As a teenager I remember reading books on photography for beginners and one of the first rules of photography was never shoot into the sun. The great thing about photography is some rules are made to be broken! If you look closely at my images or you've seen me at work, you may have noticed I often shoot with the sun behind my subject. In this blog I show a simple but effective way of improving your photography by bouncing natural light back on to your model using just a reflector.
Above: Image of model Grace Parry shot using natural light and a silver 110cm reflector
Reflectors come in all different shapes and sizes, and a photographic reflector can be purchased from as little as £10. You could actually use a piece of white paper which works well for macro photography. You can then cut and shape your reflector. It's also worth pointing out that like any light source the larger the light source is, the softer the light will be.
Below: My first test shot shows beautiful autumn light directly behind model Kelly Amber but she looks is too dark and requires a fill light.
Below: By holding a silver reflector to bounce the natural light back on to our subject, the image completely changes its appearance.
Below: This screen grab shows the Raw image in Adobe Lightroom. All the sun flare is natural and not added in Photoshop.
There are lots of different types and shapes of reflectors available, a small collapsable reflector is light to carry and will fit in the back of most camera bags. I have 3 types of reflectors in my kit which I use.
• A Lastolite LR3041 white and gold which is 75cm in diameter
• A 110cm 5 in 1 reflector, which features a diffuser panel, a black blocking out panel and a silver, white and gold reflector.
• My 3rd reflector is a silver foldable windscreen cover which cost me £1. Actually, it cost Mrs Jones £1 but I borrowed it on a long term basis!
How I use my reflector.
I normally keep my reflector a little distance from the model to create a fill light, for me it makes the image look very natural and doesn't produce a harsh, overpowering light. In some cases you may want a strong light, in fashion for example, as always it's what works for you and your style of photography. Depending on where I'm working and who I'm with I would either ask an assistance to hold the reflector for me, lean it against a nearby object or a tripod or more often than not attach to my reflector holder boom arm or tie it to my camera backpack with a piece of rope - it works for me!
Below: An image from a Boho shoot in July 2013 with model Sasha Wright being a bad influence on my daughter! See how I've attached the reflector to a extendable boom arm and stand, I haven't yet positioned it correctly but you can see how the gold light bounces back onto the models dress and right arm.
Below: A soft warm natural fill light created by a gold reflector on this unedited image.
Below: By holding the gold reflector closer to the model I created a harder light. Both images below have not been retouched.
Below: I love this shot of model Grace Gray which I have retouched using frequency separation in Photoshop.
Look closely at the next image which is a video grab and you'll see in this behind the scenes shot how the reflector as it's laid down bouncing back the sunlight as it appears overhead.
Below: An unedited image shows the soft even light as it reflects back onto Grace
Below: Earlier in the day Grace Gray and I created fitness and wellbeing images, using my reflector this time resting against and tied to my Manfrotto Bumblebee backpack. Look closely at the eyes and you'll see the reflector in her eyes. In some shots I actually remove different catch lights from the eyes in Photoshop. Showing just one catch light in the eyes makes a nicer image.
Above: If you are shooting on a breezy day and the reflector isn't firmly fixed, expect your model to chase it a few times as this image of Alex demonstrates.
Below.: Imported into Adobe Lightroom before adjusting the colours. Notice on this RAW image how I used the gold reflector to make the image feel as if it's sunset golden time. Spend some time in Photoshop and your image will really come alive.
Below: You guessed it, a silver reflector with the sun directly behind my model Andrea. I think this creates a lovely even light over her skin.
Above: This unedited image of Kelly was taken using 2 reflectors fixed to stands and clamped together.
Below: Take a look at my Ethereal video on YouTube to see the results my assistant for the day Emma White created using a silver reflector on location. This was also mixed with an off-camera speedlite flash. Click the here to see the video.
New work with model and actor Grace Parry
This is also a great opportunity for me to share new images from a shoot on 31st October 2016 with the very lovely model/actor Grace Parry with the very talented Make-Up Artist Grace Gray. We were fortunate enough to have amazing warm low October sunlight which looked beautiful. For the majority of the images I rested my silver reflector against my tripod which I positioned approximately 10' from my model and that was it! Of course having a beautiful and talented model and a great makeup artist helps!
Thanks to a great model, a fantastic Hair and Make-Up artist and amazing sunlight I absolutely love the results we all created and hope you do too.
Above: ISO 400 f3.5 1/400 Sec Shot with a Canon 5D mkIII and a 70-200mm f2.8 L USM lens.
Above: This image uses my silver windscreen reflector wrapped to try and create an unusual bounce effect. Notice how you can see in the top corners of the image the edge of the reflector which could be removed in Photoshop if required.
If you've never used a reflector before, I hope this blog inspires you to give it a go. With Christmas just around the corner you know what to add to your list or buy for a budding photographer! Make sure you share your results with me. You can find me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Philjonesphotography
Here's a link to Lastolite reflectors by Manfrotto, prices start from as little as £12.95 Click here
Thanks to all the models featured and a big thank you to the lovely Grace Parry. If you haven't seen her amazing acting skills please check out her Showreel below.
Last but by but not least, thanks again to the brilliant and amazing Grace Gray model and Make-Up Artist. Grace has just launched her new website Grace Gray Make-Up Artist, please take a look and follow her on Facebook and Instagram. It goes without saying if you're looking for a MUA, then Grace is your girl!