Using reflectors for outdoor portraits

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by Restomage, Jul 3, 2009.

  1. Restomage

    Restomage No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I'm still new to advanced lighting techniques so please bear with me. I plan on shooting portraits at the beach during sunset, and I want to grab a friend or someone to hold a reflector up for me to bounce the light onto the subject but I'm still very confused on when it's appropriate to use one, and what color the reflector should be (I've heard either white or metallic finish works but not sure which one would work best). I've looked around the web but haven't found the right information.

    If I'm shooting the subject with the sunset in the background, I've learned that using the flash is a must, so even with the flash on, will bouncing the light from the sun onto the subject make that much of a difference? I'm assuming it would help put a more natural lighting element onto the face which is what I'm aiming at.

    Here is an example of a picture I've took with just the flash:

    [​IMG]

    So if I were to use a reflector, I'm assuming maybe I would get a more orange tint on the subject from the sunset. Maybe? Help me out here.

    =

    Here's another photo I took using natural lighting with the sun in her face. In my opinion, it's a nice photo as it is, however I think with a reflector I can fill in those shadows:

    [​IMG]

    =

    Also, when shooting during the daytime at other locations and using a reflector to fill in and soften some of the shadows on the subjects face, is it still necessary to use fill-flash?

    As you can see I still have a lot to learn about lighting technique and reflectors so if you have any tips for me or can answer any of my questions that would be awesome, or if you have any links to good articles that would be cool as well. Thanks!
     
  2. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Usually, if you are using a reflector, you don't need to use flash...or vice versa. In this situation, they are essentially doing the same thing, which is providing some fill light.

    The big difference (to me anyway) is that when using flash, you are limited to the max sync speed (usually 1/200 give or take)...which can make it harder to keep the background from being blown out. When you use a reflector (and not flash), you can use any shutter speed that you can get away with.

    The white surface gives you a neutral light. If it's already orange from the sunset, then the reflected light will still have the hue, just maybe lighter. The silver side might keep more of the tone but it can reflect a lot of light, somtimes too much. The gold surface really warms the light up, so that you could simulate sunset light, even when it's the middle of the day. If you have it, give it a try but if I only had to pick one, I'd go with white.

    That's exactly right. You could have used a reflector to fill in the shadows, so the ratio wasn't so steep.

    Also, my favorite use of those 5-in-1 reflectors it to use the diffusion screen. You hold that up between your subject and the sun...it gives you really nice soft lighting.
     
  3. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

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    #1 is a good example of how flash can be used to light a backlighted subject.

    In #1 your flash is on the camera so there are no shadows for modeling the facial features. She's well lit but the light is flat. OCF would produce the modeling that makes for nice portraiture. A bit of powder would have killed those harsh highlights on her cheeks chin and forehead.

    The flash would have overpowered any reflected light.

    Esentially you need a two light setup. One light OCF and one on camera (or a reflector) for fill.
    You want to keep any fill, reflector or flash, as close to the lens axis as possible.

    #2 is a great example where reflected light can fill the shadows and make an image look more professional.

    Yes, you can use 2 reflectors. Just remember to keep the fill reflector very near the lens axis. It can be low or high, so it can be held behind you but over your head, or in front of you, just under the camera but not in the frame. You usually need to have an assistant or two to use reflectors. I often enlist someone who has accompanied the model (free labor).

    If you use a 5-in-1 reflector(s) you can also use the diffuser and black to subtract light, or use the silver when the light is to orange a-la #2.

    Get a reflector and give it a try. If you want just get a piece of foamboard from Wal-Mart or Staples to give it a try.
     

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