Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Hello again!! It’s Beckie, back to bring you another photography tip! We’ve said here several times before that photography is all about finding and using light. Well, what if it just isn’t there where you need it? There are several solutions to this problem, ranging in complexity from studio lighting to simple flash, but today we’re going to start with something WAY more low-tech. And more cost effective! We’re talking reflectors!
The idea is simple: use a movable surface to reflect and diffuse light onto your subject exactly when and where you need it. It’s SUPER cheap – in fact, all the examples below were created with simple foam core! You can use posterboard, too! Or, if you prefer, you can purchase a reflector from any camera supply store. They start at under $10 and go up from there (in price and complexity, LOL!).
So – why use a reflector? Well, let’s look at an example! Here’s a photo of my daughter, taken mid-day when the sun was harsh. We escaped to the porch to set up this shot, where the lighting was not direct and we were able to avoid the harsh mid-day shadows. All in all, not a bad photo (oh, and please excuse the goofy faces – she was in the mood to be silly! :) )
But with the addition of a reflector, notice the subtle but effective changes in my second shot:
The lighting on her face is more even and consistent. Her skin is brighter and the lighting is “whiter”, removing the color cast from the shadows of the porch (both of these photos are straight from the camera with no editing). Also notice the change in the catchlights of her eyes. The first photo does have the catchlights from the bright sky behind me as I took the photo, but in the second shot there’s a big beautiful catchlight from the reflector we used.
So how do you set up a shot with a reflector?
Just like the photo above! It helps to have a trusty photographer’s assistant (in this case, my nephew LOL!). But it’s as simple as wiggling the reflector around until it creates the lighting effect you’re after. You might need to adjust your settings once the light is reflected onto your subject (in some cases the lighting increases dramatically!), so be sure to check your meter before you start shooting.
Here’s another example, my daughter sitting on a cool old truck in the pasture behind my parent’s house. An afternoon rain passed through, then we had several hours of cloudy skies. We had a fun mini photo shoot, but when I got back and loaded the pictures I was disappointed to realize that there were shadows on her face:
Since the car was properly exposed, and because it is such a significant part of the shot I was going for, I knew I didn’t have a metering problem on my hand. It was the lighting! So we pulled out the reflector (again, our sheet of foam core) and set out again to take some more shots.
We re-positioned her slightly to get the best upward reflection of the available light from our foam core and snapped more photos. The light from our reflector fills in the shadows below her eyes and her neck just perfectly!
A few other considerations:
- As we mentioned, a reflector is a wonderful way to introduce catchlights when shooting portraits. You could easily use a round sheet of paper to get circular catch lights in the eyes of your subject! Go with what you like best.
- Commercially available reflectors offer several colors of reflective surface. A gold reflective surface casts a warmer light on your subject. Silver is considered neutral just like a white surface, but metallic silver will be brighter than what you get with white.
- Clearly my foam core isn’t a very portable reflector :). In fact, I actually own a “real” reflector that I purchased on-line, but I was on vacation and left the reflector at home. So I improvised! and it worked just fine. The benefit of my purchased reflector is that it folds up and is way more portable than a big sheet of foam core. It’s also “triple” sided so I can quickly and easily see the difference between gold, silver, and white surfaces lighting my subject. I do tend to use plain old white the most :)
Well, I hope you learned something here that you might be able to incorporate in your own photography! Next time you’re indoors shooting, try using a reflector on the ground (or resting against your lap) to see if it can help you get that extra bit of light – not to mention catchlight in the eyes – to really make your portrait pop!
Have a wonderful week! Oh, and be sure to stop by tomorrow as we’ll be announcing our template challenge winner! And Lu just might be sneaking around with a new Thursday Thievery :)