Recently, I've developed a taste for macro photography and have a question concerning the light.

I'm currently shooting with a Sigma 105mm Macro + Kenko extension tubes. I have an older model of the Sigma lens, without internal focusing, so in order to achieve 1:1 magnification, the lens has to extend to the maximum. This, combined with extension tubes, makes this lens very long. I'm also using a Nikon SB-900 speedlight but I never shoot directly at my subject. I always tilt the speedlight (30 to 40 degrees) and use the bounce card to diffuse the light. In order for the light to reach the front of my lens, I almost always have shoot full power. This is quite problematic as the speedlight takes some time to recharge and my batteries usually last approximately 2 hours.

I want to make a home-made snoot in order to channel the light, which will save the batteries and I won't have to shoot full power. I don't want to spend money on expensive flash benders so I decided to use a thick piece of black cardboard that I can cut into whichever shape I want.

My question is: Do I have to cover the interior of the snoot with tin foil or white paper?

I noticed that most soft boxes, snoots and flash benders have interiors covered with either shiny or white surfaces in order to diffuse or reflect light. I don't want to diffuse the light but channel it. I can attach a diffuser to the end of my snoot to diffuse the light. Do you think that thick black cardboard is enough? After all, the black cardboard surface will channel the light instead of absorbing it?

Thanks you and I'm looking forward to reading your comments.


  • 1
    On a different note, you can get a remote flash trigger set for 25 dollars and then physically move your flash closer/out of the way of the lens. – rfusca May 21 '12 at 17:35
  • Surely black is the worst colour for channelling light precisely because it does absorb it? Tin foil is the way to go I think. – ElendilTheTall May 21 '12 at 17:45
  • I'm a little confused. You started by saying that you set the flash at an angle to get diffuse light. But then you explain that you want to build a snoot, which will better focus the light and effectively make it less diffuse. Right? – Dan Wolfgang May 21 '12 at 17:59
  • Dear Dan. Yes I started shooting with the flash at an angle and used the bounce card. This however uses a lot of power in order for the light to get where I want it. That's why I want to channel the light with a snoot and then diffuse it with a diffuser attached to the end of the snoot. – Greg May 22 '12 at 9:04

Avoid black, it will absorb light. White is good enough, foil is better. The longer your snoot, the more important it is to use foil or at least a white surface.

If you really want to extend the light as far as possible, fill the snoot with plastic drinking straws and make a "grid". I made a very short grid out of one of those small cereal boxes you get in packs - fits over my flash perfectly. It's only 2-3" long, filled with straws, and it concentrates the light amazingly well. Without the straws you get a lot of bouncing and the light spreads more.

Also make sure you zoom your flash if you want to get the most reach.

  • Straws would produce more directional light - like a grid. But do they really concentrate it? – rfusca May 21 '12 at 19:29
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    A grid blocks the light. It doesn't concentrate it. Sometimes you want a small spot of light, and a grid directly on the speedlight works well. – Pat Farrell May 22 '12 at 3:44
  • Yes I think they concentrate it. I used a snoot, plus this "grid" thing with straws, and the pattern of light on the wall was much narrower and defined with the grid. Less spread out, so more concentrated. The opening of this contraption is the same size as the flash head, so it's not blocking any light. – MikeW May 22 '12 at 6:02
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    "any light"? The grid itself blocks light. The end of the straw itself has an area, and it blocks light. Maybe not a lot, but definitely more than zero. I agree, its narrower and well defined. not spread out. But it does this by blocking light that was trying to spread. – Pat Farrell May 22 '12 at 15:40

You should consider one of the low cost or even DIY ring flashes. Most small subjects do better with a ring. Strobist has lots of information on them.

  • Thanks a lot. I think I'll try the Meike ring flash. It's quite cheap. – Greg May 22 '12 at 9:02

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