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Simple Background with Reflector

Lesson 50 from: Incredible Engagement Photography

Pye Jirsa

Simple Background with Reflector

Lesson 50 from: Incredible Engagement Photography

Pye Jirsa

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Lesson Info

50. Simple Background with Reflector

Summary (Generated from Transcript)

The topic of this lesson is engagement photography with a simple background and the use of a reflector.


  1. What type of reflector did the instructor use in this scene and why?

    The instructor used a silver reflector because they were shooting in shade and wanted to add a little bit of light to the shadow areas of the subjects' faces.

  2. When using a reflector, what areas of the face should you pay attention to?

    When shooting close-ups, it is important to pay attention to the lighting on the face, particularly in the shadow areas and the whites of the eyes.

  3. When is it appropriate to use a gold reflector?

    Gold reflectors are typically used for stylistic effects in fashion, swimsuit, or fitness photography. They can give a warm, golden tone to the subject.

  4. Why did the instructor choose to make the couple sit for this shoot?

    Sitting allows for a simpler background and makes it easier to capture a wider shot that includes more of the background.

  5. How did the instructor handle a situation where they needed to get a shot with a reflector, but there were restrictions on using professional equipment?

    The instructor listened to the rules and guidelines given by the authority figure, acknowledged them, and then reiterated the rules back to them, making sure to comply with the restrictions while still getting the shots they needed.

  6. What is the benefit of walking around the couple and shooting from different angles?

    Shooting from different angles allows for more unique and interesting compositions, creating a variety of shots instead of just straight-on poses.

Next Lesson: Final Thoughts


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Posing Guidance for Him


Posing Guidance for Her


Foundational Posing


Posing Touch Points


Couples Body Language


Posing Three Point Check


Posing Tips with Demo


Lesson Info

Simple Background with Reflector

Okay, so I wanted to talk through this. And we might actually have just a few minutes to actually show the video if we would like to, for this scene. So maybe that's what I'd like to do now, if we can. 'Cause we didn't get to see that video in this scene. So I'd love to do that before we actually show these images. All right guys, so in this scene we have a beautiful repeating background. We're gonna go ahead and use natural light for the scene, but we haven't done something yet. I love using reflectors, and reflector modification when we need to. If we can place subjects in a scene where our surrounding objects reflect for us and add the light that we need, that's great. But when we don't have that and want to just add a little bit of kick and a little bit of lighting to kind of make the catch lights open up a little bit, we're gonna put in a reflector. Here we're gonna be using a silver reflector because we're working in shade and want to just get a little bit of light onto the kind ...

