Last weekend I met up with fellow strobist, Gareth Dix, aka Cham128, at an undisclosed location to practice a bit of strobing. We didn't find Dick Cheney so we had to photograph each other. My model was okay but I didn't think much of his.
We were inspired by Nigel Parry's work to do some pretty hard contrast shots which required a lot of control of the light. I had brought my DIY barndoors and Gareth brought along the same brand of barn doors that were reviewed by David Hobby a while back. I was quite interested to see the difference between my ebay bought doors and Gareth's.
The first thing I noticed was that Gareth's was much smaller (his barn doors). In fact they weren't really much bigger than my DIY barn doors. The only problem was that they wouldn't fit on my SB28s. Maybe if they weren't covered in velcro they might have fitted, but we had to give up on them in the end. Secondly they were a lot less fiddly than the DIY barn doors. Fitted on Gareth's flash there was no problem using them with coloured gels, but the DIY barn doors were difficult to use with gels. I had to add velcro to the gels so I could stick the doors on. It wasn't elegant but it worked.
So provided that they fit your flash and you don't mind a little extra bulk, they aren't bad at all. But I guess where it starts to stack up is when you want a set for each flashgun. Thats where the DIY barn doors have an advantage, because you can split the doors across multiple flashes and they are physically smaller. I guess you could carry both in your bag.
The reason we needed the barn doors was to stop any spill from the background lights from contaminating the silhouette of the subject. What we were doing was lighting a 6x4 sheet of white polystyrene with two flash guns, using the barn doors to kill the spill. The subject in the foreground was lit with tight grid aimed to just light the face and nothing else. After we had tried some white background shots we put a red gel on the background light ( we only had one gel ) and got some iconic soviet style images. Finally we cleaned the dismembered corpses out of a wire cage and placed the cage between the background and the background flash to throw some dramatic shadows on the polystyrene. It was a good day.