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Reflected light adds depth and freshness to photo portraits. Sometimes it is possible to use reflected light of natural origin, looking for large surface sizes on the open air, so that sunlight reflects gently and falls on a person’s face. The simplest way is to use a special device – a reflector. An important task is to learn to see the light falling on an object, and then control its strength and quality.

We’ll give you some tips to help you use the reflector correctly.

How to use a reflector
A woman dries skeins of hemp thread that reflect light on her face

Naturally reflected light

In portrait photography, it is always necessary to evaluate how reflected light hits the subject. At right angles, any surface can reflect light back. It can be light reflected from the nearest wall or sidewalk, open newspaper or skeins of yarn (as in the photo above). In the frame, a woman is lit from the back by bright sunlight, and this light falls on white threads and gently reflects back onto her face.

How to use a reflector
Freshwater fish market lit by reflected light from an adjacent white wall

Naturally reflected light is easier to use if you yourself place the subject in the way you need to build a composition in the frame. A suitable place where the sun falls on a large bright neutral surface can give you reflected light for portraits.

For example, in this photograph, light is reflected from a white building standing behind the photographer. And behind the woman herself there is an open entrance to a room without windows, which provides a dark background for her illuminated figure.

Types of Reflectors

How to use a reflector
Closeup portrait of a kayan girl with traditional face painting

A foldable reflector is a useful accessory in the absence of reflected light of natural origin. Reflectors are relatively inexpensive and come in many shapes, sizes and colors. The most effective are those that have multiple reflective surfaces.

Light-disks of several colors are stitched covers of different fabric colors, which are worn on a frame with a diffuser panel. Usually, white, silver, golden, black fabrics are used in the kit, plus the diffuser panel itself is made of translucent fabric. A similar set of reflectors is called “5-in-1.” Some types of reflectors have more complex reflective surfaces. In order to learn how to use them correctly and achieve the desired effect, some practice will be required, but this completely improves the lighting during portrait shooting.

How to use a reflector
Woman helping photographer during photo shoot

How to use a reflector

It is better to use a reflector with the help of an assistant who will keep it at the right angle and direction with respect to the subject. An incorrect reflector angle will cause you to have too much or too little light reaching the object. Before the photo shoot, it is advisable to train the assistant and show the effect that you need to get so that he can most accurately hold the light disk.

It is also important to carefully select the reflective surface for the lighting in which you have to work at the moment. If you are shooting portraits outdoors in full sunlight, it is best to use the surface of a white reflector. Also note that silver or gold surfaces reflect too much light on your subject. But do not be afraid to experiment, because it is a great way to learn.

How to use a reflector
Woman on a black background smokes a pipe

Using reflector in bright sunlight

In bright sunlight, the assistant who holds the reflector must be careful not to get the bright reflected light into the eyes of the subject. Ask the person not to look directly at the reflector.

Photo (In this photo of two laughing women, the assistant used a medium-sized reflector with a gold surface. Women stood in the shade of a tree, the reflector was also in the shade, so it did not reflect the brightest sunlight.)

The golden surface of the light disc goes well with yellowish skin tones. When using the strong backlight of an object, reflected light fills the shadows, reducing the entire tonal range in the photo. The reflected light is stronger on the faces of women, and it is more balanced with the light in the background. This photo is also enhanced by the bright sun reflecting off the light surface of the earth. If the assistant stood so that the gold reflector was in the bright sun, the light would be too bright and sharp, would blind the models and create hard shadows on them.

Reflecting light to balance with ambient light can reduce shadows without eliminating them.

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