(The above image – the light was directly above and behind her. I needed light in her face – so I used the transparent reflector to bounce light into her face from the sun.)
Each photographer has their own “can’t live without’s”. My personal can’t live without gear is my light reflectors. A favorite of mine is the 5 in one reflectors. I use everything with my reflector, including the cover. There have been times when I use the cover to lie down on so I don’t get as wet as I could or dirty. The reflector itself though, is great because of the different options it offers.
(This image of Samuel was done mid day and the light was coming down on him. The shadows were so heavy and there were no catch lights in his eyes. I used the transparent reflector to throw just enough light into his face and another reflector to block some of the sun so it would not be as harsh.)
Why use a reflector?
A reflector has several uses; but the main use is in its name, it is a reflector. It will reflect light. If you have a subject that is shaded heavily in their shadows, you can bounce the light off the reflector and into those shadows – so the contrast is not too strong. You can correct the exposure of someones skin vs the background by adding light by using a reflector.
What do I mean by this? Well, if you use OCF (off camera flash) the light can be too strong and the the shadows my contrast too heavily. To fix this, you bounce the light into the shadowed portion of your subject.
If you are someone like myself, who likes to shoot using natural light – you will find you are in areas where the light is not quite available and need a slight boost. You search for the light source and use the reflector to bounce it at your subject. By doing this – you can get the amount of light you really need to be properly exposed without going overboard.
Another use for a reflector is to diffuse the light! One of my favorite uses of a reflector. I have found that in some places and times the sunlight can be dappled or just too strong. I will then use the reflector by having it block the light source that is hitting my subject. This will balance out the tones to create a lovely even light on my subjects.
(In this image of Miriam I had to use the reflector to block the dappled light that was coming through the trees and another reflector to soften the shadows on her face.)
Which reflector is best?
Reflectors come in so many different sizes. It comes down to preference and your project. Some reflectors are so large that they require a bit more time and assembly. Those are often used for bigger productions. For a smaller group or individual person or small setting, the large hand held work great. If you are traveling or moving around a lot you may just want a mini one that will help with the face shots.
I usually have 4 reflectors available with me at each shoot. I have 2 mini ones (12″) and I have 2 collapse large oval ones (long side is 72″). The ones I have are all 5 in one reflectors. I am currently looking to buy a very large one: Sunbounce Sunbounce reflectors are held by stands and are very large.
You want to think about
COLOR – what color of light are you wanting or needing?
PORTABLE – do you need to tote it around or will it be in your studio?
SHAPE – what shape will suite your needs best?
SIZE – how large is the space or subject you need to reflect light onto or area?
What are the different types of Reflectors?
Boards – Craft and Hardware stores will carry different types of boards that work fine. You can get white or silver boards at different sizes that will work just fine. The cost of going this route is minimal. Often around $10 or so depending on size.
Collapsible – Collapsible Reflectors are great for storage. They fold in on themselves and are very light weight, making it easy to travel with. The cost of these can be anywhere from $25 to $65 depending on where you purchase through and the size(s). As I mentioned above, there are some which are 5 in 1. 5 in one refers to the colors. The colors are Gold, Silver, Black White, and transparent.
The colors are significant. Using a gold reflector will give your images a warmer boost. The silver reflector is a stronger reflection (brighter light that it throws at the subject), but has no color that it will add. The black works as a shade or stronger shadowing for when you want to create more mood or add more contrast. The white is used as a softer fill. Your highlights will not be as strong with the white reflector as the silver. The transparent is the most versatile of all of them, in my opinion. It is the one I use the most as well. You can use it as a diffuser for your OCF or for the sun. The bounce of light is also much softer as well. If you do not want to add much light – (minimal) the transparent reflector works great for that.
Panal – These are harder to set up and often have a frame around it and stands. The advantage that these give is the size of them! These work as diffusers or as reflectors. If you have a large group or if you need the assistance of stands – these can be handy. Not only that – they look very very cool! 😀 You will need a couple of people to help you with the shoot when using these though. Not as convenient as your collapsible reflector.
How do you use a reflector?
Photography Life has a great article for using a reflector HERE
How to collapse a collapsible reflector Video
Outdoor shooting with a reflector Video