How to Use Natural Reflectors for Street Portraits

More often than not, photography is a game of chasing down light. It’s the single most crucial thing in making a great image; a beautiful model or scenic view won’t shine if the light is just a bit off. Many photographers invest hundreds or thousands of dollars into top of the line strobes, speedlites, and softboxes to create perfect conditions. Unfortunately, many of us lack the means to invest in these tools. Luckily, instructor and artist Jeff Rojas┬ádemonstrates that using the resources already at your disposal can work just as well:

A New York City native, Rojas often uses his surroundings to his advantage and keeps a constant eye on the shifting sunlight. The difference in the way light falls over the course of an hour can be incredibly dramatic, and a single source can produce vastly different qualities of light depending on how it’s utilized.

light on the street

The specular light of a shining sun can cast awful shadows that can ruin a portrait. However, bringing in a collapsible reflector can work to remedy this issue. But what is a photographer to do when they can’t afford to get an assistant to make adjustments and bounce light in the right direction? For Rojas, the answer lies in the buildings that tower over him. When the sun shines on a surface, whether it be a large white skyscraper or a metallic garage door, it transforms the harsh specular light into an encompassing soft light that’s sure to flatter any subject.

specular light portrait

bounced light portrait

Seeking out natural reflectors is an easy way to beautify an image on a budget. However, you should be aware of the potentially negative impacts a space can have on your photograph, as well. One of the most common issues photographers using natural light face is that of undesirable color casting. If an overly warm or cool tone could ruin the feel of the portrait that you’re trying to create, be observant of the way your photos look in the field and remain willing to keep walking to get the shot that works best for you.

An old saying claims that the best things in life are free, and in the case of natural light, the adage usually rings true. Regardless of location or equipment at your disposal, it’s almost always possible to create a stellar shot if you’re willing to keep an open mind and open eyes.

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2 responses to “How to Use Natural Reflectors for Street Portraits”

  1. Lisa says:

    When I think a steel image that is not difficult to me but this is beautiful.I don’t believe I’ve ever heard it explained or illustrated this way.

  2. Means well says:

    Thanks for sharing

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