How to Use a Reflector

Reflectors. Are. Amazing. If you are into portrait photography, spend the $15 and buy a reflector! It is my light source of choice. It doesn’t need batteries, the light can be controlled and you can see where the light will fall before you even take the image. It’s wonderful. Here is a great link to go and buy one, http://www.carynesplin.com/gear/. The reflector listed here is a 5-in-1 reflector and it’s the perfect size!

I’m going to show you images of what the reflector can do, particularly the 5-in-1 since it has so many different cool things you can do with it! First of all, here is a before image:

Megan Kelly, How to Use a Reflector, Reflector, Reflect, Portraits, Light, Source, 5 in 1

Before image, using sunlight.

Can I just say, yuck? The lines are harsh, half of her face is dark, and this is just not going to cut it. And this isn’t even one of the really bad harsh light ones. Okay, let’s try and fix this. The first and main tip is to shoot into the sun. Turn your subject away from the sun. This created backlighting (gorgeous) and it also allows the sun to hit the reflector better when you try and light your subject with it. So you face the sun, and the subject faces you. Without the reflector, this is what that looks like:

Megan Kelly, How to Use a Reflector, Reflector, Reflect, Portraits, Light, Source, 5 in 1

Backlighting Only

This is better, but the background is blown out, and I really want the details of the dead grass (haha) and the blue sky. Ready for the magic?

 

Silver Reflector

Megan Kelly, How to Use a Reflector, Reflector, Reflect, Portraits, Light, Source, 5 in 1The silver side of the reflector is my personal favorite. It reflects the most light, it doesn’t make their skin look orange, and it creates specular highlights. Specular highlights are those little silver “shines” that you get in the eyes, on lip gloss, jewelry, etc. It’s subtle, but beautiful. Just be careful that you don’t get too harsh of lighting. So taking the backlighting image, we are shooting into the sun. Now (the magic moment) when you add in a reflector, and bounce that light back up onto your subject, and you get results like this:

Megan Kelly, How to Use a Reflector, Reflector, Reflect, Portraits, Light, Source, 5 in 1

Silver Reflector

Scroll between the before and after images. Wow! See what I mean??

 

Gold Reflector

Megan Kelly, How to Use a Reflector, Reflector, Reflect, Portraits, Light, Source, 5 in 1The gold side is (obviously) a lot warmer of a color that you are throwing on your model. If you have a really cold image, or everything is just kinda blue, then the gold reflector can be a great way to add in that warm light on your subject. Another tip is to be quick when using a reflector. It’s really really bright, and can make your model’s eyes water, so get your shot ready first, and then add in the reflector so it’s not blinding them for as long. Just remind them that it will make them look so good!

Megan Kelly, How to Use a Reflector, Reflector, Reflect, Portraits, Light, Source, 5 in 1

Gold Reflector

 

Diffuser Reflector

Megan Kelly, How to Use a Reflector, Reflector, Reflect, Portraits, Light, Source, 5 in 1 This one is also fun. Sometimes there is a background that you really like, but if you put your subject in front of it, they will be facing the sun, and we get that nasty lighting again. The diffuser fixes this problem! It’s a little bit see-through, and if you block the sunlight from their face using the diffuser, it softens that sunlight and can take away those harsh shadows.

Megan Kelly, How to Use a Reflector, Reflector, Reflect, Portraits, Light, Source, 5 in 1

Diffuser Reflector

 

White Reflector

Megan Kelly, How to Use a Reflector, Reflector, Reflect, Portraits, Light, Source, 5 in 1 The white side of the reflector (solid white, opposed to the diffuser which is see-through) reflects a smaller amount of light, but it can be softer and nicer, especially when the sunlight is really harsh.   Megan Kelly, How to Use a Reflector, Reflector, Reflect, Portraits, Light, Source, 5 in 1

Black Reflector

Megan Kelly, How to Use a Reflector, Reflector, Reflect, Portraits, Light, Source, 5 in 1

Black Reflector

Wait, black doesn’t reflect anything! Well… that’s the point. If you just plain and simple need some shade, this is where this can come in handy. Use the black side to block the sun from your subject.

Megan Kelly, How to Use a Reflector, Reflector, Reflect, Portraits, Light, Source, 5 in 1

Black Reflector

 

Control the Light

Now that we know what the light can do, we want to be able to control it more. Here are some tips with that.

Megan Kelly, How to Use a Reflector, Reflector, Reflect, Portraits, Light, Source, 5 in 1

  • If the light is too much, you can bend the reflector into a curve. This makes less light on the model. (first image on the left)
  • If the light is only hitting a small area like just their face, and you want to get the whole body, have the person holding your reflector be farther away from the subject. It’s like when you point a flashlight at something close, the circle of light is small. But when you shine the light at something far, the circle is larger.
  • This is normal photography rules, but you want to create a triangle of light between you, your subject, and the light. That way their face doesn’t look flat. (second image on the left)

 

If I haven’t converted you yet, you need to go get one and try it for yourself. Seriously, it’s amazing.