spotlight effect

Chasing the elusive spot light

I WANT IT! aka "GAS" (gear acquisition syndrome)

UPDATE: September 2018: I found the Bowens S-mount optical spotlight on Amazon: (Affiliate link, I will be compensated if you purchase via this link).

UPDATE: March 2019: Here is another one from Ali Express for around $250. I have not seen or tried it yet myself, but the it looks good in the advertisement. It also has the option of an Elinchrom or Profoto mount as well as the Bowens S-mount. I like that it appears to have a helical (twist) focus on the lens. If you get one of these please comment below about it. Thanks!

I've had this lust for a spotlight for some time. I've kept a web alert in place for a Norman TriLite that I could convert to work with a Speedotron pack. I have a Speedotron Shakespeare optical spot light and a Light Blaster (both available for sale). I saw Zack Arias talk about a new device with a zooming fresnel lens and I got one of those (photo of it appears below). And there is the tried and true snoot.

Profoto SpotSmall

Profoto SpotSmall

But the holy grail for me has been for a small optical spotlight. Profoto has one called the Spot Small that sells for around $1,000. Though it comes with a Profoto mount, I found that I could easily replace the mount with a Speedotron or Balcar mount and probably some other mounts. But the price was out of my range for the amount of use I expected to get out of it.

Bowens Universal Spot

Bowens Universal Spot

Elincrhom MiniSpot

Elincrhom MiniSpot

Then I discovered that Bowens had what appeared to be an identical product they called the Bowens Universal Spotlight Attachment. It cost only $575 and I wouldn't have to change out the mount to fit my lights. I considered it for a while, but still couldn't justify the cost--I kept on saving my pennies, though. Then one day I noticed that it went from Available to Backordered and to Special Order over a few days at two of the big online camera stores and that got me worried a bit. Another day or two later things got clearer as word came out that Bowens was shutting down operations. Now it is listed as Discontinued. There went that opportunity.

NOTE: It sounds like Bowens made the Profoto SpotSmall and now that Bowens is in liquidation the Profoto spot is no longer available.

That got me looking again and I found the Elinchrom Mini Spot Projection attachment for $500. But I couldn't find one to see in person to figure out what it would take to change the mount to fit any of my studio lights. And $500 was still a bit pricy for something I knew I wanted but didn't know where or when I was actually going to use it. But it did include a few gobo patterns in the price...


One day in August I somehow typed in the right combination of words in Google and was taken to the Aliexpress site. There I found an optical spot made in China for around $230 -- and it had a Bowens S-mount that would work with my Interfit lights. That was tempting, but I still kept on procrastinating. Finally, I decided my birthday was coming up in September and I would buy the thing for myself. I typed in all my info and pressed the buy button and my credit card was declined. Got a text from my bank immediately asking if it was really me making this purchase in China. I said yes and they said OK, try it again. I did, but accidentally used the wrong credit card and was again declined. But this time the site came back with a "others who looked at this item also purchased..." list that had the same spotlight from another vendor for $160 including shipping. And while the original vendor said it could take up to 30 days for delivery, this vendor said it would be about a week.

UPDATE: Now available via Amazon at

Chinese optical spotlight attachment

Chinese optical spotlight attachment

Got out the right credit card, placed the order and waited a day or so for it to process from Alibaba to the vendor. Then I got the shipping notification and I saw it. A typo in my address. I left a number out. The vendor wasn't much help in getting the address corrected, but once it was in the hands of UPS they were able to correct the address (whew!). I watched it track from China to Japan to Alaska, to Kentucky, and finally to Seattle a day earlier than promised.

The item was well packed and arrived in perfect condition. It includes a gobo holder and a few different gobos. It also has a set of 5 plexiglass filters (red, green, amber, yellow, and blue). No instructions are included, but it is a simple device and pretty obvious how to use it. My only "complaint" with the device are that the gobo holder is not standard. It doesn't look like any standard size gobos from various manufacturers will fit in it. They would have to be trimmed down, which is easy to do. As I will be using the spotlight attachment with Interfit strobes which have LED modeling lights that don't get hot, so I can make my own gobos out of black card stock (don't even think about trying this with your 250-watt quartz-halogen modeling lamps) or thin sheets of metal. 

