Today I’m letting you in on a secret tool photographers use to get beautifully lit images in less than ideal situations. Reflectors! This is one of the simplest lighting techniques to grasp and you don’t need to go buy any fancy equipment. Win, win all around!
One of the biggest benefits of using a reflector is that it fills in the shadows so that you don’t have to add another light source. This is particularly useful if you are photographing one item or something with a lot of detail – like a plate of food or in my example a smoothie.
Let’s look at an example. I set said smoothie on my counter next to a window. There is nice soft light coming from the window (that’s the kind of light we want!) There is also light coming from above from the track lighting in my kitchen. This light is much warmer and harsher than the window light.
I only want one light source so I turn off the overhead lights so now I just have window light. However now half of my smoothie looks dark. If I were to take the picture now it would have a lot of contrast (which is fine if that is what you are going for) but in some situations you want to be able to see both sides of your object.
This is where the reflector comes in. I stand my reflector (a white folder) on the other side of my smoothie. The white folder bounces the light from the window back onto the shadow side of my smoothie. Check out the diagram below.
Here is what this looks like in real life. The image on the left was taken without a reflector and the the image on the right uses a reflector.
Photographers call this fill lighting but all you need to know is that it makes the shadows less harsh and the light more even. All these photos were taken with my iPhone, no fancy camera required!
I used a plain white folder in this example, but there are lots of things around your house that you could use to reflect light. Chances are you have some of them in your house right now!
Here are a few household items that can be used as a reflector:
- White paper, any size at all. I’ve even used an envelope in a pinch!
- white poster board or foam board
- a dry ease board
- a white piece of fabric or blanket
You should be noticing a trend here… the only unifying feature in this list is that they are light in color and most of them are flat. The point is you don’t need to go out and buy a reflector. For everyday situations you can make do with things around your house.