Using Reflector For Shady/Uneven Outdoor Lighting


I have a really good tip for you today. If you've ever been in the type of situation where you've tried to photograph someone outside in mixed sunlight and shade, you most likely know the difficulties of which I'm about to refer. Let's say you've got light streaming through some trees and your subject is standing beneath those trees. They are standing in partial sun and shade, which is making their face appear darkened far too much. Or, their face is too bright on one side and too dark on the other, offering way too much contrast. Or even, your subject is standing in the shade, but the background of the scene is in full sun, darkening your entire subject. Scenes like these are very annoying because the conditions can ruin otherwise beautiful settings. And really, all you need is a bit of light on your subject's face. Just to brighten things up somewhat.

So here's the question: what would a professional photographer do in situations like those I described above? Well, for starters, they'd take full advantage of of a light reflector. You know, the kinds that have white on one side and gold or silver on the other. Generally, the pros use rather large reflectors that measure approximately three feet across to add additional light toi a scene. For amateurs like us though, all we need is a 12 inch reflector to solve the types of problems I was talking about earlier. These smaller sized reflectors can fold up to fit in a pocket. They're very cool. And really, we don't need to go out and buy a real photography reflector when a small foam board with tin foil would work very well. Even a white piece of paper would work well in a pinch.

With reflector in hand, all you need to do is find a ray of sun, place the reflector in its path and angle the reflector at your model's face so it's brightened up some. Trust me, this can work wonders. If you're closer to your model (which can be a person, flower or whatever), you can use the white side of the reflector for a more muted effect. If you're farther away, use the silver or gold side. The more reflective sides can cast light pretty far, so be sure to experiment.

I've always liked reflective light so much more than direct light, unless of course, it's natural light. Reflective light is softer and so beautiful, especially when it's mixed with natural light outside. I think this technique of using a small reflector outside would be great when taking photos of flowers, insects, birds on a feeder and other small objects that are in a fixed setting.

One of the most profound changes one of these reflectors can have on a scene is how it can brighten up the dark side of a model's face when he or she is standing in direct sunlight. If one side of their face is super bright and the other is dark, the resulting photo isn't going to come out looking very good. It's much better to use a reflector to add light to the dark side of the face while the photo is being taken. Even though some darkness can be brightened up in post-processing, the quality of the shot will be better if the light is added beforehand.

What do you use to add light to a scene? Do you have any hacks or tricks you'd like to share? If so, please do so below. Thanks!