What Is A Reflector In Photography? – How To Use It

Since light is a major aspect of any photo, so it is very important to have options to change and manipulate that light to get the best shot. Using a light reflector is a cheap and easy way to add another light source to your photo. Most professional photographers consider the reflector as a must-have accessory for studio portrait photography and even, it is a handy tool for outdoor photography.

What is a reflector?

It is a piece of reflective material to bounce light in a certain direction; the bouncing light has a much softer quality. This piece of material usually has a metal frame to keep it rigid enough to facilitate angling the reflector to a specific direction and control the direction of the bounced light.

It has many uses, in a studio setting, reflectors are often used as fill lights, bouncing back the spill from a key light in order to lower the lighting ratio on a subject, and control the contrasts in the image with nice soft light. An example of a light setting in-studio portrait photography is shown below

In addition, it can be used outdoors to bounce sunlight back at a subject

How to choose your reflector?

The market of reflectors is full of many types with different shapes, sizes, colors, and features. Let us discuss how to choose your reflector

  1. Reflector Size

Generally, the larger a reflector Size is, the softer the light it produces. A larger reflector creates a softer transition between the light and dark areas of an image, the shadows become less noticeable, and a larger reflector tends to be more flattering for all skin types.

Another important aspect when choosing a reflector, you need to pick up a reflector of a slightly larger size than the subject does. For example, a 45-inch light reflector will work for one or two people, but not for large groups. A rough guide for choosing the right reflector size is shown below for portrait photography:

  • Headshots: 20” to 30”
  • Headshots to ¾ body: 30” to 40”
  • Full body and/or group shots: 52” or even up to a 48” x 72”

However, you have to keep in mind that the larger the light reflector is, the harder it is to handle and hold it without extra hands in outdoor photography.

  1. Reflector colors
  • Silver Reflectors

The silver reflector reflects most of the falling light, and it doesn’t alter or change the color of the light. It is commonly used in portrait photography studios

  • Gold Reflectors

The gold color of the reflector reflects and amplifies the hue of the falling light, and it creates a warm colorcast. It is best used outdoors photography.

  • White Reflectors

The white reflector doesn’t catch and bounce back as much light as the silver reflector, and it does not introduce any colorcast. That is why it is commonly used in product photography. If are using the reflector for both inside and out, it is your best option.

There are the two other reflector colors, but they aren’t technically reflectors:

  • Black

It is used as a flag to block light or can be used to subtract light, especially in harsh light situations.

  • Translucent

Translucent fabric is used to diffuse light, producing a broad light source and a soft effect. The reflector is usually held directly above the subject to soften the sun’s natural light. It will always go between the light source and the subject.

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