Speedlight Troubleshooting: How to Use a Snoot

Beautiful golden tones of light, and the warm feeling it produces, can be desirable in many instances when photographing. However, we may not always want our subjects to be washed with the same yellow light. Steve Russell, a Canadian news photographer, shows us the basics of using a snoot to get precisely lit shots of your subject while keeping the atmospheric tones:

When your strobe is set to the highest zoom available yet can’t produce a narrow enough beam of light, there are many options available to create a quick snoot. Cutting out the bottom of a coffee cup and placing it over your flash is one of the easiest (and cheapest) methods, as demonstrated by Russell. Using pliable materials like Cinefoil, commonly known as “black tack”, will allow you to create precise shapes for snooting.


You can easily make a versatile snoot with Cinefoil.

“To really take advantage of this technique, I find it best to get the strobe off-camera.”

Russell mentions using a radio slave device which can be put on top of your camera to trigger the flash. Most speedlights can be purchased with built-in remote technology to the same effect.

How to Set Up Your Snoot

  1. Use the zoom on your strobe. The higher the zoom setting, the narrower the beam of light.
  2. Try setting up your flash off camera.
  3. Dial up your ISO.
  4. Dial down your shutter speed to expose for the ambient light.
  5. Set your white balance to flash setting.
  6. Put the snoot—anything from a coffee cup to foil —around your flash to focus the beam of light precisely on your subject.
  7. Shoot, and continue experimenting!
tips to use snoot

Russell uses a single snoot to brighten the subject, yet keep the warm glow of the ambient light.

tip for snoot

Experiment using two snoots and create dynamic portraits.

A cheap coffee cup, Cinefoil, regular foil, cardboard, or even a newspaper can be bent or rolled into shape to create a very simple snoot. With a bit of research you will find endless materials and tutorials for creating your perfect snoot.

In this video Russel uses a Canon 1D Mark III and a Canon Speedlite 580EX E-TTL II Flash 

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