DIY snoot for a Hollywood effect

Over the weekend I had a wonderful wedding up in New York. I got to join Stephanie & Sam as they held their ceremony in Scarsdale and then dined and danced the night away at the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx.

Something I do quite often in big reception halls like this one is to put up a couple of Alien Bees (with those DIY gobos) on one side of the room to augment the ambient. This gives me the flexibility to move around just about anywhere in the room, and as long as I remember to stop down when I'm closer to the lights and open up when I'm in a far corner I'm good to go.

At this reception, Stephanie and Sam did something that is very common at weddings: after a modest first dance, they invite everyone else out on the dance floor to join them. Once this happens, it's kinda hard to visually isolate them in the crowd so that they stand out and appear to be the center of attention, because the ambient is falling pretty evenly on the whole scene.

Stephanie & Sam stand out in the crowd on the dance floor.

So this time, I tried something a little different by adding one light to the mix, focused just on them. My assistant had a speedlight on a monopod with a homemade snoot around the flash so that it would just light the couple, wrapping them with some nice rimlight that separated them out from everyone else. With a bit of careful aiming, she was able to aim the light on the bride & groom like a spotlight and I could then drop down my exposure to about two-thirds of a stop under the ambient. The result? They pop out in the crowd, making it look like their having their own little private dance. Just like the big movie stars!

It even works once the crowd gets much closer in, though you risk lighting up some of the people around your main subjects. Still, it's a technique that I'll use more in the future, always adding to my bag of lighting techniques. I made the snoot from a sheet of soft foam I bought at a craft store for about a buck. One sheet can be cut down to make 3-4 snoots, and you can get fancy with velcro to fasten them or you can just throw a rubber band around the outside when you cover your flash. Because it's soft foam, you can fold it up and stick it in your pocket or your camera bag without worrying that you're damaging something valuable, and it usually pops back in to shape nicely.

My little snoot on a monopod throws a narrow beam
of light,
and can be moved around by my assistant.

You can see my edit of images from the wedding here..


Darrell said...

I like it! Gonna make one too!

Thomas said...

Go for it! I've made about 10 of these in the past year, and what's nice is you can modify them on the job (I keep a small multi-tool in my lighting bag, so I can cut them to suit my needs while I'm on the job) without really wasting any money. They really have been a valuable addition to the bag, at a very low cost.