Shaping Hard Light with Reflectors

Soft lighting is generally the way to go when shooting any subject. It’s easy to manage and the even lighting it produces usually makes the subject look good. But there is a time to use hard lighting. When used correctly, hard lighting can produce dramatic shots by creating depth and dramatic highlights and shadows. The video below shows how you can change the shape and quality of hard light using reflectors:

There are five main types of light shaping tools used:

  • Narrow Beam Reflector – Offers a brighter center and gradual falloff
  • Wide Zoom Reflector – Produces a very even amount of light at a wider angle and can be used to throw light from a distance
  • Magnum Reflector – Offers a dramatic hot spot in the center with a smooth, but quick falloff
  • White Beauty Dish – Blocks direct light and reflects it with a fairly even spread
  • Silver Beauty Dish – Same as the White Beauty Dish but produces a brighter and harder quality of light
light shaping tools

Explaining the different kinds of light reflectors

With each of these reflectors you can change the brightness and amount of falloff of your studio lights which in effect change the exposure, contrast, and mood of your photos. You can also spot or flood each light by adjusting the position of the reflector on your light source. Spotting the light creates a more focused beam in the center whereas flooding the light creates a more even spread and less gradual falloff. The degree to which the photo lighting will change when this is done depends on the reflector being used.

“A lot of highlights, a lot of sharp shadows and you create texture. That texture can be used to create mood, create atmosphere in your image.”

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