Wednesday, December 3, 2008

First Snoot Shoot

I have been learning to pay even more attention to light. That is a natural enough step considering that photography is all about the light (even if Nikon assures me that with a D3 I will change the way I think about "available dark"). I have never been happy with the results of a flash, though I am getting a bit better with using one.

Last week I looted the trash at my workplace and cobbled together a honeycomb snoot for my flash head. A snoot simply corrals the light emitted by the flash and narrow its effect. The honeycomb concept does the same thing but takes up less space. The result is a spot of flash that highlights a much smaller area of the target. Here is an example from my first shots with the snoot:

Disa on Trapeze
View Large On Black

There is more, and more photos, so follow the link.

In this next shot I got an unexpected bonus. The area in the flash zone is sharp and the motion stopped. The areas outside the flash zone are softened and allow the motion of her body to be apparent. I will freely admit I do not understand just how this happened as I was not using a slow sync setting.

Disa in Motion
Disa in Motion

In this next interesting but imperfect shot, you can see how the snoot allows the subject to pop and stand out from the underexposed background. I was a tad off with my aim, and the center of the flash is on Disa's right arm rather than her face.

Upside Down Disa
Disa Upside-Down

It was a fun series of photos to shoot, and Disa is a willing subject (not to mention an incredibly athletic dancer).

Here is a shot of my DIY honeycomb snoot. The materials were all scavenged from the trash, and it took me about 15 minutes to craft it. The cardboard in the center was cut as a long strip about 1.25" wide. I then cut that strip into pieces long enough to cover the face of my flash head. I glued the pieces together in a stack, aligning one side to be lined up flush and not caring about the other side. The side that is flush is inside, and snugs up to the flash. I cut another piece of cardboard to make a wrap and taped it up. The wrap just slips over the flash head and stops when the honeycomb portion hits. I added the "trap door" to the front to protect the cardboard from getting smashed up in my bag.

Homemade Snoot
Homemade Honeycomb Snoot

After taking a single test shot to prove it worked, I noted the area of effect on the side with marker. It makes an oval spot of light 14 inches high and 36 wide at a distance of 5 feet. I suspect I can control the width to get an even tighter spot by putting a strip of tape at each edge to make the opening less rectangular and closer to square. I will have to try that out.


  1. Very nice effects on these. I wonder what it would look like with a bit less ambient light - not enough to actually obscure the background, but to darken it a bit more, give it a deeper, cooler shade than the warm red & orange overtones.

    BTW, have you seen this site yet?

    - Eric

  2. Thanks Eric. I will investigate Real Soon Now. It looks pretty interesting.

    I will see what I can do with the photo as you describe. I don't do a lot of post-camera editing, and don't have Photoshop or anything similar, so I am pretty limited to simple tweaks and crops. That room is bright yellow, and the walls are cluttered or mirrored or stacked with apparatus. It's a tough room to get pretty results in. If I get anything worth looking at, I'll post the edited version here.

  3. This is very cool - one of those 'I never realized I was missing that' items. I agree w/Eric - I'd be interested in seeing what it looks like with the effect more accentuated.
    Are you losing much light? does the flash take a long time to recycle with the snoot on?

  4. Hmm, I don't know that I have any meaningful way to determine if I am losing much light. I ass/u/me that I am losing some, and that I am warming up the light a litle as it passes through the brown cardboard. I suppose one way to test that would be to liberate a neighbor's political yard sign (the election is over, folks) of the type made from white corregated plastic and make another one. I suspect I could also buy a piece of corregated plastic, but where is the fun in that?

    HERE is the very first shot taken with the snoot in a darkened office. It yields a pretty nice oval with reasonably crisp edges. I suspect if I used some gaffer's tape (light proof) I could "square the rectangle" shape and get a more circular spot of light. That would definitely block some light though.

  5. Oh, and it doesn't affect the recycle time of the flash at all. My only suspicion is that if I was shooting fast and furiously I could build up too much heat. Seems unlikely, but it could happen.


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