Thinking outside the box - Getting creative with the Manfrotto magic arm


The Manfrotto magic arm is such a versatile piece of equipment. There is so much you can do with it, provided you think outside the box a little!

A couple of notes before we go on, ALWAYS make sure your equipment is fully attached and secure before using the Manfrotto magic arm. We will not take any responsibility for you attempting or elaborating on any ideas we set forth in this article. Just be smart and be safe!

Combine a Manfrotto magic arm with a Manfrotto super clamp and you're set!

A super clamp pretty much is what it sounds like. It's a clamp that can hold alot of weight! They're rated at 20kgs! But I'm around 70kg and I have managed to hang my weight from one!

Let's start simple and easy. Our scenario is an outdoors portrait shoot. We want to use a flash but we have no light stand, just our Manfrotto magic arm and an umbrella mount. We need to first find a suitable mounting point for the clamp. In this case it's a tree branch. We take the Manfrotto magic arm and put the umbrella mount on one end. We attach the speedlite to this. The other end gets a super clamp. We can open the super clamp up, place it on the  and tighten. With the speedlite secure, we can adjust the flash to which ever way we choose. A little bonus tip, throw an orange gel on the flash and aim it towards the camera slightly to make the whole scene look like an orange sunset glow. 

Here's a few shots of our flash mounted on a tree branch. The last shot with the flash peaking through the leaves shows how easy it can be hidden away!

On a similar scenario to the above one, the combination of Manfrotto magic arm and super clamp can make clam shell lighting pretty easy! A little word of warning, always use a decent light stand and weight it down properly! Clam shell lighting uses 2 light sources. The first one is positioned a little above the subject and angled downwards. The second is positioned underneath the subject and angled upwards. The Manfrotto magic arm can be fitted with 2 super clamps, one on each end, with one attached to the light stand. A reflector could be placed in the jaws of the second super clamp. The magic arm can then be positioned for the reflector to catch the light spill. Alternatively, a speedlite and softbox could replace the reflector to give more control over light sources. The photo below shows just that. A pop up softbox thrown on the Manfrotto magic arm.

The Manfrotto magic arm I received came with an awesome camera mounting kit too. "I have a tripod, so why do I care about the camera mounting kit" I hear you say..

Think of creativity! Well, if we quickly touch upon logic first.. It'll be fast, I promise! The Manfrotto magic arm and super clamp combination has a very small footprint. That is to say tripod legs can get in the way of places or people. With no legs, the magic arm doesn't have that issue.

Our second scenario is shooting on a bridge. The perfect shot is aiming over the edge slightly but a tripod will block the bridge and is unable to get the angle we want. We have our magic arm and super clamp with us though! Firstly, secure the camera to the Magic arm kit. Use the screw on the kit and secure it into tripod mount in the base of your camera. Now use the super clamp to clamp the magic arm to a sturdy area. Loosen the adjustment handle, position the camera and tighten/lock.

How about shooting sports? We'll use skateboarding and cycling as examples. If we have some very competent people in the sport, one idea could be attaching a camera to their skateboard/bicycle. We take our camera attached to our magic arm kit and super clamp combo, and clamp it to an area of the skateboard or bicycle. Ask the subject if the camera and arm will get in the way too. We don't want them getting injured! One extra piece of kit we'll need for this to make our lives easier is a remote shutter release. Without one, an interval timer built in the camera will take a number of photos over a given period of time. But a remote release gives us better control.

This is my Nikon D700 mounted on the Manfrotto magic arm and a super clamp attached to my daughters bike. 

One more brilliant example is using a Manfrotto magic arm and super clamp with shooting a wedding. Most venues I have shot at have a balcony or some other over looking platform of the whole ceremony. Problem is I can't be in two places at the same time! With the magi arm and a remote trigger, a camera could be set up and left alone. During the ceremony, we could press the remote shutter and get photos from a completely different viewpoint!

The last example will give is wildlife photography. Generally with wildlife photography the photographer will have a 'hide' and stay out for a set period of time to get the perfect shot. We'll do a back garden example. Here in Britain, we get alot of foxes and hedgehogs strolling around our gardens at night, so these will be our subject. Obviously the first thing to do is make sure you have these guys (or whatever you choose to be you subject) actually coming into your garden. When you've established you have a subject, the next thing to do is a brief bit of research. Find out what food the subject likes etc and then set up the camera and magic arm. Back garden wildlife photography allows us to be inside with a decent vantage point and no worries of scaring the subject away!

These few examples are given to show you how easy it is to be creative and to open your mind to the possibilities of using gear a little differently. Admittedly we've used a few more accessories with the Manfrotto magic arm. We've also used a couple of Manfrotto super clamps and a Manfrotto umbrella mount too, but the extra £30 for the other items is worth it! I've had clamps and umbrella mounts for years and they're still perfect. And I haven't even tried to look after them!

If the magic arm gets a little loose, tighten the allen keys either side of the lever arm. The last word of caution, be careful when handling the Manfrotto magic arm. When loosening the lever arm, there is a chance of pinching your skin in areas. Let's just say you'll only do this once though!