(UPDATED 2014.01.16 to include photos shot using the snoot; scroll to bottom.)
Inspired by this entry on the Strobist blog, I set about to make a cardboard snoot for my flashes. It took about five minutes.
* thin, stiff cardboard (cereal box, for example)
* tape (I used plain old Scotch tape)
* marker (Sharpie)
* ruler / tape measure
Regular readers with long memories will recall that I already have a snoot, a $30 LumiQuest Snoot XTR, which I received for Christmas 2011. I’ve used it a few times, though not as often as I’d hoped. (As most of you know, the majority of my images now are of moving, playing children — currently a 3-year-old and a 7-month-old, so painstakingly set up portraits aren’t my bread-and-butter.) But the DIY snoot I made last night cost $0 and performs the same purpose. In at least a few ways, it’s better than the LumiQuest snoot.
It cost me nothing because we eat breakfast cereal in our household, so I already had thin, stiff cardboard lying around — in the recycling bin. If you’re not a breakfast cereal indulger, I imagine you could use the cardboard from a Jiffy baking mix box, or Bisquik, or granola bars… Anything that fits the profile.
One of the advantages of my particular box (shown above) is that it was double-thick; it was a Cinnamon Toast Crunch family pack from Sam’s Club. The inside layer was white, which means either: (1) I get more reflectivity inside the snoot, or (2) I could make the outside shell more presentable and less advertising-y. I chose the former for my example.
First, I measured the circumference of the Yongnuo YN560-II’s head (shown at right). It was pretty close to nine inches (22.9 cm). I could have estimated, or rolled the flash head across the cardboard as I marked it for cutting, but I wanted the snoot to be snug.
Then I cut open the cereal box and marked and cut on the inside. The length of the snoot I made was completely arbitrary; I went with six inches (15.2 cm). Since part of it will be around the flash head, only 4-5 inches will stick out. A longer snoot would make for a narrower beam of light.
After marking a 9″ x 6″ (22.9 x 15.2 cm) rectangle, I realized I’d need more than nine inches for the width, since I’d want to overlap for taping — to prevent having a crack through which light would escape. So I added two inches (now 11″ x 6″) and then cut it.
To help make the folds relatively straight, I folded the cardboard around the ruler’s straight edge (folding by hand just gave me really crinkly, unstraight lines). And then taped it shut.
The resulting rectangular tube fit snugly on the end of my Yongnuo YN560-II, and pretty well on the LumoPro LP160 too.
It stayed in place as I pointed the flash in various directions, which was excellent. I didn’t want to use tape to hold it in place on the flash and end up with sticky residue on my gear. (I currently don’t own any gaffer tape, which wouldn’t leave residue.)
All that remained was to test it.
First, my daughter was reaching for the tape measure I’d left on the table, so I snapped the following image. I’m slightly above her, and so is the flash, pointing down at about 1/32 power.
Then I placed the flash on the floor, pointed toward my son. He was in no mood to sit still and darted for it.
She was off to bedtime, and he would only try to eat the flash, so I gave up for the evening.
Above, I mentioned benefits of this snoot over the LumiQuest model. The first is obvious: $0 versus $30.
The second is that the LumiQuest (and other commercial ones like it) require something to hold it to the flash, like Velcro strips adhered to the flash head. For two years, my LumoPro LP160 flash has had Velcro on it, for the few times I want to use the snoot (or the LumiQuest SoftBox III that I also have). Or you have to buy a $10 UltraStrap. My DIY model, because I cut it to fit snugly, fits snugly.
Yet a third advantage is that I can make a dozen more if I want, very easily, for free, all of different lengths (to widen or narrow the resulting beam) or widths (to fit different flash heads).
One disadvantage is that the DIY model doesn’t fold flat for storage. If you do press it flat, you’ll have a difficult time getting it back to its shape again. You could cut the tape and retape it next time you want to use it, but that’ll eventually get piles of tape all over your cardboard.
Conclusion: I probably should have read the Strobist blog in the first place and tried this three years ago.
Lesson learned: Look for a DIY method before spending money on a commercially made product.
UPDATE, 2014.01.16: I’ve added two more example images below, both shot using this homemade snoot — where noted, I was using two such snoots.