When it comes to photography, everything comes down to light. As professional photographers, it’s hard to underestimate the need for a reflector. Sadly, they are the most underrated tools in and out of the studio. If you never used a reflector before, you may find it daunting with so many sizes, colors, and features. By the end of this post, you should know how to use a reflector by yourself, and specifically;
What is a reflector and why you need one
How to use a reflector - Deciding where to place your reflector
How to choose a reflector – size, shape, color
The primary purpose of a reflector kit is to fix shadows or prevent your outdoor images from becoming a silhouette. They are used in many ways to add interest and drama to shots. For instance, some photographers use them as hair lights when shooting outdoors.
Many reflectors feature a black side that helps to block light instead of reflecting on the subject - to replace the fill flash. These versatile tools are also important when you need to bounce a flash when there's no surface around. There are countless possibilities in how bouncing on/off light can make your photos look better.
Using a reflector is simple and straightforward – you just hold it redirecting the light the way you want it. Observe how light changes in various angles and find the angle that works for the shot you want to get. There are a few ways to place a reflector in light to achieve a number of outcomes.
Most photographers love the effect of having a natural light behind the subject. The shot is bright with a beautiful soft haze in the background. However, this tends to leave the rest of the subject shadowy.
To fix this, place your reflector at the front of the subject to redirect light to the foreground. You may want to try moving the reflector to the side to add an extra dimension to your subject. If the light is directly behind the subject, placing a reflector on the front will fix the odd shadows or prevent a silhouette.
This is mainly when you find yourself in harsh shadows under shade. Use a white reflector to diffuse light by placing it directly over the subject to achieve a dreamy portrait. If the light comes from one side, putting a reflector on the other side will help fill in the shadows. Try catching the light from the reflection of the eyes to add more drama. You can also block the light with a black reflector or a large object and place a reflector closer to it to get the most from it.
One of the biggest perks of a reflector is portability. When placed as a key light, the right reflector can help you bounce any light to add a sense of depth to your photographs. Consider distance as well. Using a large light source closer to the subject creates the softest light, while a light source that’s too far or small is more likely to form a harder light.
While the lighting is pretty even in overcast, images tend to be weak. It can also create shadows under the chin and eyes. You need to have two reflectors, one as a key light placed directly in front of the subject, depending on the position of the sun and another on the underside facing them.
For a studio shoot, a reflector is the main light source. If you want to take a headshot, you want to soften all the shadows under the chin, eyes, and any sharp features. To do this, place a reflector on the subject's lap or lay it on the ground facing the subject to avoid under-eye shadows.
Remember that it may be impossible to hold the reflector at the perfect angle, especially if you are alone, so you may need a reflector stand, or something to prop is up against. Better yet, look for someone to take with you for the shoot.
Like every other photography gear, there are numerous options when it comes to choosing reflectors with many sizes, shapes, and colors to choose from.
If you do individual portraits, you want a portable option so you can go on the smaller size. However, a small reflector is likely to create shadows. Again, getting one that’s too large can be great for fill but cumbersome outside. Seasoned photographers agree on 42" reflectors " These are fairly easy to handle and provide enough soft light. In the studio, you need a larger reflector to diffuse light over a larger space.
Shape is also a key consideration as it shapes the light. To get the most out of your reflector's shape, try to catch creative lights, such as those reflected from someone’s eyes. This way, you’ll get dreamy sparkles in those eyes.
Using a range of colors can bring about a variety of effects to your subjects. Silver is great for getting high contrast images by increasing the highlights. Gold creates a warm fill and makes the pictures appear natural in sunsets and indoor portraits. White, on the other hand, is magical when used as a fill light source as it provides a neutral-colored bounce.
Black is found in most reflectors because it helps to block or subtract light. If you have light from a reflective surface such as water, metal, or glass, you can use a black reflector to block the light. A piece of translucent fabric is excellent for diffusing light and adding a soft effect.
Whether you need a reflector to reflect, absorb, block, or diffuse light, a reflector is a must-have when working outdoors or in the studio. It's a highly versatile and least expensive, yet the most underrated lighting tool by most photographers. No matter the shapes, sizes, and colors you might think of, there are numerous reflectors for sale to choose from.
Posted in: Camera basics