Throughout my time at Triggertrap I received many emails from customers asking if there was any way to extend the length of the fairly short cables that are included with the Triggertrap Mobile kits.
Currently, there is a very simple solution to this issue, and one that I am surprised Triggertrap haven’t started to produce themselves. I’m glad to see that Triggertrap now offer an in house solution to this problem!
A lot of the support questions I saw went like this:
“How can I make my Triggertrap cable longer?”
“What’s the best way to mount my phone on my camera or tripod?”
“How can I check if my flash adapter works?”
“What can I do about the really bright screen at night?”
Well, in this first blog post, I’ll let you know a few simple tricks and hacks that will make using your Triggertrap mobile kit a whole world easier!
I’ll start with the most useful hack first. How to extend the cable length of the Triggertrap mobile kit.
As I said before, this one is really simple, so simple in fact, that I’m surprised they don’t sell them through their online store. All you need is a 2.5mm male to female stereo audio cable. I picked up a couple of them from Amazon UK for a few pounds each. The 2.5mm cables fit in between the mobile dongle and the camera connection cable, rather than using a regular 3.5mm cable which would fit between your phone or tablet and the mobile dongle. If you have a now retired Triggertrap v1 or Triggertrap Arduino Shield, then you can use a 3.5mm extension cable without an issue.
Triggertrap now offer a 1.5m extension cable through their official shop here which will allow you to extend the length of your mobile dongle or flash adapter cable. Like my solution before, this extension cable either connects between the mobile dongle and camera connection cable, or the mobile dongle and your flash adapter cable.
Secondly is a solution that utilises one of Triggertrap’s current accessories, the humble Phonetrap. I’m a massive fan of the Phonetrap, I also use a Joby GripTight, but there has always been one thing that bugged me, I can’t actually position the Phone to an angle that suits the type of photo I’m taking. For example, when shooting star trails, the Phonetrap will point the phone down to the floor, meaning the screen can’t be seen. Solution one is to use a small ball head inbetween the Phonetrap and the hot shoe adapter. However, this is big and clunky, doesn’t look very nice and adds more weight to the top of the camera. Solution two, which is my prefered option, is to take the Phonetrap and attach it to a magic arm and a clamp. A while back I picked up a couple of friction arms on Amazon UK for around £20 and I connected it to one of the many Manfrotto Super Clamps I have. This allowed me to attach my phone to one of my tripod legs and angle it which ever way I want. You may not even need a super clamp if you have one of Manfrotto’s new 190 or 055 series tripods as they have an ‘Easy Link’ connector, which is designed for LED lights, but will work perfectly for holding a phone during a Timelapse.
Thirdly is a quick way to check if your flash adapter is working correctly. Triggertrap’s website has a page dedicated to troubleshooting, but it only mentions checking the mobile dongle and camera connection cables. Well, both test 1 and 2 will work perfectly well for checking your flash adapter. For test 1, connect your flash to the flash adapter and turn it on. Now plug in the connection cable using the 3.5mm end and short the jack using some aluminium foil. If it flashes when hey-presto, it works. If not check that your flash is in manual mode, rather than slave or TTL and try again. Test two works in the same way as testing the camera cable. Connect the mobile dongle to your computers headphone port, turn up the volume to maximum and connect your flash and flash adapter. Now play the sound on the troubleshooting page to see if it works. Once again, check that your flash is in manual mode.
Next up, what can be done about the really bright screen. Well there is some good and some bad news. If you use the Triggertrap app on an Android device running Android 4.1 or above, you’ll be able to lock the screen to save battery life, as the app can run in the background. However, Apple are much stricter on apps that run in the background, so unfortunately, you can’t lock the screen on your iPhone or iPad when using Triggertrap mobile. There are however a few option that you can try to reduce the battery consumption and the strain on your eyes. Firstly, turn off all wireless connections by turning on Aireplane mode. This will mean you’ll loose WiFi, Bluetooth, 3G/4G data and all calls and texts, but while your triggering your camera, you can’t trigger the camera in the background, so doing any of these will end the timers anyway. Next, make sure your screens brightness is set to the lowest setting. The white background plays havoc with your eyes, and night vision too. Something else that can help is to go to Settings > General > Accessibility and invert the colours or set your screen to greyscale. If you find yourself going into the menu too often, scroll to the bottom of the accessibility options and set the accessibility shortcut to invert colours or greyscale. This way, whenever you triple click the home button, the selected effect will be applied to the screen. I personally find that the inverted colour option works the best for my eyes.
Another tip related to battery life, is to use an external battery pack to charge and power your phone while the Triggertrap app is running. I use an Anker 10,000mAh external battery and it’s marvellous as it keeps my phone from running out of juice. It also comes in useful at other times of the day, when my phone runs flat on the train home.
Second to last comes a tip for photographers taking high speed photos using Triggertrap. If you find that using the sound sensor mode causes a ghost image in the background, of the subject after it has /burst/broken/smashed/ then you need to enable the ‘Sensor Reset Delay’ in the app settings. Open the app and go to Settings > Sensor Reset Delay and set it to a longer duration such as 5 seconds. I typically set my camera to a 1 second exposure, so I use a 2 second reset delay, to make sure that I don’t capture a second exposure in the photo.
Finally, another tip for high speed photography using the flash adapter, keep the flash power as low as you can. Most flashes have a shorter pulse duration, and less delay between telling the flash to fire and it actually firing, when the power is lower. Therefore, while you may get more light using 1/2 power rather than 1/128, you’ll have a lot more motion blur in moving subjects and the images may not be as sharp as you would like.
TL:DR? I don’t blame you!
- Use 2.5mm stereo cables to extend the length
- Use a friction arm, super clamp and phonetrap to mount your phone to your tripod
- Use the troubleshooting tests on the Triggertrap website to test your flash adapter as well as your mobile dongle and connection cable
- Turn down the brightness on your phone and enable inverted colours
- Use an external battery pack to charge your device during a long timelapse, or any other mode
- Use a reset delay to stop multiple exposures
- Keep the power on your flash as low as possible to minimise the pulse length, delay and recycle times
Have I missed any useful hacks that you know? If so, let me know in the comments and I’ll update the article.