So, does it work? Yes! Here are some images comparing a spot on the background using the optical spotlight, a snoot, a snoot with a grid, and the fresnel device Zack introduced me to. Of those the spot light and the snoot were the most effective for this use. The fresnel just doesn't seem to be tight or narrow enough for what I wanted. Let's go to the photos...

The optical spotlight attachment with 3 sizes of circle gobos and with no gobo

The snoot by itself on the second row (same distance as the optical on the left, moved in closer on the right) and with a grid on the end of the snoot in the third row (again moved in closer on the right)

The NG-10X zoomed out and then in on the second row and moved in closer in the third row

Here are a few more images all made with the optical spot and a variety of gobos and filters.

Gobo patterns and color filters on the optical spotlight on the mannequin and on the background of the selfies (main light on the selfies is a 2x3 Interfit softbox).


UPDATE: Added the three images above which were lit with the three lights. The main light is an Interfit Honey Badger with the Chinese optical spotlight. The kicker light is another Honey Badger with a 7-inch metal dish reflector and a red gel. The spot on the background is an S1 with a snoot and a yellow gel. I also joined Interfit as one of their Creative Pros and you can get a 10% discount on purchases directly from Interfit by using the code CORNICELLO10 (all caps) on the checkout page.

Now to figure out how I am going to integrate the spot light into more of my projects. Do you have GAS? What photo gear are you lusting after? Let me know in the comments below.

And, did I mention the LED modeling lights in the Interfit S1 and Honey Badger strobes? No more burnt fingers or overheating when using enclosed attachments like snoots with the modeling lights turned on. 


Spot Light effects on a budget (part 2)

Foamcore Gobo

I recently wrote about budget barndoors for your lights. Today I want to show the first of two ways to simulate spot light effects on a budget. Both methods use one strobe head. While you could possibly do these effects with speedlights, having a strobe head with a modeling lamp in it is much easier as you can see what you are doing. **This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

Today's method has a single strobe head with a standard 7" reflector dish off about 45-degrees to the left of the camera and pointing straight at the subject. In between the light and the subject is a 20"x30" sheet of black foamcore with a 9"x2" hole cut out of the middle of it acting as a gobo (short for Go-Between, something that goes between the light and the subject to modify the light). You can vary the size and shape of the hole to suit the effect you are going for. You can control the edge of the effect by the placement of the light and the foamcore. The closer the foamcore with its aperture is to the subject, the more defined the shadow will be. I know I always have to stop for a second to think this through. A way to remember it is to think of the sun as your source of light and the difference in shadow from an airplane crossing in front of the sun (soft edge, barely noticeable shadow) and the shadow cast by a street sign a few feet away from you (hard edged, well defined shadow). For the image to the right, the strobe head was about 5 feet away from the subject and the foamcore was a few inches away from the subject, almost coming into the frame.

In the second image, I placed a red theatrical gel** over the light for a different effect. Note that the gel is on the lamp, not on the slit in the foamcore. If the gel was on the slit, the white light from the strobe head would dilute the color as it bounced around the room.

Small sheets of foamcore or heavy-duty black card stock should be available locally at arts & crafts stores, department stores, sign shops, art supply stores, etc. Attach the board to a light stand using spring clamps. Another option is to use Cinefoil** instead of foamcore. Cinefoil is a heavy duty black aluminum foil that can be easily shaped and cut and can be used as here as a gobo, or you can make a snoot or barn doors.

Below is a photograph of the black foamcore with the hole cut out and a utility knife for scale. Below that is the lighting diagram for the example photos shown above.

20"x30" foamcore with slit cut out

20"x30" foamcore with slit cut out