When it comes to photography, lighting is considered one of the most difficult aspects to learn. Lighting can make more of a difference in photography than any other element. The ability of the camera to shoot a wide range of light levels is termed as dynamic range. Most of the photographic lighting is used to deal with the dynamic range which may cause problems while shooting images. A digital sensor is not capable of capturing bright and dark areas simultaneously, which is where reflectors come into the picture.
During outdoor shooting, reflectors are placed in such a way that the light from the sun is reflected on the subject in the right way. Photographers need to experiment with the placement of the sun and the reflector to get the desired lighting for their photo. Reflectors are not only durable and inexpensive but are simple enough for amateur photographers to become a pro in using them. They are perfect for different kinds of photographers including the casual shooter, serious hobbyist and entry level professional photographer.
Purpose of the Guide
There are a wide number of photography reflectors currently available. This large variety poses a problem for amateur photographers when choosing the ideal reflector. The right reflector needs to be chosen based on the different shooting environments it is going to be used for. There is no particular shape of a reflector as it can be square, round, or even rectangle shaped. When choosing a particular reflector, the photographer needs to determine its size based on the amount of light required and the size of the subject. This buying guide highlights the different types of reflectors and how they are useful for photographers.
What is a Reflector?
When taking photographs, photographers use reflectors to reflect the light towards the subject. They can be used with a flash or without. Reflectors are usually placed on a stand or held by an assistant to direct light toward the subject. In most cases, they are held at an equal angle from the subject and the light source. Even with a main source of light, certain parts of the object that need to be captured are not well-lit, which creates shadow areas in the resultant image. In such a case, the reflector can easily reflect light in the shadowy areas.
Types of Reflectors
A reflector is a device that turns one light source into two by bouncing the light from the source to the subject from a different direction. In case of outdoor photography, the original source of light is the sun. For studio photography, special light equipment is used as the source. There are different types of reflectors which vary in size and color. Let’s check out the basic types of reflectors currently available in the market.
Natural reflectors are surfaces in the surrounding environment that can be used to bounce light. The most common examples of natural reflectors are white sand on a beach reflecting the sunlight, or a snow covered ground during the winter. Some other examples are sunlight reflected on seawater, ponds, or lakes.
These are man-made reflectors which are manufactured specifically for the photographer’s use. The artificial reflectors are further classified into three types, or surface colors.
- Gold Colored Reflectors: These types of reflectors are used for photography wherein the photographer wants to add a warm glow to the human skin tones.
- Silver Colored Reflectors: These reflectors are usually used for brightening shadowy areas of the object or model. Silver colored reflectors make those dark areas appear white or as a stronger brighter tone.
- White Colored Reflectors: These types of reflectors are usually made out of styrofoam material. As such, they are ideal to give a naturally lighter glow which is soft and even.
Utilities of Reflectors
Reflectors can be used for several purposes including indoor and outdoor photography. There are also some photographers who make 8 feet tall and 4 to 10 feet wide reflectors known as flats. These large reflectors are quite simple and used with lighting equipment. The main light is placed on one side of the subject while the reflector is on the other side.
Usually, photographers use a continuous light source like tungsten, household light bulbs, or a strobe. The light source is generally diffused through an umbrella, a soft box, or a cloth to soften the light. Hard light with a reflector is also used sometimes which gives adequate lighting. There are many well-known brands like Profoto, Westcott and Photogenic that offer umbrellas, reflectors, lighting, and other such studio equipment to photographers.
Apart from this, reflectors provide several advantages over external flashes or additional lighting equipment for outdoor photography. Let’s check out a few of its advantages here.
- Quite inexpensive
- Conserves energy as it can work without electrical power
- Offers a natural tone which can be easily adjusted with the color ambiance of the shoot
- Gives the object a soft lighting effect
Top 5 Manufacturers
Reflectors and studio lighting equipment are essential for professional photographers to shoot amazing photos with high-end cameras. This has caused many popular manufacturers to produce a number of reflectors. Let’s check out some of the top manufacturers who are renowned for their high-class studio equipment.
Westcott is a world renowned manufacturer that creates innovative professional lighting equipment. It is a major innovator in professional photography and video lighting equipment. Westcott offers a wide range of reflectors, umbrellas, lighting and studio equipment for amateur as well as professional photographers.
Hensel is a German company that is known for its high quality flash and lighting technology equipment. It provides a huge variety of high-end components which make a photographer’s life easier.
Photogenic Professional Lighting is a well-known manufacturer of photographic lighting equipment and accessories. It offers a wide array of photography products that serve the needs of a budding amateur or even a seasoned professional photographer.
Photoflex is a world famous company that manufactures innovative lighting equipment suitable for photographers. It is among the best in film, digital and video industries worldwide because of its high quality products.
Fujifilm is one of the leading brands in imaging industry. It is well-known for producing innovative products and services for various fields including imaging, medical systems, optical devices, graphic systems and much more.