Choosing Photography Reflectors
Photo reflectors reduce the effects of shadows, brighten dark areas, and change the quality of light on your subject. Many options exist, from small collapsible types that are easy to transport, to big panel reflectors that are ideal for lighting larger sets. They're useful on their own to supplement natural light, or in conjunction with studio lights and flashes.
How Do Photography Reflectors Work?
The principle behind a reflector is simply to reflect natural or artificial light onto a subject to lighten up dark areas, highlight features, and minimize shadows. They are effective indoors, in studios, and in sunlight where bright light creates unsightly shadows and uneven exposure. A reflector softens lights, changes color tones, and blocks unwanted light.
Butterfly and Panel Reflectors
The term butterfly comes from the shadow created by a model's nose when lit from a light shining down onto the face. While studio lights can create this effect, butterfly and panel reflector frames and reflective butterfly fabrics are equally effective. Some fabrics provide a soft light, while others have metal panels for stronger reflections. Another technique is using translucent fabrics mounted on a frame of aluminum or plastic materials to diffuse light. Rigid reflector boards finished in a variety of reflective surfaces achieve similar effects and have the benefit of being self-standing, or—if not self-standing—needing less sophisticated support frames.
A collapsible reflector is made from a thin reflective material wrapped around a flexible metal or composite frame. Many are circular, while others are square, triangular, or rectangular. Sizes vary, from circular reflectors at 12 inches in diameter to large rectangular reflectors that measure 5 x 7 feet. Collapsible reflectors are light and easy to hold, and some have support frames. Most are reversible and often come with additional reflective fabrics. Typical colors include white, translucent, silver, gold, and black.
Replacement reflector material is readily available, as are fittings and supports. Safety ropes and guides provide additional support for overhead panels and those used outdoors. Also available is a full range of accessories for collapsible reflectors. These include universal clamps for supporting them in elevated positions, as well as stands for placing them on the ground. Other fittings include mounts for attaching reflectors to convenient structures.