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January 12, 2011 - Dave Hecei
If you like to shoot portraits there is an inexpensive tool that can help improve your lighting. This is something for serious portraits, not grab shots of the kids playing outside. It doesn’t have to be a formal sitting but anything where you want to have a more professional look to your image.
When shooting a portrait, there are plenty of situations when you need to control the ambient light. This can be outdoors on a sunny day, or on the beach, or even out in the snow. I have even seen reflectors used with window light.
Let’s step back and define a reflector. It can be anything that you use to bounce light from a light source onto your subject. It can be something as simple as a piece of white foam board, which is usually used for mounting photos for framing. It can also be colored to create different effects. Common reflector surfaces are white, black, silver, and gold.
ePhoto makes a 32-inch 5-in-1 photo reflector. This reflector is the collapsible type, meaning it folds up to just over a foot round and stores in a zippered pouch.
The reflector itself is a translucent white nylon material. This works great to shade your subjects face from direct sunlight. This has the effect of removing harsh shadows and bright highlights. There is also a reversible zippered cover that is either white/black or gold/silver.
White is what you will use the most. Of course, using a reflector means that you need to have a stand or an assistant to hold it. Using an assistant if preferable since you can have them move the reflector around as you frame up the subject in the camera.
The gold and silver sides are also very useful. The silver side adds more light than just the plain white side. It’s not really a mirror, but it is a strong reflective surface. The gold side is great if you want to add some extra warmth to the light. Gold is also ideal when shooting outdoors in the shade or in the winter where the blue sky can ‘cool’ the temperature of the light (remember cool light is blue, warm light is yellow).
The black reflector can actually be handy. It is mainly used to remove light from a subject. This is something that you may not use much for portraits, but it is very handy when shooting objects, especially shinny ones.
Portable reflectors can be found in different shapes (oval, round, square) and sizes. A good working size is around 32 inches, but they can be found in 12, 18, 20, 22, 32, 42, and 52 inches. The 32 inch 5-in-1 from ePhoto is currently selling on Amazon.com for $21.
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Portable 5-in-1 Photo Reflector