In this LiteBlog post, Jay P. Morgan reviews the basics of reflectors and demonstrates their effects on location. This is a basic look at how reflectors work and the practical applications for each of the reflective fabrics.
For the beginning photographer, using a reflector is an easy way to start to modify light and learn where to place the light source in relationship to your subject. Using reflectors and becoming good at placing them will teach you how to place strobes. Good light placement is the same for both strobes and reflectors, but easier to see with a reflector than with strobes, as what you see is what you get. The examples shown here were all shot with a Photoflex 39x72 LitePanel reflector and various reflective fabrics.
To show the effects of reflectors, I had my model Liz pose with the sun rimming her from camera left. The sun became a nice rim light on her legs and hair. I exposed for the sun which left her body and face dark in shadow (and in need of light). This is where reflectors come in!
A reflector is just like a strobe head or hot light. It needs to be placed correctly to be effective and make your talent look good. If you set the reflector on the ground, which is what a lot of beginners do, it will bounce light from underneath and will not be as flattering as when it's raised into the air like a light on a stand. The fabric used in this shot White, which provided a neutral soft light.
In this shot, we used changed the fabric to Soft Gold. This fabric is more directional and gives a warm harder light. I love this reflector because of the warmth and contrast it creates. It's not too much, in my opinion, but enough to warm the skin and brighten the face.
This next image was shot with full Gold. This fabric creates a hard light with a strong warm color. It's great on a cloudy day when there is not much sunlight in the sky. I use them at other times as well, depending on how far the sun is from the subject and how cool the light is. On an overcast day, I will most likely use a full Gold fabric to reflect light.
The last image was shot with Silver fabric. Silver throws a very hard neutral light that's great for black and white because of the contrast it creates. It also can be good when there is not much sun.
Keep in mind that the results you get with these various fabrics will also vary depending on the skin tone of your subject, the time of day and the overall quality of available light. Experiment with different fabrics and see which ones suit your tastes.
To see a selection of LitePanels, click here.