamer on my 430EX11 Speedlite

Another view of the Better Beamer showing the intensity of the light emmitted.

Another view of the Better Beamer showing the intensity of the light emitted.

Nikon shooters:

The SU-800 Commander. This is a really great remote commander to use with the D3 or D3x. Even D300 and D700 shooters with a pop up flash can benefit from the ease of use this unit provides. It will save diving into the cameras menu system to fine tune the flash balance. One button press is all it needs to make a change of setting. The commander can be used for macro use too, it comes set up for macro use as standard from the factory so if you want to use it for regular flash triggering you will need to change the setting of the white miniature switch found inside the battery compartment.

A little known fact: When using the SU-800 commander rather than the pop up flash to trigger remote flashes on a CLS compatible camera set to manual exposure mode, all the flash outputs can be increased or decreased together using the regular exposure compensation dial on the camera. Exposure compensation doesn’t affect the shutter speed, ISO, or aperture when the camera is in manual mode, but it does change the flash output by up to 5 stops!

The SB-900 Speedlight. This is the best featured and most versatile Nikon Speedlight ever made. It recycles faster than the aging but capable SB-800s and zooms tighter too. If you already own a pair of SB-800s don’t rush out to replace them with SB-900s. Although the 900s are great, they’re not that big an upgrade. You will need two Speedlights if you want to really get creative, they’re not cheap but they are so feature packed they represent great value for money. You can get two SB-900s for the price of an okay lens.

There are many other goodies to spend money on but this is it for me. I like to work my kit hard and exploit the range of picture making opportunities these items give me.

Student advice:

The undeniable truths: The photographer has the vision for a shot, then lights the scene as and if required. The lens converts the three dimensional scene into a two dimensional image and the camera just records it. With this knowledge in mind here is my priority investment list:

• Get an entry level DSLR
• Learn to ‘see’ a picture. Remember, it’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.
• Learn how to use light. Light is all we record in a picture so it better be good.
• Invest in good lenses.
• Then only when 1,2,3 and 4 are sorted, get a great camera and immerse yourself in photography for life.

In my opinion there really is no finer hobby or occupation. I could have taken virtually any of the pictures on this blog with a Canon 1000D or a Nikon D60 and you wouldn’t be any the wiser. If I had used poor lenses you’d spot it instantly.


  1. Joan

    What ball head device do you use for your speed lights?

  2. Ian

    Thanks – I just saw the email from Blaise and sent you my address. Thanks for the offer – finding the 050KA’s was proving to be right chore, but your pages kept on popping up on the searches for them so it was logical to post my request here. I do appreciate your offer.

  3. Ian

    I’m looking to add an Arri 050KA to my existing stands. The Arri 050KA which you recommend is not the one you sell. :( The Arri 050MKA that you sell is about 8cm too long and doesn’t fit in my cases. Does anybody have an older Arri 050KA around they would like to sell, as I think they’re discontinued now..

    • damien

      Hi Ian,

      Yes I know about the new Arris being longer etc. I have two 050 MA stands and omne of them is in excellent condition, the other is over 10 years old and is scratched somewhat. I can let you have my tidy 050MA and I will replace it with the longer 050 MKA from stock. Obviously I’ll give you a discount as it is a used item. Just ring Blaise on 01275 853204 in office hours to arrange.

      Kind regards,


  4. James Dalby

    This is a really useful, really like the plastic bag idea!
    As a poor student I’m going to have a go at making what i can from the list!
    A while back you recommended that I buy a Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens. I must say, I don’t think it has actually come off my camera since the day i bought it!

    • damien

      It’s great to hear from you James. I’m glad you are getting on well with the 50mm. I’m still up to do some twilight shots of Parcour at Create / Butterfly junction. It’s a great location. Drop me an email. Cheers.

  5. Nick

    I’ll echo Martin’s comments on the Better Burner as it’s more commonly known among wildlife shooters – I’ve several melted holes in my flash from it, and it’s also got me on the neck too on occasion! I also know several people that have burnt holes in backpacks and car seats by leaving it out in sunshine :(.

  6. damien

    Hi Karl,

    The Speed Straps are great value for money even if you make up your own filters and accessories.

    Cheers, Damien.

  7. Karl

    nice list damien, will look at the straps, will save the sticky mess i get from double sided sticky velcro on front of sb900’s.

  8. damien

    Hi Martin,

    I’m on my 2nd ST-E2. My first one became intermittent in operation. I super glued the red lenses on both of my ST-E2s to avoid loosing them.

    Good advice about the Better Beamer. It is a really powerful magnifying lens and if pointed at the sun will cause havoc. You could certainly light fires with it out in the bush.


  9. martin

    Serious note of caution when using a better beamer – do not leave the fresnel lens mounted or even out in the open on a sunny day. You will fry your flash and/or set fire to something. DAMHIK.

  10. martin

    I agree the STE-2 is not really up to day-in day-out use. How long have you had yours? Mine came from Amazon. The red lens fell out and was lost so I sent the whole thing back and got a new one.

  11. damien

    Hi Pete,

    It affects the focus illuminator. It means when shooting at night or in dark places instead of getting a red cross hatch projected for the lens to focus on you will get white light instead. Try ordering a new lens from your local camera repair shop.

    Cheers, Damien.

  12. Pete

    Good list. I’ve just purchased the Honl Strap and Gel set.. strap fits well.. can’t wait to try the gels!
    The STE2 is fab but as yuo mentioned in another post the build quality isn’t great and I wish I had followed your advice in super gluing the red plastic bit on as its now gone forever… will this have a major effect on its performance?
    Time for the TTL’s :)


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