January 17, 2012

#51 – Make instant reflectors to add a little light to your snapshot

Lots of reflectors in here.

You are going to look so cool when you’re finished reading this post.

One of the biggest problems with photography comes down to how you balance out light and shadows. Use your onboard flash and you’ll bathe everything right in front of you in light. Beyond that, it can be dark and gloomy. Or if you’re taking a photo of the dinner you made with your cell phone. Put the plate near the window and the front looks great, but things are a bit more shadowy at the edges of the plate.

The good news – there’s a really easy, really useful trick for getting more light into a shot. It’s called a reflector and you should make it your very best friend.

A reflector is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a surface that reflects light back onto a subject. I like to think of it as a shadow eraser. If I take a photo and there are annoying shadows (or darkness) in weird places, I’ll use a reflector or two to help out.

Pro photographers use big, crazy things to reflect back light, but smart photographers use just about anything. White reflectors are great because they soften the light that hits it and bounce it back on a subject for a pleasing look.

Just about anything can be a reflector.
A white dinner plate. A piece of foamcore. A bed sheet. I even heard about a food photographer who uses white napkins she grabs from fast food places to bounce light onto her pics.
Move your reflectors around (or use more than one).
Try moving your reflectors around to erase your shadows. A little nudge here, a second reflector there can make a very big difference to your work.

Try out different coloured reflectors.
White isn’t your only choice. You can use a mirror to get the same strength light, a crumpled up piece of tinfoil to get something stronger than white but not as bright as a mirror, or something golden to reflect back a warmer coloured light. Bonus – you can use a black reflector to add more shadows to your picture.

Don’t forget about walls and ceilings.
Some of the best reflectors are ceilings and walls. When light bounces off of these things, they create a great big soft light source. Imagine taking a portrait of your dad on a sunny day. Put the sun behind him so he faces a white wall. Suddenly that crazy bright sun will make a whole lot prettier photo.

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