My Recommended Tools and Resources
The items and services on this page are things that I use and strongly recommend to help you become a better photographer, artist and entrepreneur.
I've used and tested every item on this list.
My recommendation wouldn't mean a thing, otherwise. The products and services here are critical for my photography and business.
Before you continue, I need to tell you that some of the links below are affiliate links. That means I will receive a small commission if you should decide to make a purchase, but there is no extra cost to you. In some cases, I can provide you with a coupon code to save you money compared to the retail price.
I don't let affiliate links cloud my judgment. In fact, there are some vendors that I removed from this list when I decided they were no longer worthy of my business or recommendation. You can be sure that I won't steer you in the wrong direction just to make some money on the side. If you appreciate the information that I provide, using an affiliate link helps me keep this site running and experiment with things so I can provide fresh information.
My Most Essential Recommended Tool
More than any other tool, the Adobe Creative Cloud tools are essential. Lightroom & Photoshop are the industry standard tools to organize and process your photos. There are other tools that I recommend, but they don't have the combination of resources, cloud connectivity and educational support as the Adobe Creative Cloud.
There are a few different options, but my recommendation for most photographers is the Photography Plan that combines Adobe Lightroom Classic CC and Adobe Photoshop CC for the remarkable price of $9.99/month.
Coupon Codes and Discounts
Use my coupon codes to save money on these products.
Code: BEEM $10 savings on Luminar and Aurora HDR. 10% Discount on other products. Look for the area to Enter the Promotional Code when you checkout to apply the coupon code.
SmugMug offers a 15% discount for new accounts using the link on this page. No coupon code necessary, just use the link or click the title to get there right away. williambeem.com/smugmug
Code: WBEEM20 Use the coupon code to save 20% off purchases from ON1.com. Look for the Coupon Code box to enter the code when you checkout to apply the discount.
Code: WBEEM10 You can save 10% on a KelbyOne Pro Annual subscription when you use my coupon code. Start by creating a FREE account, and then be sure to use the code when you subscribe to KelbyOne for some of the best training on Photography, Photoshop, Lightroom and more.
Code: WBEEM10M You can save 10% on a KelbyOne Pro Monthly subscription when you use my coupon code. Start by creating a FREE account, and then be sure to use the code when you subscribe to KelbyOne for some of the best training on Photography, Photoshop, Lightroom and more.
These are the professional services I use for my web site and email list. I've tried others, but none had the performance, features or customer support that I found with these providers.
WP Engine is my current web host and the most reliable service I found. My web site is my business. I trust it to people who treat it like a business, with fast performance, daily backups and great tech support.
I tried a lot of tools to build email optin forms, but Optinmonster is the best. It integrates extremely well with ConvertKit and doesn't upset Google when you use a pop-up or welcome gate form.
I switched from Nikon flashes and Elinchrom strobes to use the Flashpoint/Godox lighting system. My old kit had lights that wouldn't work on the same triggers. The Flashpoint lights all communicate using the same radio trigger, they're less expensive and far more versatile. Having worked with the Flashpoint/Godox lights for over a year, I'm quite pleased and happy to recommend them to you.
Flashpoint eVOLV 200
If you only get one flash, make it the Flashpoint eVOLV 200.
This flash is 2 or 3 times more powerful than your typical on-camera flash at less than half the price. It comes with a fresnel lens and a bulb, which you can swap depending upon your need. There's also an accessory to have a round flash head for a nice spotlight effect. Like all of the Flashpoint lights I own, they include a built-in R2 radio receiver to trigger the lights – compatible across the entire line.
I have a pair of these lights. They easily fit into my camera bag when I need to travel light, yet combined they have the power of a strobe. The Li-Ion battery packs are long lasting and you can get hundreds of flashes out of one charge.
While the same as the Godox AD-200, I recommend buying the Flashpoint brand from Adorama for US buyers, since that also includes a warranty that you won't get with Godox.
This is the most versatile flash I've ever owned due to its size, power and flexibility.
Flashpoint Flashes and Strobes
This is my main studio portrait light. It works great on the included battery, but you can also buy an AC power kit. It's great indoors or on location. The default Bowens mount allows a plethora of light modifiers and it has a color-stable mode to maintain accuracy.
I bought a pair of these lights to use as kicker or fill lights. They're still perfectly valuable as main lights, too. Only about a half-stop less powerful than the 600 Pro and have more mounting options, too. They also work great on location.
