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Grids take a standard flash and make it behave like a spotlight. They're made up of a grid of channels for light to pass through (hence the name) and depending on the length and width of those channels they can radically reduce the area lit by a flash, while giving the light itself a nice falloff. You can use them for lighting small subjects, singling out a part of a whole, adding hairlights, tossing up a quick background... all sorts of things! This instructable will teach you how to convert some black drinking straws, cardboard, and adhesives into a light, durable, and effective grid for the Vivitar 285HV flash.

To build one, you will need:

- Black straws
- Non-corrugated cardboard
- Paper cutter (or scissors, or cutting wheel, etc.)
- Straight edge
- Square
- Pen
- Box knife
- Sandpaper (kinda optional)
- Masking tape
- Tube of silicone (durable and heat resistant!)
- Paper glue

Strobist recently influenced me to obtain two Vivitar 285HV flashes for some manual off-camera lighting. The're great! They're sturdy, easy to use, and last for pop after pop when filed with 2700mAh rechargables. They'd make a great addition to anyone's portable yet flexible lighting kit. Slap some grids on them and they're only that much more versatile!

Here you can see a (mostly) completed grid being lit with another identical grid positioned about three feet away. Nice light, huh? Not bad for less than $10 in materials!

So I know there's another DIY grid instructable here, but their technique is completely different, and mine's fit to the Vivitar 285HV, right? I'm not a total hack! I swear! :)

Step 1: Prepare Your Straws


Black straws make a great material for grids. They're easy to work with, durable, won't add much of a color cast to your flash, and you can get them online for cheaps. A box of 500 was less than $10, and I didn't even look that hard.

Straws also create a super smooth falloff at the edge of a perfectly circular spot of light, with just the right amount of specular highlight in the middle, in my opinion. The picture of the spot below was shot on a crappy textured wall... and it still looks smooth!

Unfortunately, my straws came individually wrapped. So strip off all that paper and compost it or something!

Exellent, thanks!<br />
Nice job, well planned and explained. I think the results (and talent of the photographer) say it all.
Just made one and its drying. I used your idea with the straws but i used silver foam board and i'm using foam sheets that you get at crafts stores to attach it to my flash. i cant wait to use it
Thanks much for this instructable, I just made one of these and works fine. :)
i like this instrtble hoping to try it soon congrats on this one i give this a +4 just for you
dangit i have a bunch of straws, but none are right. I have skinny bendy straws, coffee stirring starws, and red coffee stirring straws. Where do i get those darned black straws? I love DIY photo instructables because they always have great quality pictures :D
I must admit I caught myself wondering why I would ever want to use a spot flash.... until I saw your last picture. Now I know. Thanks. :)
What an awesome Instructable! This got my monkey brain rolling for problems I always seem to have with artificial light. Usually I wait for the light to get just right on its own, Ansel Adams style (I was taught by a student of his...), but now I'm going to keep one eye out for great "cheats" like this as I continue my foray into digi. Thanks again, and I dig the rat-personal friend of yours?
I shied away from 'artificial' light in my photography for a long time, having been swayed by the opinion of some ambient light purists early on. It's taken me a while to realize that the look I want IS artificial, mostly thanks to Jill Greenburg. Her work is so sterile, I love it! And yes, that rat is an old friend, no longer with us. Fortunatel, my partner and I have three new ratties to keep our pug & us company. :)
Very nice job. Love the pics.
Thanks muchly!
Wow, amazing photos! This is a great job too, it's amazing, very well done, great job, I hope I can try this. +1 rating. (added to favorites)
Thanks a lot, GM! It's comments like yours that keep me going. :)
No problem. :-) This is a really good Instructable, do you have anymore great ideas? I really like this one.
This came out really well! I still think you should throw up a lighting set-up shot for the lighting for this.
But the lighting set-up was so uninspired! :D

About This Instructable

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Bio: Hey folks! I'm Peter! I'm an avid amateur photographer, gamer, programmer, and wannabe artist. Of course, to be a real artist you need ... More »
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