What do freelance photographers do in their free time? They go to home improvement stores, or in this case: IKEA.
So I went there, window shopping. When I arrived in bedroom section, I stumbled upon sets of RACKA curtain poles. Well, I kept thinking to myself it would be nice if I could hack them into something useful aandd AHA! A 4$ boom arm for my speedlights!
Boom pole is a miracle, especially for placing hair lights or when you need to put a light slightly above the head of your subject, parallel to the camera. You don’t want the light stand to show in your pictures, so you boomed the light and then life gets much easier. Currently, I only have one aluminum boom arm for my C-stand. An additional boom pole sounds exciting.
The product information said it’s made of steel and holds up to 5 kg (11 lb) of weight. A 400 gram (0,88 lb) speedlight and some accessories wouldn’t hurt, eh? Great. Now I just had to think about a way to and mount it to a light stand and attach a speedlight at the tip of the pole. Luckily, I have some extra clamps and grip heads at home. Thought that I had it all figured out, I bought one for an experiment.
Right after coming home, I compared the size of the aluminum boom arm to the IKEAone. Found out they’re similar in size, about 1,5 cm in diameter. Shouldn’t be much of a problem. We’ll see.
Next, I set a regular light stand, weighted it with a sand bag, put a grip head on top of it, and started inserting the pole through the grip head. It fit nicely! Yay!
Now, here came the tricky part. I needed to somehow attach a speedlight on the pole. So, I clamped a super clamp on the other end of the pole. The clamp has a reversible 1/4” & 3/8” spigot I used to mount an umbrella bracket, which is important to be able to use umbrella-shaped modifiers for the speedlight. In the end, I put my speedlight above the bracket and insert a Phottix reflect umbrella with diffuser through the umbrella holder.
The set-up looked something like this.
For the first trial, I let the flash hung upside-down as the clamp kept rotating downwards because of the slippery surface of the pole. The clamp holds the flash and the umbrella firmly but I couldn’t tilt the flash freely. Gravity sucks sometimes, mate. A speedlight and a medium umbrella/ softbox are all I would dare to hang on this particular setup. If you have a bigger studio light, especially a battery-powered one like the super expensive Profoto B1 or B1X, you better not do this. It’s wiser to just buy a heavy duty boom arm and strictly go with it. You’ll thank me later.
By the way, I tried several other ways to balance the weight in order to be able to tilt the flash set-up freely in any direction I wanted. I finally figured it out after a few tries.
From the image above, you can see that I shifted the center of weight to balance the whole set-up. The weight of the umbrella and the flash head worked as a counterbalance, keeping them steady. The clamp didn’t rotate downwards anymore. Also, it really helps to have a multi-purpose umbrella bracket like the one I used, a Phottix Varos Pro M. The bracket allowed me to move the upper spigot horizontally to both balance the weight of the setup and insert the flash head into the softbox-styled umbrella. Here’s a closer look at the set-up.
That’s it. I don’t think this is the perfect set-up for your speedlights, nor the sturdiest one. But, This might be a good alternative if you are low in budget while having some accessories sprawling around in your room. Any other ways, just take a walk to the nearest camera store and buy the real one. 🙂