There are still some times when you need a small flash. Maybe something on-camera to bounce off a wall, or something small that you can hide to throw a light on a wall or part of the background. It has a great Li-Ion battery, so no more hassles with AA reachargables.
Flashpoint R2 Radio Transmitters
These two transmitters are available for different camera systems. Make sure you get the right version for your camera. The links I have here will default to Nikon. Look for the Compatibility drop-down menu on the product page if you need to get a version for Canon, Sony or another model.
This R2 Pro radio transmitter allows you to control your Flashpoint & Godox flashes remotely, so there's no need to reach to the back of the flash unit. It has five groups and 10 channels per group to avoid interference with other photographers using the same gear. It enables high speed sync. The TCM button allows you to use TTL to get your base lighting exposure, and then converts it to manual settings so you don't have to worry about the light power changing from shot to shot.
The Flashpoint R2 Pro Mark II is an Adorama exclusive item. It does everything the previous version did, but adds more buttons for those who like a quick touch interface. It also works with a smartphone app via Bluetooth to control your lights.
MagMod Light Modifiers
MagMod offers a plethora of light modifiers that attach to your flashes using industrial strength magnets. These suckers are STRONG and really work very well. You can stack various modifiers together to create some cool, custom results. I'll be the first to admit that these products are not inexpensive, but they have heavy duty quality to last. Avoid the clones that fall apart. MagMod is the real deal for small flash modifiers. Only one of the products below works with the strobes. The others only work for small flash.
This 24" light modifier from MagMod became my go-to solution for one-light portraits. It creates beautiful, directional light, it's easy to setup and fits easily in its carrying case. MagMod makes some of the most intelligently engineered lighting products on the market. After you connect the MagBox to the MagRing with magnets on the first use, you'll wonder what is wrong with everyone else in the market.
I was slow to adopt the MagMod products, but I eventually bought them all. In hindsight, I wish I'd bought this kit to save a bit of money. The MagMod Professional Flash kit provides the following items:
Elinchrom Rotalux Modifiers
I previously used Elinchrom BRXi 500 studio lights, and I bought the brand's light modifiers. When I switched, I didn't want to let go of these beautiful tools. Elinchrom Rotalux light modifiers create beautiful light, and they are exceptionally easy to use. Setup and breakdown are very easy with the Rotalux line. The only change I had to make was to swap out the speed ring from the Elinchrom style to use a Bowens mount speed ring. Elinchrom sells its modifiers with a variety of speed rings so you can use them on different lights. Just make sure you specify when you buy.
This parabolic light modifier creates beautiful, soft light with a bit more direction than typical octaboxes. Using it without the diffusion baffle gives a bit harder light that can work similar to a beauty dish.
Stands & Grip Equipment
Lights and modifiers are great, but you need something to hold them up. I've tried a number of brands and styles of grip gear, and these are the ones I find myself using again and again.
There are a lot of variations on C Stands. I found that the Matthews 40" Pro Century C Stand Kit works best for my lighting needs. It supports up to 22 pounds, which is much more than I ever place upon it. C stands are much more useful and sturdy than the average collapsable light stand. The turtle base allows you to put the weight of the extension arm over the largest leg to prevent it from tipping over. I tend to reach for my Matthews C Stand instead of my Avengers stand, so this is the one I recommend.
Platypod is a sturdy plate that allows you to attach a ballhead and your camera in places where a tripod isn't allowed or practical. You can attach it to a pole or tree using the included strap and put your camera in some very interesting places. It's rock solid, lightweight and easier to carry than a tripod - and it doesn't attract the tripod police.
Use it a another alternative to a tripod, or as a light stand. The Magic Arm allows you to get a solid arm with just a twist so you can aim your camera or a flash where you need it. I've used this in museums and other places that prohibit tripods. Combine it with a Superclamp to grip on rails and poles.
The Manfrotto Super Clamp with a standard stud combines with the Magic Arm to create a vise-like grip that attaches to rails, light stands or polls. Put this with the Magic Arm in your bag and you have a lot more freedom angle your camera or flash than you would on a regular light stand or tripod.
Don't make the mistake I made. Cheap light stands suck and let you down. They aren't all the same height, which means that you may come up short when you need to put a roll of seamless paper up high. While I still prefer a C Stand, sometimes your budget prefers a light stand. This is the best one I've found.