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Using a Reflector in Photography

April 10, 2013 - Gear, How To, Photography

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I'm a huge fan of finding natural reflectors. In fact, I find myself noting them as I walk down the street even if I'm not shooting. I suppose you never stop thinking like a photographer. Anyway, 99% of the time I use natural reflectors (I've talked about this in detail here, here, and here, but I pack a 5-in-1 reflector on wedding days…just to be prepared. A few weeks ago, I captured wedding photos along the beach in La Jolla and a few questions were asked about how I illuminated the bride and groom.

The sun was behind the subjects so the sand in front of them was reflecting a bit of light back onto them. In this case, the sand was my natural reflector, but since they were standing under a pier, lessened it's effect. Here's a photo without using a reflector…

Nothing is wrong with the photo, but it is strongly backlit and I prefer a little more pop to the skin when possible. My assistant Kendra immediately opened the reflector (I use the Westcott 5-in-1) and pushed light back onto their faces using the white side of the reflector. These are a few results…

The reflector remains packed in our gear backpack during a wedding, but JD will attach it to his sidebag during portraits in case we need to pull it out in a pinch. This is the only time we may use a reflector during a wedding and I prefer to use it only when necessary. Why?
    1. I don't want to be noticed. The more attention I bring to myself as a professional shooting in a public location, the higher likelihood I could be asked to leave. Unless I have a permit to shoot in public spaces (like the beach or a state park), I want to be as discreet as possible.
    2. I like photos that look like the moment. Don't get me wrong, lighting tricks are cool and I appreciate the time photographers spend detailing their craft, but it's just not my aesthetic preference. I want to document the world the way my eyes naturally see it…and I don't see the world in flash when I'm walking down the beach.
    3. If I mixed various lighting techniques at different times, I'd worry my clients wouldn't know what, specifically, they'd get when their day came around (natural light, fill flash, off-camera flash, reflected light, diffused light, etc). The rule for me is to leverage natural light 99% of the time…and if I use reflected light, it's juuuuuust noticeable. I want my clients to know that what they see on a regular basis is what they'll get.

In case you're wondering, no, I do not take a reflector with me on engagement sessions. I shoot alone during these shoots, so I leverage natural reflectors and have the latitude and time to carefully choose my location. On a wedding day, I'm pressed for time and sometimes in an unforgiving location, so I must take what I have and make it work. I hope this offers a bit of insight into my lighting philosophy, but if you have any questions, feel free to ask in the blog comment box and I'll respond later today.

Happy Wednesday!

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Life is about to get a whole lot easier.  

Desperate for change, I created a Productivity Planner to help streamline my workflow and I kissed stress goodbye. 

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FREE INSTAGRAM GUIDE

Oh, friend, it's time to start growing your business on Instagram.
  
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You're busy, pulled in lots of directions, and trying to run a business. 

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I'm dedicated to your success, so download five free stock photos to use online...I hope this empowers you to attract dream customers along the way!

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