How to Choose a Reflector

Reflectors come in many shapes and sizes, and different surfaces can reveal a surprising number of different effects. To help you choose which reflector suits your needs best, the experts at Wescott Lighting have created this brief gear guide:

Many reflector kits come with up to six different materials: white, silver, gold, sunlight, black, and diffusion. The first four—white, silver, gold, and sunlight—reflect light and are generally used to provide fill and augment your main light. The black panel does the opposite—it blocks and absorbs light. The diffusion panel, unlike the others, is meant to be set up for light to pass through it, softening the light overall.

Comparing Reflector Types

Reflectors from left to right: white, silver, gold, and daylight.

Another thing to keep in mind is the size (and therefore cost) or your reflector. It stands to reason that the larger your subject, the larger size of reflector needed, but knowing exactly which size is to bring along on a shoot can be helpful. Here’s what the folks at Wescott say:

Ideal Reflector Size

Reflector Shape

Wescott recommends square reflectors over round reflectors, not only because they are easier to grip, but because they also have more surface area (up to 15% more). Basically they’re more bang for the buck. Some photographers, however, find round reflectors easier to hold when working alone on location.

How to Choose

In the end, even with all the suggestions and tips for how to use each type of reflector, which one you go with will depend on your own style of photography and what gives you the look you want. If you’re new to using reflectors and don’t know which one to start out with, try getting a 5-in-1 or 6-in-1 kit and practice in a variety of settings. This will help you set your own ground rules and give you the experience to know what you need under all the conditions you’re likely to shoot under.

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