Lighting 101: Snoots and Gobos and Grids

Now that you are getting comfortable with the idea of shooting a light into an umbrella or ceiling, creating the lighting ratio and being color correct, it's time to start stretching a little.

Sometimes what makes a photo sing is not so much where the light is, but where it isn't. And, given that you already have a basic, off-camera strobe setup, you can make the gear you will need to restrict light for just a few pennies.

Remember when we talked about putting the Velcro on the sides of your flash head? It holds gels fine, but you can also use it to attach lighting mods to your flash. (You don't have to permanently attach Velcro to your flash, either. There are removable Velcro "grippers" for mounting things.)

One of my favorites is called a "gobo." Gobo is short for "goes between optics," as in something that goes between the light and your lens. Some people also call them cutters, or flags. Whatever you call them, they are there to partially block light.

To make a useful-sized GoBo, Cut a piece of still cardboard to make a rectangle about 4x8 inches. Stick some Velcro (the "hooks" side) at one end and at about a third of the way from the other end. This will allow you to attach it to the side of your flash either way so that you can choose how far it sticks out.

I also cover mine with a layer of gaffer's tape. This is the cloth-backed tape that is widely used in the photo industry. It holds great and does not leave any residue. It is not duct tape. Not even close. They are not interchangeable.

Now, you have a sort of "barn door" (really, that's what it's called) that can block the light from your flash in the direction that you choose.

Say you are using your flash to side/backlight something. Your flash, being small and not-too-powerful, is just out of the camera frame. The Gobo could be stuck on the side of the strobe closest to you to keep light from flaring into your lens.

You can also use one on each side of the flash to make light that spreads vertically, but not horizontally (or vice versa.) You can keep light off of a background this way, as you may be lighting it from another source.

You can make them out of cardboard or you are into the DIY look. They just slide into the lid or back pocket of a Domke bag and weigh almost nothing. No brainer.

If you want to restrict the light even more, you'll want a snoot. It is nothing more than a sort of tunnel for the light to go through that will restrict it is all directions except for the exact direction the strobe is pointed.

Just shape the cardboard into a rectangular-shaped tube that will slide over your flash head. Make a few - 6", 8", 12" - the longer the tube, the tighter the beam of light. Now cover it in gaffer's tape to make it more durable and light-tight.

(By the way, when you shoot with a snoot, set your flash on its most telephoto setting. No sense in wasting power by sending a wide beam of light just to block it with the snoot.)

How much do snoots restrict the light? Let's do a test:

This is a flash fired against the wall (4 feet away) at the "85mm" zoom setting. Note the pattern of the light.

This is the same setup, with an 5" snoot on the flash.

When doing a portrait, the aim of the snooted flash is obviously a bit critical. How can you tell where the beam will hit without a modeling lamp on your flash?

Easy. You ask your subject, "Can you see the front of my flash through the tube from where you are sitting?" If they can, the light will be falling on their face. Do a test and tweak it as necessary using the back of your camera's display as a guide.

In the frame at the top of this page, I used a snoot to light the face of the CEO of Ciena, a digital fiber optics company. I liked the holes and the daylight that streamed through.

But the blinds were light grey, and thus no contrast for the light holes if my main light hit the blinds. So I restricted it with a snoot. (You can read more about creating that particular shot here, where there's an example shot without the snoot, too.)

On disadvantage to a snoot is that the fall-off area of the light's beam is not very elegant. It's kinda of abrupt. If you want a more elegant, gradient fall-off to the light beam, you'll want to use a grid spot instead of a snoot. Here's an example:

Remember our dancer shot from a few posts ago? The umbrella was on the ground, acting like a fill (or secondary) light. The key (or "primary") light was a flash with a grid spot. In this case it was a Honl Speed Grid (in the 1/8" size).

Grids are a little more expensive than snoots, and generally not worth DIY'ing. But they give beautiful gradients at the edges of the light.

You can see how the edges of the key light gradate very nicely above.

So, restricted light. The takeaway from this page is that now we can have more precise light that we can sculpt. You know that cool shaft of light you like to exploit when you see it coming from a window or something? Now you can make it any time.

This is a very useful style of light for cool portraits, but you have to be aware of your ambient level. Crank up the shutter speed for more drama, or open it up for more detail in the unlit areas. The choice—and control—is yours.

