Reflector Photography Before And After

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Lighting gear prices tin push into the 4 digits. Only a photography reflector is as little as $xx. And yous can apply it to manipulate light for some serious pop.
And then how do y’all take a slice of shiny material and turn information technology into a tool capable of delivering pro-level images?
Here’s a quick guide on how to use lite reflectors for photography.

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Why Use Photography Light Reflectors

A photography lite reflector bounces existing light. And re-directs it back onto the subject. Reflectors are excellent tools for adding fill low-cal. They can besides create catch lights in portraits. And prevent a silhouette or enhance a product photograph.
And they are also affordable accessories. They don’t even need batteries, buttons or cords.
Photography reflectors are stepping stones to introduce outset photographers to lighting. But many pros use them for their power to create soft, flattering light. Right side by side to their very expensive studio gear!
In that location is nothing easier than using reflectors in photography. Unwrap and use information technology to bounce the light to where you lot want it to go.

How To Use Calorie-free Reflectors For Photography

1. Which Photography Reflector Should You Utilise

Photography reflectors are very simple tools. Merely there are a few dissimilar types. All reflectors bounce light, just a few subtle changes will affect how that light bounces.
Size is the biggest consideration. The larger a light source is, the softer the calorie-free. This is a concept that applies whether you are using a strobe with a softbox or a reflector.
A larger photography reflector will accept soft light. This creates a softer transition between the calorie-free and night areas of an image.
With a large reflector, the shadows are less noticeable. Additionally, larger reflectors tend to be more than flattering for all skin types. Y’all may want to proceed this in listen for portrait photography.
picture of two photography reflectors

Smaller reflectors create hard light. This means more noticeable shadows. And less transition between the light and dark areas of the image.
The photography light reflector likewise needs to be a bit larger than the subject. A 45-inch low-cal reflector will work for one or two people, but not large groups.
Larger calorie-free reflectors are more common because of the soft low-cal. Call back though, the larger the light reflector is, the harder it is to hold it without asking for help.
A 40-45 inch reflector is a groovy size. Anything over 50 inches gets hard to manage without recruiting some extra hands.
You can use smaller reflectors for smaller subjects and to create that harder lite.
The colour of the reflector also affects the expect of the light that bounces back. A solid white reflector will produce a very soft light.
A reflector with a argent side will reverberate more light back than the white. This creates a harsher but more powerful light. A gold reflector is like the silverish reflector, merely it will give the subject a warm glow.
Many light reflectors come in a five-in-one kit then that you have all those colours available. You tin too opt of a collapsible reflector, similar this Westcott Photo Basics kit.
It folds down to 1/3rd of its open size and is lightweight. This makes it easy to carry with you when you’re not doing studio photography.
So what are the other two reflector colours? They aren’t actually “reflectors” if you become technical.
The blackness side of the photography light reflector will block light. This can help you create your own shade.
A semi-transparent white is a diffuser. Place this betwixt the light and the bailiwick to soften the calorie-free, non reflect it.
You tin can easily find a reflector kit online. For example, v-in-1 reflectors are readily available on Amazon and, too, very affordable.
I spent less than $xxx on my starting time five-in-1, and information technology was still a rather large 42-inch size.
Shape isn’t quite every bit essential every bit size and colour. But there are several unlike shapes of calorie-free reflectors bachelor.
The shape of the reflector will change the shape of the catch lights in a portrait. So choose the shape that you’d like to run into reflected in the discipline’s eyes.
There’due south one more type to consider: shoot through reflectors. These are regular reflectors with a hole cut in the center. You stick your camera through it.
Shoot through reflectors work great for backlighting. And they tend to exist easier to manage yourself. But they’re also pricier. (Aye, you could cut a hole in a cheap reflector and brand your own).
engagement photography of a kissing couple, with attention drawn to the ring - photo was taken using reflectors for lighting

two. How to Check the Lite in Your Scene: Intensity and Location

Photography lite reflectors bounce back existing light. You need to determine how intense that light is and where information technology is coming from.
This manner y’all’ll discover out how to use that low-cal to create your image. Reflectors can bounce back any type of calorie-free. This includes studio lights, as long as at that place’south enough lite there.
Sunlight, a window or door and existing manmade lights in the scene too work. Flashes and strobes, tin can also piece of work with photography reflectors.
Start, make sure there’s enough low-cal to utilise the reflector. Camera reflectors for photographers can’t create light, so at that place has to be enough low-cal to begin with.
On a sunny day, I can apply my reflector as a fill flash for backlighting or adding creative lighting effects.
On a cloudy day, there’s not plenty low-cal to create dramatic effects. Just I can nonetheless utilise my reflector in more subtle ways to fill in shadows.
Indoors, reflectors work well with window low-cal and alongside flashes and strobes.
The management of the light will tell yous where to place the photography reflector. It has to actually bounciness back the light. And then first things first, notation where the lite is coming from.
You’ll get the brightest reflected lite straight across from the calorie-free source. Yous can use the light reflector at an angle to that original low-cal source likewise.
Pop that low-cal reflector open, and if y’all are using a five-in-1, choose your color. With a 5-in-one reflector, y’all’ll also want to consider how intense the light is.
When the sun is low in the sky and not equally harsh, I utilize a silver photographic camera reflector for portraits.
Earlier in the day, endeavor a silver reflector for photography and a bright sun. This can actually be strong enough to make a portrait subject area squint.
If the sunday is brilliant and higher in the sky, I’ll utilise white instead.
wedding photography of a bride and groom, with photography reflectors used for better light

