As a portrait photographer, one of the most powerful and often under-rated pieces of equipment to have in your arsenal is a reflector. A reflector is a simple tool that helps bounce and redirect natural light off its surface to fill in any harsh or distracting shadows on a subject, act as a hair/rim light, or use it as the main key light source. Reflectors are primarily used by portrait or still life photographers and we have seen incredible end results by those who know how to use them correctly.
Although, in some cases, using a reflector might not be a possibility. If you don’t have access to an assistant or you are not taking close up portraits, then using a reflector can become cumbersome or impractical. For most wedding, family, or couple photographers, utilizing natural reflectors and light bounces within the environment can be an invaluable skill in making the most out of your location and improving your photographs.
Finding and utilizing natural reflectors is a skill many photographers we know use to automatically point out ideal photo spots when on location. So, we went ahead asked some of our own experienced photographers what they look for when it comes to natural reflectors. For those interested in learning what these specific places are, hang on tight as we cover the most common as well as which types to avoid.
Most Common Environmental Reflectors
The main deciding factor that affects the quality of your environmental reflector is the color. When you think about a common circular reflector, they come in a range of colors from white, silver, gold and translucent. Most of the best environmental reflectors mimic these types of colors. That’s something to keep in mind when scouting for locations. So, let’s get started!
Concrete and sidewalks are natural reflectors. The light color of the cement and typical placement of either the ground or on a building usually help provide a nice glow to the subject's face.
Another great reflector, as it’s usually a neutral color and will reflect soft, natural looking light that can act as a flattering key or fill.
Can help accent as a nice hair light or creative background.
Another neutral reflector that can be easy to find in urban locations for pleasing bounce and accent lighting.
Gives a nice glow to both the groom and bride’s face. The veil can also be used as a diffusor for close up shots of the bride.
Retro car shoots, or even the bridal getaway car can be a perfect backdrop that doubles as a reflector for hair/rim lights to make your subject pop off the background.
Types of Reflectors to Avoid
Red or green carpets can reflect unflattering hues onto the subject’s clothes, skin and surrounding environment.
That’s right, even grass can be troublesome and make your image overly saturated with green hues.
Red rocks and desert destinations are popular for photoshoots here in Utah. One thing photographers have to keep in mind is the red hues the red rocks reflect on your subject’s skin. It can make it look like they have a sunburn when they don’t. Sometimes this is inevitable and will just need to be corrected in post processing.
So next time you're out on a shoot, look out for these types of natural reflectors. It will take you photos to the next level. Just ask our friends the Hickenloopers, they know first hand. For more information about their photography, check out their website!