For many beginners, this is a new technique that will open up loads of possibilities. Spend an evening experimenting with it at home to start to understand what it can do.

Next: Textural Lighting for Detail Shots


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

For those who are morally opposed to cereal boxes and gaffer tape, there's a LumiQuest snoot that brings plastic and money to the party. Personally, I think it's worth getting out with the gaffer tape.

Besides, going the cereal box/gaffer tape route gives you endless discussion topics. Is black gaffer tape better than silver? Is flat black better than shiny black? Which cereal box delivers the best light? Of course, for the Rolls-Royce of snoots, you need to use silver tape on one side, black on the other and choose the most expensive and obscure imported cereal you can find.

I'm going to lie down, now!

April 18, 2006 12:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i've made three cardboard snoots for my sunpak 383. then i printed out small 2inch prints of my test shots and pasted them on the cardboard. now all i need to do is look at the pasted photo to see how much light the snoot throws out.

- rench (philippines)

May 04, 2006 4:07 PM  
Blogger Eudemonic said...

Is gaffer's tape really necessary? As far as I can tell, the main advantage is that it leaves less residue behind. Given that I'm unlikely to peel it off of the (expensive imported) cereal box, can I really justify the increased expense. I'd love to hear a justification, but for now I think I'll stick with duct tape.

May 19, 2006 1:44 PM  
Blogger David said...

Gaffer's tape is opaque and very strong. I am not a fan of spending money unnecessarily (unless a cool new XM receiver is involved...) but this stuff is so useful, I really do not know what I would do without it.

The fact that it does not leave a residue means you can use it almost anywhere. I make all kinds of stuff out of it on the fly as I need it.

Because of the lack of residue (it peels off and tears easily, too) you can even keep spare pieces on gear (like tripod legs) for when you need it.

May 19, 2006 5:53 PM  
Anonymous Cammy said...

Where, in the Columbia MD area, can you find gaffer or Permacel 665 tape? Home Depot and Ace Hardware looked at me like deer caught in headlights?

June 08, 2006 10:29 AM  
Blogger David said...

Service Photo has it, up in B-more.


June 08, 2006 11:35 AM  
Blogger LITHIUM PICNIC said...

I've made a pretty sweet little snoot out of a pringles can that would pressure mount onto vivitar 385s. you just use a can opener to open the closed end so both are open... inside is silver and a little bit of matte black spray paint on the outside makes it look like an "official" piece of gear :)

i really like using it for a hair/accent light from a stand or clamp about 8-10ft high at a 45 behind the subject...


you can add the milky omin-bouncey cap for different effect...

June 09, 2006 1:58 AM  
Anonymous Tom S said...

Being incredibly lazy, I immediately went to my pantry after reading this article and discovered that a Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix box fits perfectly on my Sunpak PZ5000. No measuring, no unpleasant bending, just cut off the flaps, put gaffer's tape on the outside and you're all set. Three strips of 2" gaffer's tape covers the box perfectly to give a 6" snoot. Need an 8" or 12" snoot? Just cut some cardboard to make splices and glue them in place on the inside of two boxes, then wrap with gaffer's tape as usual. Voila!

Now I'm getting hungry...

June 18, 2006 12:47 PM  
Anonymous Jim said...

Any recommendations for an online source of gaffer's tape? (Living in rural NC doesn't give me many local options.)
Thanks much!

June 19, 2006 11:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To make a useful-sized GoBo, Cut a piece of still "STIFF?" cardboard to make a rectangle about 4x8 inches.

June 22, 2006 3:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another piece of plastic that will not be going to the landfill. First, go through your refridgerator for a ketchup/mustard/pizza sauce squeezable bottle with a bottom that is the same size as your flash head, and the top is tapered to a round opening. Once you have emptied the contents, place the bottle in boiling water to remove the label. Don't worry if the bottle collapses from the heat...just fill it up with hot water to restore the shape, and let it cool in a sink full of ice. Cut off the top and bottom, (the bottom of my pizza bottle was almost the same size as the SB-24 head), then "warm it up" over the stove, (use an oven mitt so you won't burn your me on this one) and place it on the SB-24...yes, it will stretch. I used left-over black plastic furniture spray paint for the outside, and left-over aluminum tape from the dryer hose in the laundry room on the inside. For location shooting, I take the snoot, slip it over my umbrella, and place it together with my lightstand (aka: tripod)in a nylon case that you get for free if you buy a folding camping chair at Wal-Mart for under $8. You can use the left-over chair to relax and marvel at your accomplishment.