3. How to Find the Reflective Angle

With the angle and intensity of light in heed, next find the best angle for reflecting that light.
Small changes to the position of the reflector can make big changes in where the light falls. As y’all adjust the reflector, watch how the calorie-free changes.
Just where do you start? Yous’ll concord most photography reflectors across from the lite source. But there can be some variation.
There are several different positions that often work well with a reflector:

  • Directly across from the light source.
    This will reflect the most light. It’s splendid for using backlighting. Only when the calorie-free source is correct behind the subject. Past reflecting the calorie-free back on the subject field, y’all volition keep the subject well lit. And still go out the details in the heaven intact. This is my go-to photographic camera reflector position when shooting portraits during gold 60 minutes. That’s because of the beautiful soft lighting and catchlights.
  • At an angle to the light source.
    You can’t stray besides far to the side from the calorie-free source or there won’t exist any light to reflect back. But you can experiment and stride a bit to the side of the original light source. Adjust the angle of the reflector to direct the light towards the subject. Y’all as well don’t need to hold the reflector 90 degrees from the ground either. Attempt moving the top or bottom of the reflector forward to angle the light back where y’all demand it.
  • Parallel to the footing.
    Property the reflector parallel to the light source isn’t the only choice. When taking a portrait, identify a reflector on the basis or have the bailiwick hold the reflector on his or her lap. This will fill in nether-eye shadows. This position isn’t as dramatic as belongings the reflector right across the light source. Simply it can atomic number 82 to a more flattering portrait by brightening upward the optics.

Where to hold the photography calorie-free reflector depends. Check where the original light source and the discipline are.
Across from the lite source reflects the most lite. Just endeavour adjusting that angle, even until the reflector is parallel to the basis. This tin fix unflattering shadows.
wedding portrait of a bride with reflectors used for lighting

4. What’due south the Right Distance for Your Reflector

You’ve establish the right position for the photography reflector. But how close should the reflector exist to the subject?
Kickoff you need to understand one of those universal lighting laws. The closer the light is, the softer it is.
Sunlight is hard light (despite the big size) because the sun is millions of miles away. Luckily, the distance of the reflector is inside your command.
You demand to find a position that’s not so shut that the photography light reflector is in the picture show. Only that’s non and so far that its light doesn’t even comprehend the unabridged discipline.
Between those two extremes, altitude will lead to some subtle changes. These impact how the shadows autumn off.
If y’all bought a large reflector but desire to try a look with harder light, motion further from the subject.
Want that soft portrait look? Motion the reflector as shut as possible. Yous might be property the reflector yourself. In this case, you tin use dissimilar lenses to all the same get the desired composition.
Another option is to recruit a friend to agree the photography reflector. This opens upwardly more possibilities in the reflector’southward position.

portrait of a redheaded girl sitting on a pier with light reflectors used for lighting
This image was taken on a cloudless day with the sun high in the sky. I fabricated my ain shade by having someone hold up a black reflector over the field of study.

Check yous have the correct reflector. That it’due south at a flattering angle and from an appropriate distance. Now y’all’re ready to take the shot.
Compared to a reflector-less shot, you’ll finish upwards with an image with more pop and well-lit details.
Experimentation is ever a great idea whenever learning a new photography technique. Try taking several images with the photography low-cal reflector at different angles.
This is a slap-up way to fine-tune while expanding your agreement of reflectors.

v. How to Get Creative With Reflectors

So far we’ve covered the traditional use of a light reflector as a fill or key low-cal. But they have many more than artistic possibilities. Particularly if yous picked upwardly a five-in-one reflector.
In one case you’ve mastered the basics, here are some other photography reflector tricks to try.

  • Flex the sides of the reflector. Well-nigh reflectors are flexible. You tin can adjust the angle of the lite, just as well bend the sides in to further shape the low-cal.
  • Deepen the shadows with the black “reflector.” Blackness absorbs low-cal rather than reflecting it. Use this to make the shadows in the image darker by placing this black piece on the shadow side of the subject field. The departure is often subtle, but helpful for creating dramatic shadows.
  • Create your own shade with the diffuser. Sun high in the heaven, without shade? Make your own using the semi-transparent white console. To do this, hold it between the calorie-free and the subject. This but works with smaller subjects or a single person rather than a group. But it tin brand otherwise impossible images flattering.
  • Reflectors can double as modest backdrops. In a pinch, a reflector can besides piece of work as a small backdrop using the black or white side.
  • Learn to expect for natural reflectors. You don’t take to have a reflector to reflect lite. Agreement reflectors help you lot recognize natural ones while out shooting. A large white brick wall or light colored cement driveway is reflective. Continuing on summit of black pavement is like continuing on summit of that blackness reflector. You can’t move bricks and blacktops like yous can a reflector. What you can do is learn to spot expert shooting spots that already have a reflector built in.
  • Utilize a reflector with studio lights. With a reflector, a single studio light can create some two-light lighting set-ups. Place the reflector contrary a flash or a studio strobe. This can fill up in those shadows for softer studio lighting.


In curt, reflectors are a inexpensive gateway to photography lighting. An under-$30 photography lite reflector was my introduction to lighting.
With that cheap accessory, I learned how to piece of work with backlighting. And how to create catchlights and creative lighting effects.
I at present have 2 off camera flashes to create those same effects. And yet, I oft even so dig out my reflector.
A reflector volition bounce back natural low-cal. This makes information technology piece of cake to match the fill light with the rest of the light in the scene, no buttons and dials necessary.
A big reflector volition also create a soft light that works swell for portraits. It’s also useful in product photos and many other types of photo shoots.
For beginners, photography reflectors are excellent introductions to creative photography lighting.
We take a great tutorial on how to create a DIY Lightbox you should check out too!

And check out this video on using a reflector for professional person photography.