Sometimes you just can’t find the right tool for the job. That’s why these photographers made it themselves—then sold it to the rest of us.
Erik Sowder and John Baker’s Rogue FlashBenders, designed for greater control over the quality of shoe-mount flash light.
ROGUE FLASHBENDERS: John Baker and Erik Sowder. Watsonville, Ca
expoimaging.com from $30
Erik Sowder and his partner, John Baker, spend a lot of time thinking about how they can make life easier for photographers—then building their ideas. Introduced in 2004, their ExpoDisc—a one-step white-balance tool that fits into the lens rim—is a good example. More recently, with the increasing sophistication of dedicated shoe-mount flash units, they’ve turned their attention to light modifiers and other accessories for on-camera flash.
“We’ve seen a lot of photographers either struggling to adjust the flash attachment they’re using or having to switch to another design for a specific shooting situation,” Sowder says. “We thought, wouldn’t it be cool if you had one device that could take the place of all of them?”
Using their own studio and many brands of shoe-mount units, plus the help of a seamstress, they quickly tested and refined their ideas. Seven months after inception, several models of FlashBenders went on sale to great acclaim at the 2010 Photokina show. Attached to the flash head with an elastic hook-and-loop strap, the product relies on flexible, lightweight metal rods to hold a light-softening reflector in whatever shape you want.
Sowder and Baker were so confident about their product that they didn’t try it out with many photographers before the introduction. “We felt we had a significant improvement on the existing products, and we wanted to surprise the market,” Sowder says. “So we just went for it.”