September 21, 2006 1:01 AM  
Anonymous Ryan S. said...

I've made quite a few foamcore snoots as a film grip. The stuff is stiff, looks professional (it is) and is pretty cheap at art stores (avoid offices stores).

Figure out the dimesnsions of your flash unit (i.e. the top and bottom on my SB-28 is 2.5 inches and the sides are 1.5 inches (2.5 + 2.5 + 1.5 + 1.5 = 8"). So, cut a piece of foamcore however long (6", 8", 12"), by 8" -- the dimention of the flash head (with a little extra to fit around the unit).

Take the cut piece and with straight edge and knife score the foamcore lengthwise. Then, bend the pieces along the score marks and fold the snoot together. Tape the two sides to hold it, add your velcro and you're done.

You can buy foamcore black on one side, white on the other which is super good for bounce cards, negative and making flags to keep the flash off the background.

October 08, 2006 5:06 PM  
Anonymous Mark said...

i am using the foam paper for the snoot...and connecting the cone with a long strip of hook&loop this allows me to change the size of the snoot to the situation

December 02, 2006 11:44 PM  
Anonymous Bradley Attaway said...

To save some work and perhaps some space in your bag, how about a telescoping snoot by having one section slide over another? since your probably fashioning it yourself to begin with it seems this wouldn't require much extra work and would eliminate the need for multiple snoots of different lengths, as well as the effort of changing snoots to fine tune the effect.

December 28, 2006 5:25 PM  
Blogger quadruespresso said...

What is that blue thing connected to the flash?

January 06, 2007 3:21 AM  
Anonymous Alex Dorandish said...

What is that blue thing connected to flash and dangling on the air?

January 06, 2007 3:23 AM  
Anonymous mattie davitt said...

for the smaller headed nikon SB's, like the sb80Dx(and 28dx? 600,800?), ive found a spaghetti box fits perfect without any trimming. just slide on, tape and trim to desired length. the sb25 (and 24?) has a larger head, so that doesnt work.

January 14, 2007 5:08 PM  
Anonymous Scott Campbell said...

Not having a local source for gaffer tape yet wanting to get started on snoots and gobo's, and being a Canadian, I resorted to black hockey tape. Works fine. However, I did order some gaffer tape from Mpex when I ordered up my lighting kits.

January 26, 2007 1:35 PM  
Anonymous Michael said...

Like the Jiffy Corn Bread Mix box and a spaghetti box, a Kraft Mac & Cheese box also works quite well and fits comfortably over the head of both a SB-26 (quite snug) and a SB-800 (a little looser but still stays on) without any additional modifications.

I don't have gaffer tape available so duct tape is a reasonable substitute.

Note that boxes from other brands of mac and cheese may also work but they're not as cheesy as the Kraft brand boxes.

January 29, 2007 10:32 AM  
Anonymous Austin Holt said...

The $1.36 snoot you can buy anywhere.

1. Purchase a large coke, pepsi, Mtn. Dew over sugared beverage of choice from Mc.Donalds.
2. Drink it as fast a possible (note the brainfreeze.)
3. Dry the inside.
4. Take 1 SB-24 and push it hotshoe first through the bottom of the cup (requires aid in the ripping out of the bottom).
5. Stop pushing when the head of the flash fits snuggly in the bottom of the cup.
6. Take a magic marker (MC.Ds may be happy to provide if you're full of smiles) and color that thing black, blue or tint of your choice.
7. Snoot away! Need a diffuser?! Pop on the traslucent plastic drink cover and BAM! Good to go.

Thanks fast food.

January 29, 2007 1:35 PM  
Anonymous shaunpatrick said...

Great site, I have gotten loads of good information, thank you for taking all the time to publish your ideas. Just to let you know I found another solution to the cardboard. I thought of this after someone mentioned the Pringles container with the foil finish. I just made the GoBo's and snoots out of silver mat board. You can get a 30 by 40 inch sheet for less than $7.00. Since I have a mat cutter this made the job very easy. In fact, I made the two special designs from your Lacross player #2 story. I will be using some translucent heavy mylar for my design instead of the typing paper. Keep up the great work.

