Dealing with reflectors, no assistant, and wind


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Mar 8, 2008
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Austin, Texas
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I did a search and came up with only tangent references to dealing with this situation.

I will be doing an outdoor shoot soon and I anticipate wind to be a problem where we're shooting. I won't have an assistant and I can likely do without umbrellas, but the reflector (42" zipdisc) will be a must. These will be full torso if not full body shots so having the subject hold them will not be an option for at least some of the shots. I'm going to have to put it on a stand and boom arm.

Does anyone have any thoughts of dealing with this? I could go the sandbag route, but that seems like a lot of work to drag 3 bags of sand out to the shoot to hold it down. Might be the only way, though.
Sandbags was going to be my suggestion, set the reflector as low as possible as well. Either that or put an add out at the local schools or colleges photo classes for a free assistant, someone might help for just the experience.
Can you not get/find someone to assist you? It's not a skilled trade, they just have to hold a reflector. I'd do it, but you'd have to fly me down there ;)
Agreed, just find a buddy to come out with you. Someone with a passing interest in photography would probably be helpful, but whatev. Maybe the model could bring someone to help too.
A stranger's not going to work and finding someone amongst our collective friends to get up that early will be rough.
Buy 'em breakfast and give 'em a score for the help. If you don't ask, you don't know who might be willing.

Contact the coordinator of your local photography meetup group.
I would just go bribe some kid that you know, it's probably the easiest way out.
Suggestions in order of preference

1 - Home made sandbags (baggies filled with sand wrapped in canvas and home-sewn)
2 - gallon sized milk jugs filled with water
3 - bungee cords with tent pegs shoved into the ground
4 - your camera bag tied to the stand
5 - The kid next door and a 5 dollar bill for him, with his mom's permission to use the kid for 3-4 hours... she will love you.

Where there is a will, there *is* a way.
Whatever approach you decide to take, make sure you are not endangering your model. I'd go for the sandbags option and make sure they are heavy enough to hold the reflector stand against a strong wind.
One more thing to consider is that the wind can flutter your reflector, turning it ineffective. To avoide this you will need to fix it agains a wooden frame or something else that can maintain its shape. not an easy task to do.
If you know the exact location you'll be shooting at, perhaps you can set some things in advance instead of having to carry them on the day you are shooting (cheap sandbags or any other heavyweight objects).
Best to avoid the wind by shooting either very early in the day or very late in the day. I calculated that even with a 30" reflector in 18 knots of wind - and it only takes one gust of that velocity, that I would need about 70 lbs. of sand or water, hardly a portable setup. Yes you could use bungee cords and tent stakes but that is a pretty inflexible setup and not viable in many locations if the surface is too hard or you are on public property where pounding stakes into the ground is frowned upon.

An alternative in some locations is to use flash and bounce light off a rock or wall or car that serves as a reflector. You end up with a much larger light source by virtue of the bounced flash. It works better than you might think.
If you're outdors with no background near, why not just use another flash or two?

The easiest way I can think of is to set them all the same distance from the model and use different power settings to control your ratios. If you don't have that fine of a control on them then move the flashes using the inverse square law as a guide as to how far to move them.

Balance all of this nicely with the ambient and you're gold.
Ever heard of Studio Titan? They make a good disc holder, which you could then put sandbags on to hold it in place against a strong wind.

It runs you less money than a stand and boom would, I do believe.

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