Reflector colours and how they can improve your photography!
Today we are talking reflectors! Specifically, reflector colours and how they can improve your photography. I talked about using these marvellous tools during the ‘Window Light 3 Ways’ webinar last week and we had a few questions about them during and afterwards so I thought it would be helpful to create an episode around them.
This began as a podcast episode but below is the content if you prefer to read…
It has been 5 days since the window light webinar and I am still getting messages and emails about it every day. Lots of you have been watching the replay and getting in touch. I am so glad it has helped so many of you with your window light photography!
I have been looking through the questions and lots are related to reflectors. Namely, what size is best, why are they different colours, what do the different colours do and which should you use for best results.
It seemed sensible to answer you in full using the podcast. I know lots of you went straight online to buy a reflector after the webinar so let’s make sure you are going to get the most out of your purchase!
As with everything, reflectors vary. They don’t all have 5 sides. However, the reflectors I purchase are 5-in-1s. They have five different coloured sides and they are cheap as chips. I mentioned during the webinar that I tend to leave them in fields and parks around the country so I don’t want to spend lots of money on them. I get mine from eBay for around £12 and they do me just fine.
When popped out – they are circular and just over a metre in diameter but fold away into a small black circular bag. I also have a triangular one which has a little handle at one end. The shape doesn’t put me up nor down. I work equally well with both.
Let’s talk about the different coloured sides. They are a bit of a mystery when you first get your reflector unless you read up about it all first but there is a side for every occasion and that is what I am going to help you to understand during this episode.
A 5-in-1 reflector will come with a zippy cover on it. One side will be white, one will be silver then you turn it inside out and the other sides will be black and gold (not necessarily in that order). The fifth side is what is underneath the cover. It is thin and almost translucent.
Let’s start with the white side. This side is the most commonly used, however, more often than not I find that it isn’t actually enough. This side is used simply to bounce some soft, fresh light into the shadows of your scene. The reflector needs to be pretty close to your subject to make much of a difference and there needs to be plenty of strong light available to begin with.
‘white side of reflector used close to the subject to bounce light from window back into the shadowy side of her face’
I only use the white side when I can get the reflector close and I have plenty of light to work with. In these conditions it is definitely the most subtle and flattering way of bouncing light, for portraits especially. However, on a very cloudy day or in lower light there simply wont be enough light to really make a difference with this white side. In situations like this – you need the silver side…
I use my silver side a lot. Living in Scotland and working mainly with natural light means it saves me time and time again! The silver side is awesome in low light because it reflects a lot more light than the white and it can go a long way to improving those catchlights in the eyes.
It is definitely not something you should bring out in harsh light. If you catch the sun with it you are going to be firing some pretty strong rays are anyone in its path. I would save this side for lower light.
There is a danger of the light reflected from this silver side being a bit on the ‘cold’ side. If you find this is happening, a better option might be the gold side…
Again, you don’t want to be reflecting sunlight with this side – best save it for diffused light if you don’t want to blind people! This gold side really warms up the light you are bouncing back into your scene. This can be very helpful in very cold light if your subjects are all looking like death warmed up but, if I am honest, I find it too much. I rarely use it. I prefer to use the silver side and then use my white balance setting to warm up the scene if I need to.
This basically has the opposite purpose of all the other sides. It doesn’t reflect light – it blocks it. As beautiful as even, diffused light can be – you really can’t beat some shadows! For me, good shadows elevate your photography to new levels. You can create shadows in places where they don’t exist by using the black side to block light from reaching certain areas of your scene.
It takes a lot of playing about and subtle movements to find what works but what is learning photography about if it isn’t about playing! I have had my biggest ‘aha’ moments from just messing around with light.
I have to admit I hardly use this black side. I always forget about it. I am definitely going to use it more!
This is usually in the middle of your reflector. It is like the frame that the whole thing is formed around. It is white and translucent – allowing light to be filtered through it. It is a diffuser.
This side should be used in direct light and it should be placed between your subject and the light source. For example, let’s say you are taking a photograph of someone in direct sunlight. You want them lit from the front but the sun is too bright for them to look towards. You could place the diffuser in front of their face between them and the sun and, voila, you spread that sunlight evenly across their face for a softer, diffused, flattering effect.
If you purchased a reflector after the webinar or you already have one which is sorely underused – I hope this helps you to break it out and experiment with it. It is a truly wonderful piece of kit and most definitely worth some time and effort. The rewards are fantastic!
Before I go I just want to give you a heads-up on my ‘Master Natural Light’ video course. The filming will all be complete by tomorrow and the course will be launching on Monday 21st March. This course will allow you to watch me work with natural light in lots of different scenarios. Direct sun indoors and outdoors, diffused light indoors and outdoors and golden hour. Not just with people but with other subjects too. There is so much in there.
I will be releasing the first training video absolutely free of charge to those on my VIP list later this week. If you want to get your hands on that first video then make sure you sign up to become a Tea Break Tog VIP.
What does being a Tea Break Tog VIP mean?
Not only will you get this first video free but you will also be invited to future exclusive, live webinars during which I will host Q&A sessions about all aspects of photography and facilitate live image critique sessions featuring the images YOU send in to us. That’s not all though – as a VIP you will also be given lifetime discounts for every premium product we create.
I’d say it is definitely worth getting yourself on that list. You can join at www.teabreaktogvip.com
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I hope to see you over there!