January 30, 2007 7:36 PM  
Blogger Billy Kidd said...

NEWBIE posting!!!! Great site! I read alot about GAFF tape..I work in the Film and Television business, and we use PAPER tape. It's less "sticky" taape. It does not leave a residue either. It's actually less expensive than GAff tape. Just my 2 cents...thanks BK

February 13, 2007 12:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cammy said...

Where, in the Columbia MD area, can you find gaffer or Permacel 665 tape? Home Depot and Ace Hardware looked at me like deer caught in headlights?

Penn Camera in Laurel and Rockville have it. It is certainly pricey, but I do re-use it frequently . I've got strips on my camera and tripod that get used for holding cords when needed.

-Mickey in Eldersburg, MD

May 27, 2007 12:16 PM  
Anonymous tommysdad said...

The pringles tin snoot works for me,it pressure fits my SB26 like a glove.Everyone ready for 102?


June 02, 2007 2:57 PM  
Anonymous TiMpWeB said...

a note about using a snoot on an sb-800:
David mentioned setting your zoom at max (105mm on sb-800) when using a snoot... however, there is a little micro-switch on the 800 that when anything is attached to the head of the flash (such as an omni diffuser) will automatically change the zoom to 14mm... even on manual mode.

any thoughts on defeating this?

maybe taping in a couple little 'bumps' on the inside of the snoot to bridge over the switch???

July 05, 2007 11:10 AM  
Anonymous Aaronfromqueens said...

Re: gaffer tape

I use it constantly. On fashion & advertising shoots, there is always a roll of matte black gaff lying around. Gaffer tape is stronger than paper tape. Not as strong as duct tape, but easier to peel off and reposition. I've found that the tape residue become a problem after about two months, not six. A good trick for removing the residue if you've left it on for too long is to peel off a fresh piece and use the sticky side to lift up the residue off of any hard plastic or metal surface. High humidity renders gaffer tape nearly useless, so be careful. I use a small strip of it to fasten the bayonet mounting UV filter to my Hasselblad lens; when it gets to the dog days of summer (like now), I have to be extra careful not to twist off the filter with the lens cap.

September 04, 2007 9:48 AM  
Blogger Johny Manic said...

A very cheap mylar can be had in the wal-mart party goods section. I am able to buy a 20 foot happy birthday banner, one sided printing, for $1.89. A glue stick later and I've silver coated the required Go-Bo gear , and still have yards available for little table top reflectors and such.

Thanks for all the good info; I'm enamored with this constructive and helpful community.

Johny M.

September 09, 2007 4:14 PM  
Anonymous Peter Garner said...

I proudly made my snoot from a Shredded Wheat (UK) a couple of nights before my weekend shoot, and used it for the first time as a side fill light. What I wasn't prepared for was the flash of golden/yellow light from the snoot: the packet is bright yellow - my model just smiled and said "Cheerios would have been better"..

October 07, 2007 2:15 PM  
Anonymous Ashton said...

Maybe I'm a snob. I wanted a bit more than cardboard so I went to the sewing store and came up with my own snoot. Wasn't bad, about $10 of materials if I was going to make it again. (that means I bought way too much material :P) It is adjustable from a wide to narrow snoot. Enjoy.

My Custom Snoot

November 07, 2007 12:15 AM  
Anonymous Rick said...

You can narrow the beam of light further by using cardboard inserts/gobos. I've posted pics on Flickr of the one's I use.

December 06, 2007 7:37 PM  
Anonymous Troup Nightingale said...

And for some more cool snoots...go to Home Depot and look in the Wet/Dry Vacuum section in the bins and get one of the little adapters that even LOOKS like a round snoot! Costs $10.00 (ouch - almost defeats the purpose!); but what a snoot! On the big round side, cut out two "sides" so it will fit your flash. I used double sided velcro wrapped around the remaining sides to hold it on the flash! You could even cut the little round sections and use the ones you want for different hole sizes by shoving them into each other! And it looks pretty darn good, too!! Fits Nikon SB-26, 28, 800, and whatever else probably.

And for those who don't like tape on your cardboard snoots, look in the Arts & Crafts store for those thin rubbery sheets that have a paper you peel off the back (there is stickiness under the paper you peel). Then cover your glorious other snoots and diffusers with the rubber sheets that you have custom cut to fit. Makes your device look almost professional!! Feels good, too! Sheets cost all of less than a dollar.

