If you've ever looked a photo with dramatic lighting in the style of old detective movies, you're likely seeing the effect of a snoot — a flash-modifier that directs light in a tight pattern. You can mimic the effect with straws.
The appropriately named blog LightingMods has a tutorial for turning a box of drinking straws, cardboard, and tape into a snoot for your camera flash. A snoot is essentially the opposite of diffusion — we showed you how to diffuse your flash with an old film canister and a cigarette pack — you use a snoot to tightly focus the flash into an intense area, instead of diffusing it softly around the room.
The raw materials are nearly free they're so cheap; the biggest investment you'll make is the time it takes to cut up the straws and glue/tape the whole thing together (which really shouldn't take that long). Check out the tutorial at the link below for sample pictures and a step-by-step build guide. Have a photograph-related hack of your own to share? Let's hear about it in the comments.