Quick Tip: Use a Reflector

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Sometimes, nature just doesn’t cooperate and you’re left with lighting conditions that are less than ideal for shooting. Reflectors act to redirect light in order to control shadows and highlights. They are come in different shapes, sizes and color and these all have some impact on how it’s going to reflect light towards your subject.

Size and Shape
They can either be rectangular or circular and they can be as small as 14″ or as large as 52″. The size and shape of your reflector will dictate just how much reflective light in can throw off. The larger it is, the more light it can re-direct. No worries about storage space as they’re collapsible.

The surface color dictates the quality of the reflected light. Below is a list of the most common types you will find.

1. White – produces a neutral fill light that is mainly used for portraits
2. Silver – creates a more contrasty image since it is more reflective than a white surface
3. Gold – creates a golden toned fill that is used to “warm up” the color tone of your subject
4. Black – used to reduce light in certain areas of the subject

Going through different websites, you’ll likely encounter terms like 2-in-1 and 5-in-1. These refer to the number of different surfaces the reflector has. An example of a 2-in-1 is one that has silver on one side and gold in the other. Westcott produces a 5-in-1 that has white, silver, gold, black and translucent surfaces. (The translucent surface is used to diffuse light.)


It’s cheap.
For less than $30, you can already purchase a 22″ 5-in-1 collapsible pro-spec reflector.

It helps keep the white balance consistent.
The great thing about reflecting your main light is that you are not introducing a different light source to the scene. This means that it is easier to color correct your photos since the only thing you have to worry about is the color of your main light. To achieve the same consistency with flash photography, you will need to purchase gels to match the color of your flash to the main light.

It helps control the direction of the light.
You can easily control where the highlights and shadows will be on your subject by simply moving the reflector to a spot that achieves the best results. You don’t need to purchase off-camera flash equipment to make use of directional light. You don’t even have to lug around tons of other equipment such as light stands and umbrellas.

Related Reading:
Flash 101: On-Camera
Flash 101: Off-Camera
Light Modifiers 101

Update: For those who shoot without an extra pair of hands to help with the reflector, you might be interested in the Photogenic Chameleons Assistant 3-piece Kit, with 42″ Five-in-One Reflector, Stand and Adapter, Mounting Arm with Clips. It’s slightly more expensive at $150 but it saves you the trouble of finding the most random things to prop your reflectors on.

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