For a look at what I am talking about come to my gallery page of these snoots and a neat big diffuser - all home-made. Go here -

I gave credit to this blog for my inspiration!

December 13, 2007 2:08 AM  
Anonymous Troup Nightingale said...

Another tip for you folks (self included) who do not like or want to stick velcro to the sides of your flash for those few times you need to "stick" one of your home-made or store-bought snoots, diffusers and other accessories to the flash.

Get the ready made double sided velcro rolls - mesh on one side and the hooks on the other side. Simply wrap this around the flash head when you need it - it "velcroes" (new verb!!) to itself. Then just have the correct velcro strip on your accessory to stick to your flash. When finished, you simply remove the double -sided velcro, roll it up and stick it back in your bag. This stuff is also a super way to tie your accessories or camera to various odd objects - trees, rails, tripod legs, cow's leg (don't ask), etc. No muss no fuss or gooey residue to clean off anything! And it won't rip off in the wind like gaffers tape or other tapes. And you can leave this attached for more than 6 months and still no residue!! hahah attack on gaffers tape!

And for you real DIYers, make your own double sided velcro - add one part mesh to one part hook as long as you like. Amazing the folks who told me they never thought of doing that!! Huh?!

BTW, our Arts and Crafts store call "Michaels" ( a chain) has poster board 19.5" by 26" in a brand called "CHROMOLUX". You can get the silver chrome one which reflects light like a mirror, an off-white (warmer reflectivity), or even a gold one for that golden glow reflection. Prices range from $3+ to $4+ each. They cut well, have good bending characteristics, tacky glue down superbly, and add a touch of class to your DIY snoots and reflectors! (No, I don't work there or anything!) I've started building more of these DYI accessories and my wife keeps asking me whenever will I use these things...I tell her, I don't know, but don't they look great!!!

Troup Nightingale

December 13, 2007 1:31 PM  
Blogger Jay McLaughlin said...

Viewfinder have just unveiled a new range of Nikon/Canon fit speedlite modifiers including much more professional lookling snoots!

I've put the pics on my blog...

January 22, 2008 7:33 AM  
Blogger Lars said...

You know what else holds stuff to your camera and leaves no residue? Rubber bands.

March 18, 2008 3:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From what I see that sounds more like a cookie rather than a gobo, which I'm pretty sure stands for Goes Before Optics, cause Gobos are used in lighting fixtures that can focus the light, check out this website for gobos It's the the thing you project with you name on it for weddings and stuff like that. Just saw they sell Gaffers tape too, plus they ship it for free! here is that link

June 10, 2008 2:37 AM  
Blogger Charlie said...

Just spent a chilled day measuring n making my own snoot out of cardboard then ate a packet of pringles and found it fits perfect onto my speedlite...

June 15, 2008 8:11 PM  
Anonymous Sarah Balderas said...

Newbie here. I stumbled onto a snoot possibility the other day...I finished using the last little tub in a canister of Crystal Light and realized that it could possibly fit the end of my flash. Tore the label off, popped off the lid, and squeezed the canister opening into an oblong shape and...presto! I have a sweet new light diffuser snoot for my Canon 430EX! I'm looking at buying a can of black plastic spray paint to coat the outside and will figure out how to lop off the other end. Hope this helps someone!

July 02, 2008 7:38 PM  
Anonymous Furious Photographers said...

Nice post! I tried this with black paper to try to absorb more of the light. Worked nicely! By the way, is that a generic PW? I'm trying to find more economical transmitters.

July 27, 2008 5:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

heh heh heh...
( rubbing hands together ; )

The Microsnoot:

( this is for them of us who wanna make one right )
Froogle: Black Straws

August 04, 2008 9:29 AM  
Blogger Bladeslapper said...

The post on the definition of Gobo above is correct. Gobo refers to a device placed between lenses of a lantern which may be focused. It is usually made from glass or aluminium and serves to project a pattern which is cut or etched into it.

These devices described here would be (as stated) more correctly referred to as "barn doors" or shutters.

August 22, 2008 12:15 AM  
Blogger Ron H said...

Bladeslapper... that definition is correct in the world of theatrical stage lighting. A slice of sheet metal with a pattern cut out of it and inserted into a leko (focusable stage light) is called a gobo.
It's really the same thing... a device to GOBetween the light and the subject to eliminate any light that you don't want.

