How to use a reflector in photography? In photography, light is the most important factor. Without it, we obviously cannot take images.
A photographic reflector is one of the most essential (and frequently underappreciated) lighting tools you should have on hand, both outside and inside the studio. Both artificial and natural light can be reflected, blocked, or flagged using it. Once you start using it, you might never stop.
Here is a quick tutorial on choosing and utilizing a reflector to improve your photography.
How to use a reflector in photography?
Uses of a Reflector (The Basics)
First, reflectors bounce light, as I mentioned previously. As light bounces off at the angle from which it enters, you must precisely position your reflector to achieve the greatest results.
It’s pretty common to hold a reflector either at chest level or beneath the chin of a portrait subject. This is because shadows in these areas are frequently present in portraits and may be easily eliminated with a reflector in the right location.
The reflector is frequently placed in opposition to the light source. This will guarantee that your subject isn’t overly sharply lighted while adding additional light to the scene’s gloomy sections.
Remember that if you’re having trouble positioning your reflector, you can always move it slowly across your subject to observe how the light shifts. This is also helpful preparation for reflector work in general. It enables you to check that you are not overlooking other, better reflector angles and gives you an understanding of how the light and the reflector interact to produce various effects.
A companion holding the reflector is helpful, especially if placed off the side. However, you can request your subject to carry the reflector below their chin, hold the reflector with a light stand, mount your camera on a tripod, and hold the reflector while controlling the camera using a remote.
How should I choose a reflector?
Reflectors, in contrast to most camera accessories, are quite affordable. That’s fantastic news since you can choose the best suits you. They come in myriad options, much like every other photography gear. There are now a few details you should think about, starting with:
The light is softer when the reflector is larger. Therefore, you might consider using a bigger reflector size if you want an exceptionally delicate, gentle, even effect.
Despite this, larger reflectors are considerably more difficult to handle because you don’t want to carry around something the size of a wall. For this reason, you’ll frequently need to compromise between size and mobility.
I’d also advise considering your subject’s size. You won’t need much lighting if you shoot still lifes, tiny product setups, or single portraits, enabling you to use a smaller reflector.
A modest reflector won’t do the trick for photographing large crowds of people because it will only light a select handful of your subjects while casting the rest in shade. Make sure you have a beautiful, big reflector to work with at that point.
The color of your reflector can significantly affect your photographs. It can also indicate if you want a reflector that serves a variety of purposes or one that is very specialized.
There are several more typical colors right now, but if you dig hard enough, you can buy reflectors in just about any color.
Having said that, the conventional colors are well-liked for a reason—they’re practical in many circumstances—so I advise you to start with one of these. Later, as you gain experience with reflector photography, you can buy more and more reflectors for your collection.
Following are the typical reflector colors and some reasons for their use:
- The white reflectors come first. Because they are so versatile and neutral, these are my particular favorites. A white reflector can produce gentle, even light, which is excellent for most portraits and will benefit you significantly as a photographer. Choose white if you’re unsure which color to choose.
- Second, silver reflectors are far more striking and will give you an appearance that is heavier in contrast. A silver reflector is an excellent tool if you want more dramatic shots. Also, keep in mind that silver reflectors produce more light than white reflectors, creating a more pronounced “light source” effect.
- Third, while gold reflectors have a snappy quality (similar to silver), the impact is warmer, making them ideal for shooting at dawn or dusk. I’d suggest only a choice if you also have a white reflector.
There are several “translucent” options available when you look for reflectors, but these aren’t reflectors. While they are quite handy in and of themselves, diffusers are supposed to be held up between your subject and the light to give a soft effect. They are not as practical as reflectors, and the result won’t be identical.
The shape also has an impact. Consider using reflectors as catchlights or a light reflected back into someone’s eyes in addition to figuring out the light’s shape. The shine in those eyes will depend on the reflector’s shape.
Even though all reflectors are just fabrics intended to bounce light, some reflectors have practical qualities that make them considerably simpler to utilize.
Working with a reflector will be significantly easier if it has a handle because you can hang it from light stands. If you have a helper, you might not need this, but if you plan to work by yourself a lot, it can be really helpful.
Since they are much more portable, you should also consider purchasing reflectors that fold up and fit into a compact bag (especially if you’re the kind of photographer who does several photoshoots in the field).
How to Make the Most of Natural Lighting and the Outdoors with a Photography Reflector
Consider these elements when capturing in natural light, especially when selecting where to position your reflector.
The result is either a subtle haze in the background or a lovely rim light illuminating the subject. The remaining subject is cast in shadow, which is the sole issue. You can bring smooth, even lighting to the front by positioning a reflector in front of the subject. You may add a little drama and dimension to the picture by controlling the number of shadows by tilting the reflector to one side.
- Overcast and Heavy Shade
Because of the exact flat lighting it creates, I prefer to shoot in cloudy situations. Unfortunately, despite being even, the light is frequently quite low. If you are careless, this thin source of light can also cast dark shadows around the eyes and along the chin. I typically use one or two reflectors to reduce the shadows. Depending on which side of the subject receives the most sunshine, I position one immediately beneath them (or in their lap if they are seated) and another to either side. The side reflector provides the main light.
