Learn how to use a “snoot” in your photography to control the light and create theatrical lighting with your hot-shoe flash.
Even though it can often be like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut a flashgun is always a handy tool to have in your camera bag. However, in order to turn the flash into a useful creative effect you almost always need extra add-on accessories.
The most unusual name for a flash accessory has to be the snoot. A snoot works by picking out a small area of the scene by converting the light source from a floodlight into a spotlight via the means of a long tube or funnel that attaches to your flashgun.
Say you are photographing portraits against a wall, a snoot can come in very handy. The reason is that your flashgun will still light up the majority of the frame even though most add-on strobes have a zoom head that enables you to narrow the spread of light.
So that some areas of the frame are not lit at all by the flash a snoot restricts the spread to a narrow beam. It’s most effective where you only want one thing on your surface to be highlighted, so it can be used for still-life arrangements and produces a good effect that is also useful for portraits.
The particular type of circumstances where the background is very close behind the subject is where a snoot is of most use. Since light power falls off so sharply with distance, if you are using a snoot wide coverage of the flash tube is not an issue if the background is much further away.
Without a snoot backgrounds can become as well lit as the subject if the wall or backdrop is just behind the subject as in a portrait. This detracts from the atmospheric producing a cold, analytical shot as the result. You can create a much more theatrical effect by using a snoot until just the person’s face is lit.
Since you can make your own light funnel very easily there is no need to spend money on one to get this cool effect even though commercially made snoots are available to fit most add-on flashguns. To get successful results with a minimum of fuss there are some things to watch out for, whether you choose to buy one or make one.
01. Backs Against The Wall.
When there is little option but for the subject to stand or sit near the backdrop you are using a snoot is particularly useful. If you don’t want the whole background to be as well lit as the person using a snoot is the best option. Male portraiture is best suited to this theatrical lighting effect.
02. Base Exposure.
When lighting just a small part of the frame it is wise to use manual exposure mode with off-camera flash. A good starting point would be: ISO200 set to 1/125 sec. at f/6.3. To see that the shot looks dark enough take a test shot of the backdrop without the flash.
03. That’s a Wrap!
As your snoot you can use a Large Rogue FlashBender which wraps around the flashgun with an elastic strap and velcro. To hold the flash in the right position you would need someone or something to do this and you also need a trigger for the off-camera flash.
04. Pull The Trigger.
You do get more dramatic results if the flash is used off-camera to create the side-lit effect but you can also use a snoot with the flash mounted on the hot-shoe. Using a two-part radio trigger is the best solution. As well as the mid-priced option from Hähnel, top pro options include the Pocket Wizard range, but you can also find low-cost options available on eBay.
05. Power Control.
By altering the power output of the flashgun the exposure for the subject can be simply controlled. Use the flash in manual mode and start off with a setting of 1/8 or 1/16 power. Take a test shot and if the subject is too bright, reduce the power – if they’re too dark, increase it!
Options include: the Rogue FlashBender; Interfit Strobie; paper or card; a Pringles tube; or the Honeycomb grid.
Words by Elijah (Content Marketer) via Digital Camera World.