The HonlPhoto Professional Lighting System; Light Shapers For Your Shoe-Mount Flash

Light-shaping accessories that define the quality and spread of light are definitely making their mark in the shoe-mount flash world. Every manufacturer has a slightly different take on how to do it and David Honl ( has come up with his own original solutions in the form of some nifty and very portable light shapers that fit practically any shoe-mount flash without recourse to special adapters. It’s called the HonlPhoto Professional Lighting System (also known simply as the HonlPhoto Speed System). These accessories can also be used with many handle-mount strobes.

The HonlPhoto Professional Lighting System
This highly portable system is handy with portraits, tabletops, close-ups, and any variety of subjects that will benefit from a shoe-mount’s light being softened, gelled, or shaped into a spotlight.
© 2010, David Honl, All Rights Reserved

“Speed” Is The Key
Softboxes have their speed rings as a quick and convenient means of attaching these light shapers to a studio flash head or monolight. The HonlPhoto Speed System has its Speed Strap. Unlike other approaches that use similar touch fastener-like materials, but which employ adhesives to secure them in place, this strap doesn’t use any glue, so it’s not a permanent fixture. Attaching and removing the strap is quick and easy. To affix in place, simply loop the strap tightly around the flash head and fasten the two hook-and-loop ends together.

From this point onward, you can attach any number of HonlPhoto accessories to the strap—in fact, the list keeps growing. Depending on which Honl accessory you’re attaching, they are normally used only one at a time. When I wanted to fashion a bounce reflector for a tabletop while keeping spill light off the set, I employed a second Speed Strap and attached a second Speed Snoot as a gobo that wrapped around the front of the flash head.

The HonlPhoto System Components
This is indeed a clever system. It’s not bulky. If you’re not carrying a laptop, you can throw the accessory pouch filled with many of the HonlPhoto goodies into the laptop sleeve of a photo backpack or messenger bag. But if that’s not doable, there is provision for attaching the pouch to the exterior of your camera bag, so you never have to leave home without it.

It’s a tough call as to which of the system light modifiers to begin with. Of course, the Speed Strap is mandatory, since everything attaches to it.

Speed Snoot/Reflector
This reflective little device does double-duty as snoot or bounce card and I’d recommend it as the first light shaper to consider in the Honl system. It’s flexible so it can be bent into shape. I’ve not only used it attached to the flash, but also as a freestanding reflector on a tabletop set (with a little patience and due diligence so it doesn’t topple over).

Raise the flash head, attach the reflector at the back, shaping it into a scoop, and it becomes a bounce reflector. Lower the flash head to its default position, wrap this material all the way around so that it forms a tube—and it becomes a snoot. To make the snoot more effective and give me a tighter spotlight, I shape it so it’s more conical than tubular at the front end.

Available as the 8” Gold-Silver Reflector/Speed Snoot, the latest version is more of a sunburst/saw-wave pattern alternating gold and silver, so it’s more subtle than a solid gold reflector. This sunburst color quality, roughly equal to the use of a 1⁄4 CTO warming gel, can be useful with people, especially when your flash consistently throws out a cool light, or to counteract the effect of using ratioed bursts, which have a shorter flash duration that usually results in a bluish color cast.

Model Car
I wanted the warm tones, hence my choice of the HonlPhoto gold-silver reflector as key light, hitting the car at an overhead angle from the right. The idea was to simulate the way car photographers light, with one large overhead bank, plus I wanted to see the warming effect from this light shaper. (For the set shot, the built-in flash on the Nikon D300 with an 18-200mm VR lens added to the exposure, somewhat neutralizing the tonality.) I wrapped a HonlPhoto silver reflector over the flash head to flag light away and prevent spill onto the car. Then I added another SB-900 on the left, aimed into the background, similarly fashioned with HonlPhoto light shapers, except that the reflector was silver. As a soft fill for the front of the car, I added the bounce panels in a V-shape.
Photos © 2010, Jack Neubart, All Rights Reserved

Other HonlPhoto Light Modifiers
If you’ve ever wanted to flag light off the subject, well, the Speed Gobo/Bounce Card will do that. It’s a fairly matte
black on one side, to block light. Flip it over and it becomes a white-surfaced bounce card. This card is rigid. Attach it to the flash head (top, bottom, or either side) where it will do the most good. That’s the beauty of the Speed Strap: built-in flexibility. I had two of these and found them equally useful shaped as a V-flat (V-shaped bounce cards) hinged together courtesy of the hook-and-loop material—again on a tabletop set. There are two grid attachments. One has a 1⁄4” grid density, the other 1⁄8”. The tighter the grid pattern, which in this case means the 1⁄8” version, the smaller the circle of light.

Beyond that there are a number of filter sets. These are acetate filters with flexible hook-and-loop material top and bottom so they can be easily secured to the flash head. There are five flavors in each set (in duplicate, since filters fade or become discolored and are otherwise damaged over time), with several sets to choose from. You can get a sampler set with 10 filters (only one each, however), which I’d recommend. Do-it-yourselfers will likely find a more economical alternative, but I for one found these ready-made filters an efficient resource without the added hassle of trying to fashion something from scratch.

In Use
I definitely had fun using the HonlPhoto Speed System. I found it versatile in a small studio setting. Since I often carry one Nikon SB-900 in my camera bag, I’d take one Speed Strap and both the silver and sunburst 8” Speed Snoots, which easily fit inside a pocket in my camera bag or photo vest. I could even see using these as handheld reflectors when shooting close-ups, or I might bring along the Speed Gobo for this purpose, using the white side to bounce light into a flower. One or two filter packs could also come in handy. Of course, I wouldn’t hesitate to bring a pouch full of HonlPhoto light shapers and filters for situations that would involve both of my SB-900 shoe-mounts. That’s the beauty of the system: you hardly know you’re carrying it until it comes time to shape the light to your needs. Then just pull it out of a pocket or pouch, attach in seconds, and start shooting.

Speed Strap: $9.95
Speed Snoot (5” or 8”): $29.95
Speed Gobo/Bounce Card: $14.95
Speed Grid: $29.95
Filter Kit: $19.95 (each)
Carrying Bag: $19.95

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