Using A Reflector 101

We’ve had loads of questions about reflectors after talking about them while giving tips about best utilizing the Golden Hour. Comments like “Aren’t these just for professional photographers?” and “Aren’t they cumbersome and hard to use?” have been emailed our way. 

No and no!

It’s true you definitely don’t haaaave to use a reflector to capture a gorgeous image. But for those of you who want to play with light in your photos (even if they’re simply taken with your phone), here are some eight tips!

  1. First of all, we want you to know that you don’t have to purchase an actual reflector. We’ve worked with professional photographers who prefer to use a white foam board…yep, the kind your kids have used for projects and presentations!


Camson 5-in-1 Reflector -$39.99

Most reflectors aren’t very expensive (this is one of our favorites), but if you’re willing to think outside the box, you could just head to the dollar store and find what you need. A white shirt? A board covered in tin-foil? Get creative!

  1. Just like any light source (i.e. the sun), the larger it is compared to your subject…the softer the light will be. So the larger your reflector, the more light you’ll obviously be able to access.
  1. The Gold side of your reflector will give warmth to your subject. Sometimes this is exactly what a cool-feeling image needs! But the Silver/White side will likely be the one you use the most.
  1. Don’t get the reflector too close to your subject or it will overpower the natural light. We still want that wonderful natural light to infuse the photo, the reflector should simply act as frosting on the cake…not the cake itself.
  1. When you’re outside and the sun is ultra-bright and high in the sky, it can create deep shadows under the eyes, nose, and chin…and we have a feeling this is not the look you’re going for! But by placing a reflector at waist-level of your subject, the light will instead reflect upward. Think of the reflector as the ultimate cosmetic concealer…instead of loads of dark shadows, the reflector will fill them in, giving a soft glow.
  1. If the reflected light feels like it’s just too much, bend it into a curve. Doing this will refract the light a bit and soften it on your children or whomever you’re shooting.
  1. If the light is only hitting on a small area and isn’t doing what you’d hoped (i.e. only hitting the face and you want the whole body), have the person holding the reflector step further away from the subject.

It’s the same concept as holding a flashlight. When your light is close to the wall, the circle of light is very small…but the further away you walk from the wall, the larger the beam becomes.

  1. As crazy as it sounds, you can also use your reflector to block the light. For example, if you want to shoot your children playing under a tree but realize the sun is coming through the leaves, turning them into them polka-dotted, shadowy figures…simply have someone hold the reflector up to block the sun above them. Even better…if you have a white reflector, the light will be diffused as it comes through and will erase those annoying shadows.
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