Dont Light It Reflect It

There are two kinds of photographers: those who find the right light and those who make the right light. If you want more control so you can create better illuminated pictures, try using a reflector to put light right where you need it.

A reflector is any light-colored material designed to catch the light from a source of illumination (which can be natural or artificial) and redirect it onto the subject or a specific area of the subject. Used judiciously, a reflector can soften deep shadows, add specular highlights, or lighten a subject. It urn also can add a little tint of color to a scene. Depending upon its size, position, and how the light is directed, a reflector can cover a large swathe or deliver pinpoint illumination.

John Isaac (, the photojournalist known for his pictures of exotic people and places, prefers reflecting light to adding artificial light. "Ninety percent of the time I use available light," he explained. "Sometimes I use a circular reflector, and sometimes a white cloth. Recently, in Kashmir, I had forgotten to take my reflector, and I used kitchen aluminum wrapping foil to reflect light on the dark side of someone's face. Once I used a car reflector from the hardware store for [the book] America 24/7. One time I did an ad for Olympus with a gold reflector. It was evening light and it worked fine—better than the pictures I shot with a strobe. A lot of times I like the warmth of a gold reflector, especially in shade."

There are many different kinds and types of commercial reflectors available; most are thin circular cloth or metallic disks 1-4' in diameter (they fold up and fit very nicely into their own bag) and cost $15-$75. Commercial reflectors often have one color on one side—usually gold, silver, or white—and a second color on the obverse side. Or, you can make or improvise your own reflector, such as John's aluminum foil or white posterboard. A reflector can be hand-held by an assistant, or for more convenience and stability, mounted on a photo stand ($20-$125). Reflectors are used extensively by virtually every commercial photographer, but because they're lightweight, inexpensive, and relatively easy to use, almost any shooter can improve his photographs by carrying one or two of these handy gizmos.

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