Saturday, 9 August 2008

How to make barn doors

If you saw my barn door review last week, you will have seen that I was uncomfortable with the size of the rig. If you are going to carry around something fragile and flimsy, why not make it portable and do double duty.

Given that my flash is covered in velcro for attaching gels, I thought it would be possible to create barn doors that can be attached directly to the flash. All I needed was a hinge mechanism that would allow the doors to be set in different positions.

I realised that it would be possible to create the barn doors using some stiff card for the door and cinefoil as a hinge. Cinefoil is heavy duty black aluminium foil use on film sets to make light modifiers, I had some handy, but you might be able to use stiff silver aluminium foil.

The neat thing about this design is that the DIY barn doors are stored flat, take up very little room in your bag and they don't all have to be attached to the one flash, so you could split them between two or more flashguns if you want to use them as flags.

The first thing you need to do is cut some cardboard strips as wide as each side of your flashgun and about 4 or 5 inches long. You'll end up with two fat strips and two thin strips. Then cut them where your hinge is going to go. Its going to be about half an inch from the end so that you can fit some velcro to it. The image on the left shows the two thin side pieces.
3-barndoorsFor your next trick you will need to cut some strips of foil to wrap around the cardboard. I found that wrapping a two foot strip about an inch wide around the two pieces of the hinge gives enough stiffness to make it work nicely. The image on the right should give you an idea of what I mean. Then you can carefully wrap velcro around the whole thing to make it look like a sticky mess professional.

Your final task is to add some velcro hooks onto the bottom of the door so that it can be attached to the flash. If you have done it all properly, the doors should bend at the hinge and stay put at whatever angle you set them to. If they don't then you probably should have used more foil.

The final result doesn't look too shabby and the individual doors can be removed if required. Because the doors aren't as wide as my ebay barn doors there isn't quite as much scope for producing a thin beam of light, but I quite like the light pattern it produces compared to the ebay doors and of course it is way cheaper and more portable than the ebay doors. It would be no hardship to keep a set in my camera bag. I think there is more tinkering that can be done with these. It might be possible to refine the shape of the doors to create wider beams or a double hinge to allow the doors to unfold to the same dimensions as the ebay doors. With something this cheap and easy to make, experimenting won't cost you a lot. Let me know if you have had a go and managed to improve on these doors.


  1. Great idea! I especially like the fact that I can multi-task my velcro that Im already using for my colored gels on my flash. Going to try this out real soon!

  2. Nice. I tried making one sort of like this last year, but I used that foam paper instead of cardboard. The problem I had with my home made version was a: my "hinge" was made out of wire - sucked. Your cinifoil hinge is brilliant! b: wasn't happy with the beam spread I got. I do have a new version that is a bit complicated, but gets an oh-so-tight beam. Still working on getting it right though. I think I'll be adding one of your cinifoil hinges.

  3. Great barn doors design by Paulo, with nothing more then some cardboard and foil. This is a great addition to any Nikon SB or canon Speedlite