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Photography

The "Oh So Famous" Cereal Box Snoot

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In today's tutorial, we've been given permission to publish a really interesting chapter of a new photography book - Home Studio Photography. It will take you through a full series of steps to create your very own snoot - a device to block and control the light given off by your strobe.


What Is a Snoot?

A snoot helps you restrict light by blocking some of it that is coming from your strobe. Most snoots are tunnel-looking devices that attach to the light emitting side of your strobe. Obviously, the light must go through the tunnel and can't spread outside it. This results in a circular pattern where the light hits.

Before we go on and show how easy it is to make (or adapt) snoots I would like to mention the two main factors that control how the light coming from a snoot will look.

The length of the snoot determines how tight the circle of light is when it hits the subject - short snoots block less light and provide "bigger circles" and long snoots restrict the light more and create tighter circles. So if you wanted to create just a small dot of light you need a really, really long snoot.

The interior color of a snoot determines how fast the edges of the light circle fall off. If the interior is painted black, you get fast fall off and sharp light edges; if it is painted white, you get softer edges while silver produces even softer edges again.


Materials

  • Used cereal box
  • Tape (and optional gaffer tape for the finish)

Tools

  • Scissors - Black or silver marker - Ruler

Instructions

Step 1 - Trace And Cut

The first step is to measure the size of the front of your strobe. For the Nikon SB800 on this project the measurements are 2.35" on the wide side and 1.52" on the thin side.

Once you have the measurements, trace a set of rectangles on the inside of an opened out cereal box. The rectangles should be thin-wide-thinwide- flap, where the flap is .8" wide, and will be used to assist with taping the snoot. The "long" dimension of the box should be the length of your snoot plus an extra .8" (2.75" snoot + .8" extra = 3.55" total in our example).

Step 2 - Colour Correction

If you are lucky enough to have a cereal box that is white or black on one side, this step is unnecessary but if, like me, your box is brown, you need to "color correct" it. Otherwise the light will pick up some hue from the interior color.

Note: As mentioned above, the color of the interior of a snoot has an impact on the way the light it throws falls off. Using a black marker creates relatively sharp edges and fast falloff, while silver or white creates softer edges and a more gradual fall off.

Using a pen or a utility knife lightly score over the traces to deepen them. We are going to fold this box and this will make folding easier. Using a marker of your choice, color the entire interior surface of the snoot. If you have a young child, this is a great opportunity to get them involved with "that weird thing that daddy / mommy does".

Step 3 - Fold And Tape

Fold along the traces and tape the flap over the thin side.

For a professional look, you can gaffer tape all around the box.

When mounted, the snoot is held by friction, so precise fit is important. If you are using a few small hot-shoe flashes you may want to label different snoots with marked tape.


Sample Images

The following three images were taken with 6.7", 4.2" and 2.75" snoots to demonstrate the effect of making a snoot long or short.


Quick Tip: A Beer Cozy

The same principle as the foamy snoot applies here - using a long cylinder to restrict light. Only, with cozies, some of the steps are saved courtesy of beer companies. (If you are under 21 please read "soda companies".) Most cozies are black on the inside, so you can just cut the bottom and have an instant snoot. If you have the right size of cozy it will stay on by sheer friction.

The nice thing about this snoot, and the other soft snoots, is that they do not have to produce a circular pattern. Depending on how you press the front side of the snoot, you can get shapes ranging from circle, through ellipsoid to a very tight slit, as seen in the examples below.


Buy the Book!

If you enjoyed this tutorial, there's plenty more to discover in the full book! Home Studio Photography compiles an invaluable collection of tutorials, quick tips and step by step instructions to building your own home studio on a shoestring budget.

Not only is this book a goldmine for the starving student, the skills it teaches are valuable for any photographer who wants to spend their money wisely, or needs to modify the light when they haven't got exactly the gear they need with them at the time.

It costs $19.95, and you can find all the details over at the book website.

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