Sometimes you just can’t find the right tool for the job. That’s why these photographers made it themselves—then sold it to the rest of us.
David Honl with flash units fitted with one of his creations, the Honl-Photo Speed Grid, designed to give light a more directional quality.
HONLPHOTO SPEED GRID: David Honl. Los Angeles, CA
A photojournalist who has covered wars around the world, David Honl has an unexpected piece of gear in his arsenal: a sewing machine. And his career took an unexpected turn due to his sewing skills. “I wore a lot of specialty clothing to shoot in Iraq,” he says. “I was always modifying it with sewing, and I was surrounded by ballistic nylon.”
Inspired by techniques for modifying shoe-mount flash light he saw on David Hobby’s website strobist.com, Honl paid a visit to the fabric district in Istanbul, where he was based at the time. He stitched up some small, sturdy reflectors and snoots for use with his shoe-mount flash units, securing them with a Velcro band wrapped around the flash head—a design that allowed the same attachments to fit on all brands.
While Honl was on assignment, a fellow photographer admired his handiwork and encouraged him to market his designs. He assembled another 100 pieces, advertised them on his website, and sold them all overnight. David Hobby wrote them up, and a large retailer in New York City expressed interest in carrying his products. “This was all done while I was overseas, sourcing materials and finding a sales agent in the U.S.,” the photographer says.
In late 2007 Honl moved to Kazakhstan to continue his photojournalism, but that didn’t slow him down. Responding to customer demand, he created new products, including the Speed Grid. A novel attachment that borrows from the world of studio flash, it places a honeycombed grid in front of the flash tube, narrowing the light beam to produce a hot spot in the middle of the image—an effect that, if used carefully, can be dramatic. “I became very good at communicating with CAD designers and injection molders over the Internet at two in the morning,” Honl says.
Honl’s success convinced him to get out of the line of fire and concentrate on his business. Now based in L.A., he splits his time between running his company and teaching lighting workshops.