Using Reflectors in Photography

When you're shooting out doors, you have two light source options: you can use big, day light balanced lights that cost a couple hundred bucks each to rent and also require a generator and cable for power. Or, you can use the sun to your advantage with reflectors.

What Are Reflectors?

Reflectors are similar to mirrors. We use them to catch light from the sun and then bounce it onto our subjects. 

Large Reflectors

Reflectors come in many different sizes. Overhead sets are comprised of large frames that can be mounted on stands. They come in sizes like 6x6 ft, 8x8ft, 12x12ft, 20x20ft, etc. When they are built, you can add a specialty cloth like material to the frame by tying it on. These materials are usually used for diffusion, but there are materials you can use as reflectors that come in silver or gold colors. Gold colors are becoming popular when lighting African Americans because it creates a very nice tone on the skin.

4x4 Reflectors

These are basically giant mirrors that mount into reflector stands. These reflectors have two sides. The hard side is smooth, like a mirror, and gives off harsh light. The soft side is like a crumpled up piece of aluminum foil. It's designed to bounce soft light.

Reflectors mount on reflector stands. They're easy to tilt up and down and since they're on a stand you can quickly pan them. Since it is mounted on a stand, you can raise it up pretty high if need be.

Reflectors operate under the same principal as other lights. If you need more intensity, you move it closer to the subject, and if you want less, than you move it away. If you need less light from a reflector but can't move it, you can add a 4x4 single or double net to take down the intensity. The net can either be clipped on to the board or placed on its own stand close to the subject. The rule is that the closer the net is to the light source, the more light it cuts down.

Reflectors come in gold and silver.


You can either buy a professional bounce card with a white and silver or gold side or you can use a piece of beadboard. These small and light bounce sources are great for shooting close ups. You need to keep these close to your subject in order for it to be effective.

1x1 Mirrors

They're too small to be used as light sources, but they can add a little something to your images. To create nice and small light patterns, take a 1x1 mirror and tape it to a thick cardboard like material (like foam core). Once it is secured to the foam core, take strips of clear tape like JLAR and cover the whole mirror. Once the glass is covered with tape, you need to break it. When the mirror is broken, attach a pigeon plate to the back so you can mount it on a stand. Shine a light to the mirror, and you'll see a nice pattern reflecting off it.

Popular Cameras for High Quality Photos: