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Reflectors and why you need them!

As a photographer a reflector or any reflective surface is your best friend.  If you are shooting into the sun and want a back lit shot you will have to have something casting light back onto your subject.  Light colored buildings or one with big windows are great reflective surfaces!  A great way to see the light is to use the palm of your hand.  Go to a dark part of a room, hold your hand in front of you and see how the light changes as you walk closer to the light.  I walk around all time looking like a freak as I stare at my hand and move in circles looking for nice even light.

Since I primarily shoot in fields there aren’t many reflective surfaces so I always use a 42″ Interfit 5-1 reflector.  I like this brand of reflector because it has the gold and silver weave pattern that is great for cloudy days.  Not too much gold but adds warmth.  Most of the time I am using the white side but I will switch to gold/silver early evening when the sun is lower in the sky or on a cloudy day.  You can still use your reflector on cloudy days too just aim it where the sun is hiding behind the clouds.  The reflector is just like a flash or any strobe,  the closer you are to the subject the softer the light will be.  Remember, bigger light source equals softer light.  I have my assistant get in really close and low with it so the sun will bounce light back up into my subjects face.  Sometimes it’s hard to see if the light is hitting their face in the right spot so I have my subject close their eyes and my assistant will use the gold side to see where the light is and then flip it to white.  It’s important to ask your client to close their eyes because the gold side can be blinding.  Whenever possible I do bring along someone to hold my reflector but I can balance it on my leg if I have to.  Also, someone asked if I use a flash outdoors and no I don’t during the day.

The next two images are straight out the camera, unedited.  In the first shot my assistant was standing to the right and slightly behind me.  The reflector wasn’t casting any light onto Claire’s face although you can see a bit of catchlight.  I asked my assistant to come to the left side and get down low and close.  You can see how it lit up Claire’s whole face;


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Here is the final edit;

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I hope that’s helpful to someone!!




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  • Eldad Efendi - Very nice! Gorgeous light!!ReplyCancel

  • Amanda Navarro - YOU are awesome!ReplyCancel

  • Kyleen Hafferkamp - THANK YOU! I use a reflector too, but can’t always “see the light” so to speak when it’s on the white side, with the gold trick it should be easier 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Kim DeVenny Kalo - Awesome post! Looking at your hand….brilliant!ReplyCancel

  • Angela R. Johnson Oxenrider - SOLD! your a great sales person Toni! love it.ReplyCancel

  • caitlin elizabeth - aaaannnddddd now i’m purchasing a reflector. hahaReplyCancel

  • Joe Horine - Nicely done!ReplyCancel

  • Kinder Kouture - This is great. Thank you. I ordered.ReplyCancel

  • Rai De Lain - Thanks so much…on amazon/ebay as we speak ordering a reflector.ReplyCancel

  • Carrie Maxfield - Thank you so much for sharing this tip. I have been following you on facebook for a while, but I hadn’t gotten around to your blog yet. The catchlight in your subject’s eyes when they are so perfectly backlit is something I have really admired about your work. I really appreciate you sharing your talent. Can’t wait to go out and try it!ReplyCancel

  • Tara - That is extreamley helpful! I just bought a 5-1 reflector from Ebay!ReplyCancel

  • Casey - This was helpful to me! Thank you! I just recieved my own reflector for Christmas so I’m really excited to start using it! It’s been used on me for portraits but I’ve never tried it on mine. Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Bridget Chang - Great post.ReplyCancel

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