Building your own snoot

lq0891_snoot.jpgWhat is a snoot? Simply put, a snoot is a tubular structure that is used to limit the throw of a light source to create a narrow beam of light. While commercial snoots are actually pretty affordable, from $14 to about $20, so why would we want to make our own? Because we know what we want and because for $20 we can make a dozen or more experimental ones and end up with a handful that we could use in different situations. So guys. go break into the wife’s scrapbooking supplies and get ready to make your own customized flash snoot.

To get started, the basic rule is that the longer the snoot is, the narrower the beam of light will remain. However, building a really long snoot isn’t always feasible, so fortunately there is a little trick. If you take a shorter snoot and create an internal baffle, you can get the effect of a much longer snoot, and that is what we will do here.

You will need a few supplies first:

  • 2 pockets of black straws (Panera bread is my favorite supplier)
  • Some thin stiff cardboard like cereal boxes
  • Glue (I used a hot glue gun)
  • Scisscors
  • Ruler
  • Pen/Pencil
  • Gaffers tape

p8103155.jpgFirst you want to measure and cut out a pattern for your flash. Make sure you have at least 1/2″ of overlap. The straws we used were 7.5″ long so we cut them into thirds to give us 2.5″ pieces then for the length we wanted 3/4″ on each end giving us a total length of 4″. I can’t stress enough that you want to measure carefully and test fit several times to make sure you have a good fit. Few things are worse then getting finished and then figuring out that you have a poor fit. There are two reasons for have the extra space on the end of the snoot from the end of the straws. First, it will look cleaner than having the straws flush and second, it allows you to use colored gels if you want.

p8103156.jpgFirst off you need to find some black straws, the ones from your local Panera Bread work very well. If you are going to walk out with pockets full of straws, at least buy a sandwich and a drink for their trouble. While the straws will cut easily with scissors, pieces will have a tendency to go flying when cut. You then need to start glueing down layers of straws onto the cardboard. Hot glue works well but can be kind of messy so pick your adhesive carefully. Take care and put it together carefully, the nicer of a job you do, the happier you will be with it in the end.

p8103173.jpgOnce its all finished, wrap it with black gaffers tape. The gaffers tape will serve two purposes, first, it will again make it look better, and second, it will keep light from spilling out. I added a few extra layers of gaffers tape on the inside lip that goes over the flash to give it a tighter fit. As you can see, it actually looks pretty decent for something literally built from carboard, straws, and masking tape. This setup is definitly not a good fit for on-camera flash so you will need some way of firing your flash off-camera such as the Gadget Infinity Remote Flash Triggers.

So how well does it work? Let’s take a look at two pictures taken with the exact same setup and the only difference is the use of the snoot.

p8103167.jpg p8103168.jpg

Regular Flash

Flash with snoot

What an amazing effect! With a little experimenting there is no limit to what you can do. While this is a very extreme example, you can see more examples at Flickr and check our some work from Dave Black. We took our snoot with us on a wedding shoot this weekend to put it to use in a live environment.

p8113758.jpg p8113759.jpg

Make a few different sized snoots and start seeing how it works for you.

Now get out there and start shooting!


Kerry Garrison lives in Castle Rock, Colorado with his wife and two dogs. With 10 years of experience shooting products and 5 years of experience in the wedding industry, Kerry brings a good deal of technical know-how and can explain topics in easy-to-understand terms.

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7 Responses

  1. Tim says:

    What are the straws for, extra rigidity?

  2. Adrian says:

    I used the plastic corrugated card (about 1/8" thick) cut into strips and stuck together with double-sided tape. Cut the strips about 1 1/4 wide and the length to suit the width of the flash head.
    Assemble as a block and place in the wrapper as above.

  3. Vanessa says:

    Just use blackwrap. =)

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