What you need to know about shooting with a snoot

'How to take underwater photos using a snoot' and other questions answered

Cowrie shot with a snoot (Photo: Jonathan Lin)

Snoot shots are a breath of fresh air. There’s something about these dark beauties and the way the subject’s colours really pop. But getting the end result is no easy feat. Here’s a quick look at the fundamentals of shooting with a snoot.

What is a snoot?
A snoot is a funnel-like object used to focus a narrowed strobe light on a particular spot. There are many kinds of snoots available on the market right now; they come in various forms, with different beam shapes and sizes (for example, square beams also exist). However, the truth is you can make do with almost any ol’ funnel and it’s not necessary to spend the money on a proper snoot.

Why would one use a snoot?
To make a macro subject (or a part of a macro subject, e.g. eyes) stand out against a black background. Also, some end up using a snoot when visibility is bad (i.e. less than a metre).

How does one use a snoot?
By slipping the snoot on one (or both) of your strobes. Now, here’s the tricky bit: using a snoot without the help of another person. Yes, you can light the subject yourself, but only if you can adjust the angle of the strobe(s) while focusing on whatever it is you’re shooting. It’s extremely challenging. And that’s why most people end up getting their dive buddy or guide to hold the snoot-fitted strobe over a subject for them while they look through the viewfinder or, for compact camera users, keep their eye on the LCD screen.

As usual, getting the lighting right is not easy. Play with your strobe controls; start with a soft beam then crank it up from there.

Who can use a snoot?
It doesn’t matter if you’re a pro underwater photographer or a newbie, anyone can use a snoot. The thing is you do need to ensure you’ve got the basics down before getting yourself a snoot. If not, you’re just someone relying on others to help perfect your lighting, which isn’t ideal because the point is to be as self-sufficient as possible.

When can you use a snoot?
When you’re shooting macro subjects. A snoot doesn’t work for wide-angle underwater photography.