Reflectors and Light Tones

We use reflectors in photography to redirect or bounce light. They're four feet by four feet and are mounted onto reflector or combi stands. Reflectors have two sides to them. There is a hard, smooth side similar to a mirror, which redirects hard light in a straight beam. Flip it over and you'll find a soft side, which looks like a crumpled up piece of aluminum foil. These change hard light into soft when redirected. Reflectors come in gold and silver. As you could guess, each color produces different light tones.

Silver Reflectors

Silver reflectors are pretty neutral, and the light they reflect is the same tone (color temperature wise) as the source light. They're very similar to mirrors and are the industry standard of reflectors. If you call a rental house and order a reflector, this is what you will get. 

Gold Reflectors

Gold reflectors alter the tones created by the light. They're becoming very popular when shooting African American and other dark skin models because the gold tone looks very nice on their skin. Gold reflectors are also becoming popular for recreating the sunrise/sunset lighting look on objects like plants. The yellow tone of gold reflectors is similar to the gel color temperature straw.

Manipulating Light Tones

We alter the color of a light by adding a gel to it. You can do that with reflectors as well. If you want the light to appear red, then take a silver reflector and add a theatrical red gel it. You can do this with virtually any color. The downside to this is that you do lose light when you add that extra layer of gel to pass through. If you're dealing with a situation like a really cloudy day, then you should just opt for a light to produce that effect.

Altering Light from Reflectors

In order to maximize the amount of light from your reflector, you want to bring it as close as possible to the subject. To decrease the light, move the reflector away. If you can't move it any further, but want to lose more light, there are two things you could do. You could place a 4 by 4 single or double net in front of the reflector or you could add a special scrim that was specifically designed for the reflector directly on it. A net should be preferable though because you can control how much light it cuts by bringing it closer or away from the subject.

Bead Board

Bead board is used in photography to bounce light. It's used in construction for insulation and has a white side and a shinny side. The white produces a very nice, soft light but it needs to be close to the subject. The shinny side is similar to a silver reflector board, but it is not as powerful. Bead board is sold in four feet by eight feet sheets.

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