September 08, 2008 9:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Geffers tape is a bit expensive but you can get it for free by volountering to set up at the local theater/concert. Just make sure to wear your cargo pants with big pockets... No, I don't mean steal it - just ask if you can have some of the almost empty rolls after set up is done.


December 24, 2008 4:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Geffers tape is a bit expensive but you can get it for free by volountering to set up at the local theater/concert. Just make sure to wear your cargo pants with big pockets... No, I don't mean steal it - just ask if you can have some of the almost empty rolls after set up is done.


December 24, 2008 4:15 PM  
Blogger nico0512 said...

Here is another way to maka a snoot by yourself with black paperboard and translucent adhesive tape (german):

December 30, 2008 7:26 AM  
Blogger colin j. said...

Here's a question for folks. Should the interior of the snoot be reflective/white or black? So far I've made mine so that both the interior and exterior are black (that's the only color of gaffer's tape I have right now).

Has anyone done a comparison of light from snoots with black vs. white vs. reflective interiors?

January 06, 2009 2:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

> Has anyone done a comparison of light from snoots with black vs. white vs. reflective interiors?

I suspect the white interior will result in the light spot with a softer edge. The black interior would absorb reflections in the snoot giving a more directional light and a harder edge. Anyone correct me if I am wrong.

The snoot from Lumiquest appears to have a white interior.

February 21, 2009 4:43 PM  
Blogger Matt Pavel said...

Why is everyone concerned with it looking professional?? It's a tool for crying out loud...put some character in it. Let your kids draw on them with crayons, put those stickers on em that keep piling up in your junk drawer! It'll make a conversation piece for you and your client.

February 24, 2009 12:35 AM  
Blogger sbanga said...

Did anyone try to make your DIY snoots & gobos, using blackwray aka cinefoil?


February 28, 2009 6:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In Canada go to Canadian Tire and buy ice hockey tape - less expensive than gaffer tape and more easy to come by.

May 04, 2009 2:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you are in Canada got to Canadian tire and get ice hockey tape -its cheaper than gaffer tape and easier to come by.

May 04, 2009 3:00 AM  
Anonymous Erlend said...

Don't we need an extra set of velcro on the snoot end to be able to add a gel there too ?

May 06, 2009 3:47 AM  
Anonymous Anthony Beard said...

Re: Has anyone done a comparison of light from snoots with black vs. white vs. reflective interiors?

Actually, I have. My first snoot was made with aluminum foil on the inside (my though was that a lot of light would be "wasted" traveling through the tube). This resulted in a light pattern that looked a lot more like a "plus sign" than a nice spot.

So, my next attempt was made with regular old gray duct tape on the inside. My thought: gray duct tape wouldn't reflect nearly as much light, and would keep the color neutral, since i was worried that bare cardboard would color my light. Again, big ugly "plus sign" pattern.

I made another one with BLACK duct tape on the inside. Guess what happened? Yep, still making a plus sign.

So, my last one was just a regular spaghetti box with nothing on the inside. Bingo... a nice, almost rounded spot.

Lesson: sometime simple things like "SHINY STUFF REFLECTS LIGHT" can elude a man armed with duct tape and scissors.

May 19, 2009 11:37 AM  
Blogger Barry Merinsky said...

"Is gaffer's tape really necessary? As far as I can tell, the main advantage is that it leaves less residue behind. Given that I'm unlikely to peel it off of the (expensive imported) cereal box, can I really justify the increased expense. I'd love to hear a justification, but for now I think I'll stick with duct tape."

To clarify for all on Gaffer's tape...

Painter's use painter's tape... Photographer's use Gaffer's tape. Is the easiest way for me to explain. If you don't want to spend the $$ for Gaffer's, at least go get some electrical tape. It leaves far less residue compared to duct. Yes, it may come off but do you really want duct tape on your camera gear? Electrical tape also comes in black, which is preferred to the gray/silver color of duct tape. This will help to not reflect unwanted light.

June 09, 2009 9:33 PM  
Blogger Terry Thomas... the photographer said...

For anyone in the world looking for "Gaffer's Tape". Just check with the lighting or camera department of your local TV station, film / AV production company, etc.

I am certain they will:
a. know what you are talking about
b. know where you can purchase it

BTW about a year ago on a wet winter day I was on the set of a TV commercial shoot which was in a private individual's home that had been rented for the day. (BTW, I was one of the actors, not their Stills Photographer.)

