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Photo reflectors are the perfect tools for shaping photographic light. They help solve multiple issues — from softening lights and illuminating the overall scene to evening out skin tones in portraits and adding colorcasts as well. There are hundreds of reflectors to choose from in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors. Each one creates a different aesthetic effect.

You choose various parts of your studio lights to reflect to create different lighting scenarios. For example, reflect the brightest center for a high contrast look or get a softer effect by reflecting the edges of your light. Additionally, you can choose to bounce the light onto your subject or onto an additional reflector for even more variations. Overall, reflectors provide endless possibilities to assist you in creating beautiful photographic images.

What Shape Reflector Should You Use for Your Shoot?

Got a tight studio space? A collapsible circular reflector is the way to go. If you need to use a circular reflector outdoors, be sure to have a photo assistant available to hold it (this can be tough with a big circular reflector on a breezy day).

Rectangular reflectors are easily clipped to an extra light stand. They’ll also provide a bigger reflector surface creating a softer light. You can also create different effects by which way you place the long side of the rectangle. If you’re shooting a ¾ length head shot, placing the rectangle vertically to get softer light from the top to the bottom of the image. For closer up headshots have the reflector extend from the subject’s shoulders to the camera.

Savage now offers a variety of reflector sizes including 22”, 32” and 43” wide circular ones as well as 36” x48” and 40” x 60” rectangular ones.

Which Color Reflector Works Best for What Situation?

Reflectors will help you direct and control light either subtly or dramatically to heighten shape and define the contours of your subject. Although ideal shooting times are the magic hours (right after sunrise and before sunset) sometimes you’ll need to shoot in bright, midday light. In this case a reflector is a must have to soften the light. But which color should you use? 

Most reflectors come in multiple colors — white, black, gold, transparent and silver. Now all 5 are available in convenient 5-in-1 reflectors so you don’t have to tote around multiple reflectors to get different effects.

5 in 1 reflector

Here’s what each colors can achieve and the optimum times to use them:

White Reflector

White reflectors allow you to add light without having to carry around a lot of lighting gear. They’re perfect if you don’t want to add any color tone to your image. They also add more, soft light versus bumping up your flash or strobe kit. They also help to reduce contrast in the overall scene and even out the lighting.

Silver Reflector

A Silver reflector adds cool tones to the bounced light when used outside. It also will bump up the contrast.

Gold Reflector

Gold reflectors will boost and create golden tones in your shot. It’s best used to warm up skin tones and highlight your subject’s eyes. They’re also great for beach or late afternoon shoots to enhance the already golden hues of the scene.

Black Reflector

Need to really absorb massive amounts of light or reflection? Use the black side of the reflector to tone down the scene.

Transparent Reflector

If you don’t have time to wait for the light to soften when your outdoors or are shooting in the studio with a pack where you can’t dial in settings of small increments try the transparent reflect to cut down on the light.

How Far Away Should You Place Your Photo Reflector?

The closer the light is to the subject, the harder the light will appear. Although a small reflector is easier to carry and hold it will not create as soft a lighting effect as a large reflector.

When is comes to portraiture, photographers often want o create the effect of a twinkle of light in their subject’s eyes called a “catch light”. Place a reflector closely under your subject’s face will help to achieve this effect.

Cheryl Woods

Cheryl Woods is an accomplished photographer, designer and branding consultant with a career spanning 20+ years. Her photographic work includes editorial, fashion, portraiture and product photography for major companies in the consumer products field including QVC and Hanover Direct. She received a B.F.A. in Photography from the University of the Arts and an M.F.A. in Media Design from Full Sail University. Cheryl's work has been exhibited at the Lowes Museum of Art in Coral Gables, FL, The New York Independent Film Festival and the Rosenwald Wolf Gallery in Philadelphia, PA. Check out her website here!


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