Reflectors are a great way to add or subtract light in many different lighting scenarios. As a photographer myself, I always have at least one reflector at every shoot. With the 9-in-1 MultiDisc Reflector you have even more control over tricky lighting situations. This article will focus on 7 main ways you can manipulate light with reflection and diffusion to get the results you want.
1. White Reflection
Let’s start with the most basic method of reflecting light, the white surface. White reflectors are very versatile and can come in handy with a variety of lighting challenges. Most often they are used to bounce light into shadow areas. This method works great with portraits as well as beauty, interiors, product shots, still life; the list goes on and on. Using a white reflector or panel to strategically bounce light onto your subject gives you very natural results.
In the examples shown below, a white reflector was used with available sunlight. In Example A, the sun was directly behind and above the subject. This is a challenging time of day as the angle of the sun is very much overhead and not at the right angle to create flattering shadows. To combat this, the subject was turned away from the sun and the reflector was placed in front of the subject, lying flat, to bounce soft light into the frame. This essentially turned the reflector into the key light with the sun acting as a backlight.
In Example B, the sun was lower in the sky, creating a nice flattering sidelight. The white reflector in this case was placed on the other side of the subject, bouncing light into the shadow area and resulting in a flattering fill light. Notice that in both images you can make out a reflection in the subject’s eyes as a catch light.
2. Silver Reflection
When you need to bounce more light than a white panel offers, silver is the best color-neutral option, though it should be used it very carefully. Silver reflection is very strong and when used with a bright light source, can become a strong key light. It can also be used with diffused light for a more subtle effect.
In Example A, the sun was behind and above the subjects so a large panel silver reflector was placed in front of the couple, slightly to the right. This created a nice rim effect from the sun with enough fill from the silver reflector to light their faces. In this scenario it’s important to ask your subjects not to look right at the silver reflector, as this will cause them to squint.
In Example B, a silver reflector was placed in front of the subject, lying flat, to bounce more light into the subject’s eyes. The main key light was very soft and diffused so the light that was reflected was also soft and flattering. In addition to adding sparkle to your subject’s eyes, a silver reflector at this angle can help minimize imperfections in the skin as more light is being reflected from the subject’s face.
3. Gold Reflection
A gold reflector can be a very valuable tool when used carefully. Gold by nature is very warm in tone and a gold reflector has a warm cast to the light it bounces. As long as the light you are working with has a warm tone to begin with, the reflector will look natural. It can be more challenging to use a gold reflector with cooler light, such as midday sunshine. In terms of natural light, the gold reflector works the best late in the day (during the golden hour) when the light temperature matches the gold tone of the reflector.
In the example below, a gold reflector was used to bounce light into the shadow side of the subject’s face. The sun was low on the horizon, to the right of the subject. A gold reflector was placed behind and to the left. The light bouncing from the reflector was strong enough to remove shadows and resulted in a warm and flattering effect.
4. Soft Gold Reflection
Soft gold reflectors offer the benefits of a gold reflector while also having more versatility. A soft gold reflector offers warmer light than a white reflector without being as strong as the regular gold reflector. Soft gold reflectors are most commonly used with natural sunlight. They work especially well in open shade.
In the example below, the main light source was coming from behind the subject. The color of the stone walkway was beige, creating a soft warm effect. The soft gold reflector was placed to the front and below the subject to bounce a wide direct fill into the subject’s face.
5. Translucent Diffusion
Another tool in the photographic arsenal is diffusion. When faced with harsh lighting situations, such as midday sun, a diffuser can be used to soften the light and minimize shadows. Placed between your light source and the subject, diffusers create a broad and soft light. In certain situations diffusion can be used with reflection as well.
In the examples below, a diffusion panel was placed above the subject’s head with a white reflector placed in front of the subject, lying flat.
6. Sunlight Reflection
“Sunlight” is a relatively new product in terms of reflectors. Woven together with an equal number of gold, silver and white threads, a sunlight reflector bounces very flattering and even light where you need it.
In the example you see below, the subject was placed in open shade with bright sunlight spilling into the frame from behind. The Sunlight reflector was used in front and slightly to the right to catch the rays of the sun. It bounced a soft and wide light onto the subject’s face, filling in the shadow area and increasing contrast without looking too bright.
7. Black (Negative Fill)
When faced with flat light that lacks depth and contrast, you can use a “black flag” (disc or panel) to add more dimension. Rather than bounce light, black surfaces absorb light, which helps to minimize reflections from shiny surfaces, such as jewelry. Black flags are often used in open shade when a more dramatic look is needed. When placed in just the right spot, black flags can create shadows in even light. They can also intensify existing shadows for increased drama.
In the example below, black flags were placed on either side of the subject, just out of frame. The main light source used was a strobe with a 6-inch reflector. The shadows were dramatic to begin with but the added black flags deepened them significantly, increasing contrast and depth.
There are lots of materials than can be used to create homemade reflectors and diffusion but for my professional shoots where I need to make a good impression on clients I always use the 9-in-1 MultiDisc Reflector from Photoflex. It offers all the above light bending methods in one product. A double riveted steel frame insures that it will keep its shape and Photoflex reflectors have earned a reputation for surprising longevity.
Laura Tillinghast started making art at a young age, discovering photography as her true passion in college. From that point on she has never put her camera down. Shooting primarily advertising and editorial content, you never know what you will find in front of her lens. Also an educator, Laura holds a series of popular photo workshops that focus on the fundamentals of lighting. See more of her work at her website: http://lauratillinghast.com/