The PA (Production Assistant) told the scenery crew to bring in large flats of corrugated cardboard to put over the floor and carpet so no one would get the home owner's floor wet. He ABSOLUTELY would not let anyone use Gaffer's tape or Blue Painting Tape or any other tape to secure the cardboard to the floor. He said he had sad experience pulling up the tape after a shoot and the finish of the floor came up with it! Ouchie!!

I have read that the white boxes which dry cleaners use for cleaned folded shirts make for an excellent source of stiff cardboard. I suppose if you go to your local laundry or cleaners they will give you a box or sell it for a small handful of change. Or just have some shirts cleaned!

Terry Thomas...
the photographer
Atlanta, Georgia USA

July 27, 2009 3:30 PM  
Blogger tom_girling said...

I've had great success making snoots, gridspots & more from correx/corroplast....I've started doing a write up here:
Craftygeek - Lighting Modifiers

August 18, 2009 11:38 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

GoBo's!! the easiest type of gobo is the human gobo. I regularly stand press officers right next to a flash to block the light.

They usually wear black and I like to think it gives them a sense of self worth!!

September 12, 2009 4:25 PM  
Blogger Terry Thomas... the photographer said...

Now that Halloween is about here a lot of stores have black and organge items for parties.

Yesterday I picked up a small package of black straws at Party City in Atlanta, Georgia.

I'm willing to bet that they will not be around after Halloween so get some while you can.

If you want a large quantity of black straws check out this place:

Terry Thomas...
the photographer
Atlanta, Georgia USA

September 20, 2009 12:47 AM  
Blogger HavenCreekStudio said...

GoBO = "Goes Before Optics". In ellipsoidal lighting fixtures, Gobos are inserted between the lamp and the lens of the fixture. Clearly, they are used differently in photography, but thought you would like to know where the name came from.

December 20, 2009 8:07 PM  
Blogger Diablo said...

this site is addictive...couldn't just stop after reading first five posts...thank you

April 02, 2010 2:14 AM  
Blogger florian said...

"By the way, when you shoot with a snoot, set your flash on its most telephoto setting. No sense in wasting power by sending a wide beam of light just to block it with a snoot."

Does this mean that a flash setup to 1/4 @ 24mm will deliver more light than the same flash setup to 1/4 @ 85mm ?

I thought the flash zoom was just a matter of lens and reflector inside the flash.

June 07, 2010 8:06 AM  
Blogger Scrivyscriv said...


Hopefully this doesn't get lost in the comments but a mod you can do on the snoots, gobos & grids is just one more step beyond this post.

If you're making a cardboard snoot or gobo or grid, you can just as easily fiberglass it and have a way more professional-looking set up. Fiberglassing isn't difficult at all, requires minimal skill, and you can get 3 or 4 items worth of materials for +-$20 USD at most auto parts stores. Fiberglass is lightweight, strong & durable, and takes paint well.
This works especially well with the coroplast grid mentioned later on in the blog. I recommend molding a tab onto the flash end of the modifiers & gluing velcro to it to keep things from slipping when you point the flash at a negative angle.

June 11, 2010 4:51 PM  
Blogger Lyzography said...

I use an 8x11 sheet of black craft foam paper (find it at a craft store for $1.50), held on with black rubber band hair ties. It holds it shape, but is flexible so it can be folded back on itself to create different lengths/radius of a full or half snoot/gobo.

June 29, 2010 4:10 PM  
Blogger JClanton said...

What length do you need to have results like the first pic? The light I'm getting is coming out square like the second pic. Not ideal for the background.

December 31, 2011 11:52 AM  
Blogger Go Share Your Faith said...

One other thing that works great ala Neil Van Neikerk is a piece of craft foam held on by a rubber band (you could use velcro also) works for a flag, a snoot...or whatever you need it to just by shaping it on the fly and it costs 49 cents a sheet and can be folded up and put in the camera bag without hurting it.

January 15, 2012 5:14 AM  
Blogger Slogger said...

SB-900 case - cut open the end - inside the zipperd pouch - fold the top opening back and insert into the outside pocket - slip it ver the flash head (zipperd pouch end) - bada bing, free snoot and the case still works.

March 07, 2012 5:21 PM  

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