Snoot Photography Made Easy: Backscatter MF-01 & OS-01

If you follow underwater photography in diving magazines or online it’s more than likely that you have seen the product of snooting in the form of stunning macro-shots with black backgrounds and perfectly spotlit critters. If you’ve been wondering how photographers are capturing these images or what ‘snooting is’, here we explain the basics and review the new Backscatter OS-1 Optical Snoot and MF-1 Mini Flash combo.

Snooting is a lighting technique, which unlike shooting with strobes or video lights which produce wide beams of light, snoots produce a very narrow beam which can be used to highlight – or spotlight critters. This narrow beam makes it much easier to achieve that highly sought after black background and creates wonderful contrasts between the subject and the negative space around it.

Backscatter snoot
Mantis shrimp with eggs shot with a Sony a7iii using the Backscatter OS-1 and MF-1 combination

Snooting is a technique which is perfectly suited to shooting in Lembeh where macro critters rule the day. Photo Pro James Emery says that, “the Lembeh Strait is ideal for using snoots which automatically lend themselves to shooting macro”.

James is a fan of the new Backscatter MF-1 and OS-1 combo which he says is, “the most powerful snoot I’ve used in terms of output. It also makes it even more possible to make a darker background on bright, sunny days and/or in shallow water”.

In this Blog, James explains the benefits of shooting with this new light and snoot combo from the team at Backscatter.

“The MF-1 is compatible with any camera housing which has a fibre optic port which makes it an option for a huge range of rigs. The MF strobe comes with the OS-1 which it was designed to work with – this automatically overcomes the common problem of focus lights and main lights not matching up exactly.

Backscatter snoot rig
The small size of the MF-1 and OS-1 makes it highly versatile underwater and it can be paired with any housing which has a fibre optic port

When snooting we need the focus light to be on so that we can see where we are firing at our subjects. Usually, strobes have a focus light which is off center or directed toward the center, however, when that is attached to the snoot, the focus light is not always exactly indicative of where the main light will fire. This isn’t a problem with the OS-1 and MF-1 combination, which actually makes this a unique product on the market. What you see is what you get; when you fire, it is in the same spot as the focus light indicated it would be.

Also on most other strobes you cannot adjust the focus light power, only the main light power setting. On the MF-1 you can adjust the focus light power too across three settings”.

Cuttlefish snoot Lembeh
This image was shot with the MF-01 / OS-1 paired with an Olympus TG-6 compact camera

James says it’s the easiest snoot to use because you can line up the subject and see what you are going to capture before you take the shot. It makes life a lot easier underwater and means that snooting alone is much more possible, “You can move it around on your own whereas some snoots are much harder to handle and require a lot more effort. Its compact size makes it possible to use in situations where you might not be able to use a larger snoot. Up until now snooting has been a technique mainly used by experienced photographers and profesessionals but the MF-1 and OS-1 combo have suddenly made snooting a technique that can be experimented with by many more underwater photographers. This is a great addition for those who have some experience shooting underwater and who are looking to improve their macro shots and try out new lighting techniques”.

The combo comes complete with a range of aperture cards which includes both circular and oval cards. The oval cards are ideal for shooting elongated subjects such as a nudibranch, but when used thoughtfully they can also be used to deliver a circular light spot when shooting at an angle. By turning the oval card horizontal you can prevent the light beam from elongating with the angle and make a round light spot without needing to be directly overhead with the light aimed directly down. (see video below)

For anyone who wishes to try shooting with the new MF-1 and OS-1 combination, they are available for rent (and soon to purchase) from our Photo Center, so why not try before you buy and discover the effects of snooting for yourself on your next trip to Lembeh?

If you’d like to find out more about snooting and other lighting techniques, James is also available for one on one underwater photography courses. For more information about course availability and/or other items available for rent or purchase from the Photo Center, contact us.

Coleman shrimp snoot
The narrow beam of light produced by a snoot creates a spotlight effect and helps to create black backgrounds
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