DIY: Grid Spot, Using Straws

Categories: DIY, Photography
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Published on: 2014.03.20

Having already made a cardboard snoot for my flash, and covered it in black duct tape, I was inspired by some “grid spot” instructions here and here to make my own DIY grid spot.

Using black straws to make a grid spot for my flash
(Copyright © 2014 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

You can buy readymade grid modifiers for your flash, but none of them are cheap. The Honl Speed Grid, for example, is $30, and requires a $10 speed strap. The MagMod MagGrid (very new product) is $35 and requires a $25 MagGrip to be useful.

(Edit, 2014.08.05: I late July 2014, I did buy the MagMod basic kit, which includes a MagGrid and MagGrip. It’s very effective, easy to attach, and nearly indestructible. Read my review.)

The one I made cost almost nothing — the cost will vary depending on which of these materials you don’t already have in your home.

◊ Materials

* stiff, thin cardboard (cereal box)
* tape (black duct tape, $3.37 per roll)
* glue (generic “multi-purpose cement”, $1.27 per tube)
* black straws ($1.89 for a 250-pack)

You could use masking tape, Scotch tape, gaffer’s tape, or whatever you have lying around. Probably Elmer’s glue would work, if you have a tube of that. Or even silicone caulk/sealant, someone suggested.

But the straws need to be black — if you use white or clear straws, the light will spread more than you want it to. If you use colored straws, the light’s color will change. This was the most difficult part for me. I checked more than a dozen stores over a week’s time and never found any standard size drinking straws in black. I had to order them from

◊ Tools

* ruler
* scissors
* marker

◊ The Process

I’ve already described the making of the snoot itself in other posts (see links in my first sentence above), so I won’t go through that part again.

To turn the snoot into a grid, I first cut the snoot open — slicing the Scotch tape — and folding it out flat. Then I cut the straws and glued them into place, as shown below.

8.25-inch straw
(Copyright © 2014 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

My straws were 8.25 inches (210 cm) long. I used common office scissors to cut each straw in half and then into quarters. The quarters, obviously, will average 2-1/16″ (52.5 cm) each, but I wasn’t extremely precise with the cutting. The length varies.

Cut straw pieces
(Copyright © 2014 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

It wasn’t easy to estimate how many straw quarters I would need. I cut several straws first, and then laid them loosely in the mouth of the snoot, first across a long side and then across a short side. I got 13 x 8, so I thought I would need 104 quarter-pieces, or 26 straws. (As it turned out, there are 135 quarter pieces in my grid, using most of 34 straws.)

Smearing the glue on the straw
(Copyright © 2014 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

Placing the straws into the mouth of the snoot
(Copyright © 2014 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

I just smeared glue on each straw piece and placed them in rows on the inside of the opened snoot. It doesn’t matter that the inner edge isn’t aligned, but it’s important that the outer edge is in a row — at least that’s what I’ve been told. I didn’t try it any other way.

As I got closer to filling the frame, so to speak, I repeatedly folded the snoot closed around the straw pieces to see how close I was getting. Once I got the top row done and then added a few straw pieces to the sides, I closed up the snoot and taped it with black duct tape.

Closed grid
(Copyright © 2014 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

That’s 10 rows, half of them with 13 straw-quarters and half with 14. As you can see, these black straws are shiny on the inside, as opposed to the matte black you’d get with a factory-made grid of silicone or rubber. That means light will bounce around inside there a bit — but not as much as it would with a wide-open snoot, especially my original snoot with a white interior.

Then I stuck it on my flash and began testing:

Flash on very low power, grid about two feet from the subject
(Copyright © 2014 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

Flash at 1/16-power, about 5 or 6 feet away from subject
(Copyright © 2014 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

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