If I’ve positioned my subjects in front of a cluttered background, I aim to bounce sufficient light off them to make them stand out. Sometimes, to illuminate the shot, the helper must be moved in close and edit them out afterward. If you choose this method, set up a tripod, take a plate shot, and then edit the images to make a composite. You will spend far less time editing if you do this. Although flash would be preferable in this situation, reflectors can be used in a pinch.
To prevent sharp shadows or uneven lighting when in the shade, you might still need to filter the light. The reflector’s sheer white fabric can be used for this. Simply put the photograph reflector between your subject and the sun to balance and flatter the light.
Four Situations Reflectors Are Necessary
You should carry a reflector in these four scenarios if you want to take beautiful pictures. Of course, there are many other situations when a reflector can be useful, but these are the ones where you’ll notice yourself using one again.
Put them in your thoughts. And make sure you have a reflector on hand when you know they’re about to happen. You’ll be delighted with the outcome!
- When taking portraits in the backlight
Backlight is a favorite of portrait photographers for good reason. It can produce lovely background blur and give your subject a pleasant rim-lit effect that sets them off from the background to give the image depth. Additionally, the backlight stops your subject from blinking by keeping them from looking directly into the sun.
The front of your subject is dark compared to the background when using backlight so that the face may be underexposed or the background may be overexposed.
You can, however, use a reflector instead of picking between these two disagreeable possibilities. Then place it in front of your subject to reflect sunlight back onto their face. This will guarantee that you capture both a lovely background and a subject that is incredibly bright and precise.
However, be careful when using a gold or silver reflector because you don’t want to focus the light on your subject’s eyes. You’ll temporarily blind them, which is a horrible decision for various reasons.
Therefore, carefully place your reflector to maximize the sun’s light without creating any issues.
- When capturing dim spots
For example, a guy standing on a dark street will frequently have harsh, unsightly shadows beneath their eyes and chin if the subject is placed above the surface. That’s not the best outcome, which is where a reflector comes in quite helpful.
Put the reflector at the subject’s chin position (and feel free to try different placements until you find the best position) By reflecting the light back up, and this will stop any undesirable shadows from forming. I suggest using a white reflector since it will produce a wonderful, mellow fill effect that will look natural.
By the way, if you’re capturing a person on a dark surface and don’t have a way to support the reflector behind their face, you can always have them sit on it instead. The outcome will be identical if the reflector is sufficient and the subject is close enough to the ground.
- When taking pictures under the sun
Shadows cast by bright sunshine are terrible. And because they make people’s faces into a tangle of sharp edges and contrast-heavy lines in portrait photography, this looks awful. Currently, one choice is only to take photos when the lighting is favorable, such as in the early morning and late evening or during cloudy noon.
The issue is that some people won’t agree to have their photo shot at certain times, and you can’t forecast the weather beforehand. For example, you might plan a photo shoot for the evening only to discover that the sky is too cloudy to produce some lovely golden light. This is why you’ll need a reflector as a backup plan.
Make every effort to lessen the dark shadows cast behind your subject’s eyes, nose, and chin if you take a picture during the middle of the day. A white reflector, which will reflect light back up and keep your photo from appearing excessively bright and contrast-heavy, is an easy way to accomplish this.
To bounce the light back up, you should set the reflector under your subject’s chin, though you can always try out a few positions to get the exact result you desire.
Because a reflector isn’t that perfect, you’ll probably still get sharply illuminated backdrops and a slight, unsightly shadow on your subject. But the reflector will make the photo appear much better!
- Split lighting
The light source is placed immediately on one side of the subject in a split lighting technique. You get a pretty dramatic, dimly illuminated effect from it.
You’ll frequently see this “dramatic” style in moodier portrait photographs because it’s quite popular. However, there is a decent alternative if you prefer split lighting but don’t want such a dramatic impact. You can place your light across one half of your subject for the split.
However, if you put your reflector on the opposite side of the subject, some light will be reflected back onto that side. This will preserve some detail on the side that isn’t lit while still giving you the dramatic split lighting effect you want.
I sincerely hope my pointers on how to get the most out of your photos by using a reflector were useful. Bouncing light off a reflector creates a huge, soft light source when working inside or outside the studio. It is one of your lighting arsenal’s most affordable and adaptable tools. You won’t run out of possibilities because there are so many different sizes, shapes, and materials. A reflector will help focus and define your photographs whenever a light source is present an off-camera flash, or the sun.
FAQs on How to Use a Reflector in Photography
How does a reflector work in photography?
A reflector is just a piece tool that reflects light in photography. Instead of producing light as a flash does, a reflector only focuses on the light that already exists or, in some cases, the light coming from a flash or studio light.
Where do you position reflectors?
Simply position a reflector in the opposite direction of your primary light source. To soften all of the strong traits and shadows beneath the eyes and chin, you can also put a reflector in the subject’s lap or directly in front of them at an angle.
What shape of the reflector is best?
The most popular reflectors are probably circular ones, ideal for portrait photography because they produce lovely, spherical catchlights in your subject’s eyes. For larger subjects that demand more light, rectangular reflectors are effective.