Secret Weapon for Outdoor Portrait Lighting: Small Reflector

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Some people say that natural light is the best light source in portrait photography, but it is often not available. After all, we can not control the position and quantity of the sun. So every time I shoot outdoor portraits, I prepare a secret weapon for myself: a small reflector. It's cheap and easy to carry, and it won't scare my subjects.

Why Choose Small Reflector

There are many types of reflective panels, which are mainly different in size, shape, material and color of reflective surface. Most reflective panels can be folded so that they can be carried around. But the most common one I use is a 12-inch small reflector, which can be bought at the price of a movie ticket. Sometimes I use super-large reflective panels in film and television works, but for outdoor portraits and travel photography, small reflective panels allow me to control light with my right hand and left hand.Secret Weapon for Outdoor Portrait Lighting: Small Reflector

The Role of Reflectors: Reducing Shadows

It's not wrong for photographers to just scramble for the day and night. It's important to know that the light at sunset is not generally good, but if you want to shoot a portrait at noon when the light conditions are the most harsh, the reflective board is necessary. The following photo is taken for National Geographic Traveler magazine by the Rabari tribe in Western India. Our subject was in a dark earthen house. He was sick, so we had to shoot in the house. There is a small window on the old man's left wall (on the right side of the image). My trusted photographic assistant, in order to alleviate the shadows on the old man's face, placed the silver reflector under the old man's face and could see the bright spots from the old man's eyes.Secret Weapon for Outdoor Portrait Lighting: Small Reflector

Fstop of 2.8, shutter speed@ 1/100 and ISO 200

This photo was taken at the border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Note that although the woman in the picture is standing in the shadow, her face is not black, and the background exposure is normal. Here I used a spot light meter to measure the sky, with a reflector in my left hand, to illuminate the characters'faces.Secret Weapon for Outdoor Portrait Lighting: Small ReflectorSecret Weapon for Outdoor Portrait Lighting: Small Reflector

Fstop of 8, shutter speed@ 1/250 and ISO 100

The 80-year-old man lives in Getho, a fisherman in Thailand. This photo is a bit complicated in terms of lighting settings, with three light sources. First, the main light source is the door on the right side of the picture. The light is 45 degrees from the front of the person, which is the way to highlight personality. There is a small silver reflective plate in my left hand, which can lighten the shadow effect on the old man's face. Higher behind the old man is a window, which gives the old man a shiny effect on his hair and shoulders.Secret Weapon for Outdoor Portrait Lighting: Small ReflectorSecret Weapon for Outdoor Portrait Lighting: Small Reflector

Fstop of 4, shutter speed@ 1/100 and ISO 320

Secret Weapon for Outdoor Portrait Lighting: Small ReflectorSecret Weapon for Outdoor Portrait Lighting: Small Reflector

Sometimes when I shoot in strong sunlight, the reflector is my only choice.

Choose the right reflective color

Most reflectors come in many colors. In the following work, I want to make golden brown the dominant color in the picture, so let the assistant use the golden surface of the reflector to reflect the sunlight and illuminate the woman's face.Secret Weapon for Outdoor Portrait Lighting: Small Reflector

Fstop of 4.5, shutter speed@ 1/80 and ISO 100

Secret Weapon for Outdoor Portrait Lighting: Small Reflector

Choosing the appropriate reflective distance

This important rule must be kept in mind when lighting with a reflector: the closer the light source is to the subject, the softer the light will be. However, when lighting at the same distance, a large reflector is always softer than a small one. Eyesight is a factor that adds points to a work. There are many ways to create eyes, such as flashlight or flash, but the reflective board is the fastest and most convenient. As long as the position is slightly higher, you can easily get a look.Secret Weapon for Outdoor Portrait Lighting: Small Reflector

Fstop of 3.5, shutter speed@ 1/640 and ISO 250

Secret Weapon for Outdoor Portrait Lighting: Small Reflector

Epilogue

In my opinion, the best way to learn lighting is to watch the excellent works of other photographers, try to guess the direction of light in the picture, and observe the effect of each light on the performance of the characters. In this way, their own lighting habits will be gradually cultivated.


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