How to Use a Snoot (Powersnoot) to Control and Sculpt Light

A single spotlight on your subject can be very dramatic, highlighting the model but not affecting the background. But you need a special tool to focus and aim all of that light on your subject. A regular flash just won’t do because it spreads the light too much. The correct tool is a snoot.

The snoot attaches to the flash head and creates a funnel that focuses and aims light in more of a beam than a wide blast. This is much different from regular flash, which although isn’t totally diffused spreads the light much more. A snoot creates more of a spotlight, which enables you to create dramatic images in any room.

To show the idea, below is an accidental shot I took while the snoot was set up over my subject. There’s no composition or focus here. I simply fired the shot to get an ambient exposure but forgot that my master flash was still on, so the whole setup triggered. The point is you can see focusing effect the snoot has on the Speedlight.

You can see a faint glow inside the snoot, proving that not much light escapes and most of it is focused where you want it. If the snoot were off, you’d see a much bigger flash and more diffused light.

You can get all sorts of snoots, but probably the most convenient is one made to “fit all” flash heads.

ImageNotice briefly that the background is black. The camera is set to underexpose it on purpose, and you’ll see why. What I like doing with the snoot is using the beam of light to highlight and isolate a subject, as you see below. Using manual mode, I can underexpose the background or ambient light so that the sensor doesn’t even see it, and the only light it sees is from the flash. That enables me to get the following effect:

ImageAs you can see, the background is underexposed as intended, and the Powersnoot illuminates only the subject because it focuses a beam of light rather than spreading it all over. This image is straight from camera. That’s how powerful proper lighting and exposure can be. It’s a simple setup that requires only one Speedlight and a snoot accessory. You can even use the built-in flash on some DSLRs to command the second light.

If I were to open up the shutter speed enough, some of the ambient light would start to show the background. Alternatively, I could open up the aperture, which would allow not only more flash light to enter but more ambient. Aperture controls flash and ambient at the same time, while shutter speed controls only ambient, up to your camera’s max flash sync speed.

If I were to take the snoot off and use the regular flash, it would be much more difficult to underexpose the background because some of the light from the flash would illuminate it (I tried). The snoot is essential for getting all of the light to the subject and underexposing the background.

Below is just another example of how using the snoot can help you greatly control light and create dramatic effects on models. There are endless possibilities for sculpting light with multiple Speedlights and accessories. Thanks for visiting.

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