The Practicing Photographer: Using a reflector to add fill light

Published by | Friday, May 31st, 2013

A great way to improve your photography is to begin bending light to your will. That means going beyond ambient light and employing tools and techniques that enhance the light in a scene.

At an advanced level, it might involve using multiple strobe lights along with gizmos like gobos and snoots—the sort of thing David Hobby does in his Lighting with Flash series.

But at a basic level, bending light can be as simple as reflecting it. Working with a reflector is the subject of this week’s installment of The Practicing Photographer. A small reflector like the one Ben Long shows this week costs less than $10 and fits in any camera bag.

Ben Long demonstrates a reflector

Since a lot of things can reflect light, you might not even have to buy a reflector. A pillowcase, a piece of foam board, and a sheet of paper all can work to help you experiment with the fill lighting techniques Ben illustrates in the video, and greatly improve the quality of your photos when faced with substandard lighting conditions.

You’ll also see reflectors used in Derrick Story’s Photo Assignment: Natural Light Portraits, in the “Light and Lighting” chapter of Natalie Fobes’s The Elements of Effective Photographs, and in Douglas Kirkland on Photography: Natural Light Portraiture. Watch how these photographers employ reflectors, and then get out there and start bending light to your will.

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