Our July cover story is about the possible demise of the little bee in our neighborhood. A sad prospect to be sure.

Want another insider scoop? The above concept photo was pieced together using stuff around my home.

Here’s a shopping list of what I used:

—Nikon D800
—105mm f/2.8 macro lens
—Two SB-900 flash units
—Gaffer tape
—Flash stands
—Two dozen dead bees
—White seamless
—8×10 sheet of glass (from a photo frame hanging on my wall)
—Spray bottle
—Poster tube (from having ordered large prints)
—Black drinking straws (a gift from a friendly neighborhood bar)
—Sheet of white printer paper

It’s really the last three ingredients I wanted to draw your attention to: It’s how I achieved that spotlight on the center bee.

You see, there’s this thing called a snoot—a typically conical light modifier that’s simply a barrel for focusing light. Snoots come in different shapes and sizes, but they seem to always come in one of two price ranges: super-cheap and you-can’t-be-serious.

I don’t actually own a snoot, not the manufactured variety anyway, so I made my own. Here’s how:

I took a poster tube large enough to fit over a flash head and sawed off a 10-inch section using a serrated bread knife. Then I filled the tube with black drinking straws to create what’s called a grid (to help further focus and soften the light output). After that, I curled a piece of white printer paper into a funnel which I taped to the end of the straw-filled tubed. The completed contraption resembled a pointy grain silo.

Finally, I wiggled the unit onto the flash head and then painstakingly aligned it with the center bee. Easy, right? Aside from the time investment, it actually was.

The most difficult part of the project was probably having to explain myself to my wife when she asked, “Why are there dead bees in our refrigerator?”

So the next time you’d like to shape light on the cheap, consider using household items. You might be surprised how easy it is to achieve the kind of professional-looking results that would make MacGyver nod in approval.