Reflector Tutorial for Indoor Wedding Photography

A reflector is a simple tool that can easily and dramatically improve the quality of your photos. But, are you familiar with the different types of reflectors and when you should be using them? And did you know that besides using them to bounce light, you can use them to block or diffuse light? Professional wedding photographer Vanessa Joy with Adorama explains the different ways you can use a reflector:

When to Use a Reflector

A typical use case of a reflector would be when your subjects are placed against a bright, directional light source. They could be standing with the sun behind them or close to a window. In any case, you typically need to pop out a reflector whenever you feel the need to fill in the shadows.

portrait without a reflector

Image taken without a reflector

image taken with a white reflector

The same image taken with a white reflector

Ways to Use Reflectors

White Reflector

A white reflector does a subtle job of filling in shadows. With a white reflector, you’ll just be adding a little more lighting on the subject’s face without completely filling in the shadows.

using a white reflector

“Make sure that you’re not putting a reflector underneath them. Huge mistake!”

Using a reflector under the subject’s faces can cause shadows to be formed leading to undesired results. Instead, it on the opposite side, parallel, or at a higher angle.

Silver Reflector

You can use silver reflectors when the light is not enough. However, you also need to consider that besides making the subject brighter, it also enhances the specular highlights. And if you’re not careful with specular highlights, they can end up creating distracting hot spots.

specilar highlights with silver reflector

Notice the bright specular highlights on the bride’s cheek caused by a silver reflector

Using a Reflector to Block Light

You can use reflectors to not only add light but also to block out unnecessary lights creeping into your shot. Just place the reflector over the area where you want to block light while making sure that the black portion is facing the subject.

using reflector to block unwanted light

Using a reflector to block the light over the couple

For instance, if there’s a light source above the subject that’s causing shadows to be formed under the eyes and in the neck region, place a reflector over the subject with the black portion facing down. This will block the light and cause the shadows to disappear.

using reflector to block light

Using Reflectors to Block Reflections

This trick is especially useful when the ground has a strong color cast on your subject and on the clothes that they’re wearing. The light reflected from the ground can form a color cast that’s more apparent on the bride’s white dress. This also affects the skin color tones, giving you undesirable results.

To get rid of this issue, simply place the reflector on the ground just in front of your subject with the black side up. You will notice that this will drastically change the skin tones and the color of the dress.

using reflector to block reflections

Notice the reflector on the ground to block off reflections from reaching the couple

Using Reflectors to Diffuse Light

Place the reflector just over the subject’s head while keeping it angled down. This will prevent the formation of deep shadows by diffusing the harsh light. This basically gives you a clamshell lighting effect.

reflector to diffuse light

clamshell lighting portrait using reflector

By now, you must’ve realized that you can use a reflector for multiple purposes. Give some of these tips a try to see how a simple reflector can take your photography to the next level.

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