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How to build your cheapo lighting modifier system

Being a keen reader of David Hobby's Strobist blog, I started to build my own lighting modifiers. After a first trip to the hardware store, my strobes were equipped with Velcro straps. Cardboard snoots, gobos and straw-based grids followed immediately and the shooting began.

I need guns, lot's of guns...

Maybe I'm a bit clumsy, but soon my new homemade gear started to wear off. It began with the carefully taped Velcro on my speedlights. Each time I pulled something off the strobe, the Velcro was also pulled off. Ok, the glue on the adhesive strip wasn't terrific, but glueing them permanently was out of the question, the impact on the strobe's resale value would be too high.

Also my sophisticated cardboard mods showed tears and crinkles as they didn't support well being transported in my camera bag.

Something new needed to be done, but I didn't want to spend a fortune. After some web research, I collected the best ideas from fellow strobists to build the foundation of my own cheapo lighting mod system (tada!).

That's all you need to build this lighting mod system: Velcro strips, foam rubber, a cutter and a ruler

Get a grip on the strobes

My major inconvenience was the Velcro on the strobe. Throwing away the idea of a permanent connection to the strobe was the key. So I build a Velcro strip, one side soft with loops, the other hard with hooks. It can now be attached to any strobe, doesn't stick to your bag, when you try to take the strobe out and doesn't leave glue traces on the strobe. I always put the soft side facing the strobe, so the strobe shows no signs of wear.

The two-sided Velcro strip. Loops an one side and hooks on the other

The length was calculated simply by wrapping it around the biggest strobe head (it automagically fits on my smaller strobe!). Cost: negligible (10 ft. Velcro is € 3.50 or $4.90 at my hardware store.

New mods in 5 minutes

Next obstacle was the cardboard. I replaced it by a material that is in German called Moosgummi (I guess it's foam rubber in english). It's soft, light, flexible - and cheap. A sheet of 30 x 40cm (12 x 16 in.) is €1.5 or $2. From one sheet, I got 2 snoots and 2 gobos.

To build a snoot, first measure the size (in my case to fit a speedlight 580 EX II, it's 15 x 30 cm or 6 x 12 in.) and cut it from the sheet. Then, glue a strip of Velcro (loops) to the bottom of the future snoot, but leave 5cm or 2in. on one side uncovered, because you'll need some overlap. This allows you to attach the snoot to the Velcro strip that is sitting on your strobe.

Now add another loop strip at a 90 degrees angle and a hook strip on opposite side to allow the sheet to be closed. The adhesive strips can finally be fixed with a stapler, so they won't go off.
Also, I used staplers to avoid the Velcro from detaching.

Inside of the snoot: Velcro with loops

On the outside Velcro with hooks

This snoot forms a beautiful round opening, is easy to transport as it unrolls flat and the best thing is, that you can change the size of the opening as needed, by closing it tighter to the end.

You can even build a zoom snoot by wrapping a 2nd sheet around the 1st that is attached to the strobe. Image quality wise you'll notice no difference compared to the prime snoot ;-)

After cutting out the two snoots, I had a piece of foam left that I transformed to a gobo by glueing again a strip of Velcro onto it. I glued the strip parallel to the longer side, so I can vary the length of the gobo. Because the strip to attach the mods goes all around the strobe head, you can easily attach more than one, which gives you a sort of barn doors.

Length adjustable gobo

Last, but not least, you can use what's left from the foam to make a gel holder. No more need to glue Velcro on your gels. I made mine simply by cutting into the foam and attaching again a Velcro strip with loops.

The gel holders

These mods are extremely economical, lightweight and transport very well. Made from black foam they even give you a cool pro-look ;-)

Of course, if you neither have the time nor the tools to make these mods yourself, I can offer you to build a complete set. Just send me a mail.

Unfortunately, sometime later I discovered that someone already commercialized my idea, before I even had it - but I forgive him.

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