of shadow area of the faces, opening up the eyes and so forth for our closeup shots. And then we're gonna pull out and kind of do some more wide shots without the reflector as well. Let's go ahead and jump in. And for these, what I'm thinking is, Kai, can we have you, what sides did we have you guys on before? We had you on this side, right? For the most part? There's on, I was on the left side. And then I was on the right side. Okay, and how is your hair parted today? It's a kind of similar? We can do whatever. Yeah, so let's put you actually on this side, and then Ryan let's put you on that side Great. And let's put Kai up one step. I'm gonna have you guys sitting, is that okay? Yeah. You guys be able to sit? And then Kai, you're gonna let your legs kind of go off to the side. There you go, perfect. Ryan, let's unbutton the jacket. Perfect. Do you guys know rules for jackets? I always tell guys this, rules for jackets. If you're doin' the bro hug, if you guys are hangin' on to each other, you guys are like hangin' loose at the bar, that kind of stuff, you keep the button unbuttoned. We don't want that pulling open kind of look with the jacket. Hands in the pockets, you want a more formal look you keep the button buttoned, just watch for the pull. Like a lot of times when they sit down, the button opens and it kind of pulls across, and you get this kind of nasty look with the way that it's opening up. It makes, it gives it the Chris Farley, you know? Fat guy in a little coat look. (audience laughs) That kind of thing. And Kai, what you're gonna do is kind of hug onto Ryan. Perfect. And let's have you kind of hug onto his arm, Kai, and lean up forward close to him, kinda getting in tight. Perfect. Now, Ryan, I love that, I'm gonna have you sit up a little bit taller and kind of sit back, kind of towards Kai just a little bit. And what we're gonna do, is we're gonna start in a little bit close, and we're just gonna open up the light a little bit. I'm gonna have you go right underneath. Right. To kind of open up that lighting up. There you go. And let's go with that real fast, lemme just see it. Yeah, there we go, perfect. And Kai, I want you to hug onto his arm tight, lean into him, get close. There you go, and then straighten out the head a little bit, Kai, so I can see your eyes. Perfect. And then Ryan, look over towards Kai's side. Right there, guys. That's fantastic. I dig that, oh my gosh. You guys look amazing. Lower the reflector. To make that sound, "You guys look amazing." (audience laughs) You just go a little falsetto. (audience laughs) Just raise the voice a little bit. Just a tiny tiny bit, right there. Okay. (shutter clicks) I love it. You guys are so natural, you just start smiling naturally. Kai, I love that, lean against him. Ryan, look towards Kai's side. Kai, open up and look towards me, just right there. I wanna get this shot right with your eyes lit up. Right there. The closer that we're gonna work into a subject, the more that we're gonna show on their face, the more we're gonna reveal, the more I'm worried about the lighting on their face. So my level of correcting light and kind of adding and stuff goes up when we start going in tight versus when we go out and I'm not too worried about those kind of things, so we're going in tight. Perfect. And let's pull the reflector away so we can see the difference. Lean back down and into 'em, there you go, right there. And can we go to the slides, 'cause I actually wanna show this difference. That's my phone. (audience laughs) This is my clicker. So, in the slides, it's hard to see with the unprocessed version of the image, so I just processed the image the exact same way on both of these. So I just took the same setting and applied it to both. So you guys can see the difference of with and without reflector. Let me look at it directly on just so I can see this. But basically, it's super subtle in this kind of a photo because we're dealing with, the sun is already set, right? At this point the sun is already set, we're only opening up light from the sky, so that's basically what we're catching, is just light from the sky that we're pushing into the face. That's why we're using the silver. But the easiest way to look and to see it, is if you look in the shadow areas of the face, one of these images is gonna be more open than the other. If you look at the whites of the eyes, one of the images is gonna have brighter whites of the eyes than the other. The angle of the reflector was not positioned to be seen in the catch light, but normally if you pull it out just a little bit, you'd actually be able to see as well in the catch light going into the face and into the eyes. So it'll actually add a underlying catch light underneath. But in my mind those, these small changes, they make a pretty good difference in terms of like the production value of a shot. And it really opens it up, creates a very lively kind of look to it, very fresh. And it makes people look a little younger, you know what I mean? Like it has that kind of effect to it. So, I thought that was cool. All right, let's go back to the video. Oh that's perfect. Yeah, we got this beautiful catch light. That's fantastic. And then with that same one I want you to look now down towards Ryan's side, so bring the reflector up right into him. And almost like nuzzling into Ryan's cheek a little bit, getting in close to the nose, there you go. Ryan, look down and towards her side. Chin up a little bit, Ryan. Chin up a little bit, Kai. There you go, right there. Kai, whisper something soft and sweet into his ear. (shutter clicks) That's fantastic. Now I'm gonna have you do it again, I'm gonna have you whisper something that will make up for him being sick and everything out here. Something preferably dirty. (laughs) (shutter clicks) Love that guys, that's so fantastic. Oh my gosh, you guys look amazing, look at this. Aww. Generally, towards the beginning of a shoot, this is, we had to do their shoot with that composite shot first, 'cause we were losing light. But this was actually the first piece where we're shooting portraits. At the beginning of the shoot we're doing a lot of show and tell type stuff, you know, we wanna show them, oh, I love this, it looks fantastic. This goes back to building the confidence of the clients as you begin the shoot and work into everything. You're a keeper. You guys are both keepers, jeez. Jeez Louise. All right, now let's go a little bit wider, so. So want me to stay seated? Yeah, stay seated for one sec. I wanna get this kind of scene right now. So what we're gonna do is open up a little bit. I'm actually gonna open the aperture. (shutter clicks) We don't allow any professional equipment outside the camera unless you get a permit from (mumbles) online, you can look that up online, it's a couple hundred dollars. Gotcha. But you're more than welcome to take pictures, just nothing-- Okay. External from the camera. No flashes, tripods. Yeah. No reflectors. So we actually work with Disney a lot, and we know that-- Okay. We can't put down legs and all that kinda stuff like, so is it okay if they just handhold those cameras? Yeah. So they're just gonna handhold. Just (mumbles). Yeah, reflectors, tripods. Okay, we won't go any reflector. Yeah, you guys are good. So just handheld. Okay, thank you, appreciate it. Thank you. (audience laughs) Okay, that was the other reason I wanted to show this video. Someone asked me about permits, right? How do you deal with these kind of issues that do happen? There's a few simple kind of tricks that we teach our people. Number one, you listen to what they're saying. So they come up to you and they're talking to you, listen. I don't mean hear them, I mean actually listen verbally to what they're saying. When they finish, acknowledge it. Say, "Okay, I totally understand. We actually work here quite a bit. We work with Disney a lot." We do. We work with Disney a lot throughout the entire year. So I actually spouted back to her the actual rules on the property. So I said, "We know we can't put down legs, we know we can't do stands, any stuff like that." I also know in my head that we can't actually use reflectors but I was like let's get this quick shot before they actually come over and tell us. It takes about five minutes for them to get over and tell us that. So we go, "We're not gonna put down legs, we're not gonna put down lights, we're not gonna do any of those things." And then she goes, "Oh, and you can't have reflectors." And, "Oh, perfect, we totally won't use any more reflectors or anything like that. Is it okay," and I know that we can't do that, so I go, "Is it okay if they just handhold those cameras?" They do this, and we just list the rules back to them, and say, and then they go, "Oh, cool, no problem." It took 30 seconds, and then we just go back to shooting. All right guys, that's perfect. I want you guys to kind of nuzzle into each other again, hug on to him, this time forget the camera's here for just a second, and. You have a question? So I had a question about the reflectors. You mentioned using the silver in the shade and using the white in the sun. When is a, when do you use the gold? Good question. We generally aren't using the gold too much for portraiture and the reason is, maybe if you have a couple that's extremely white you might do that. I don't know how other way to say that. Is there a better way to say that? No, that's good. Pale? Pale. Porcelain. Dappled light, guys. Dappled. (audience laughs) So maybe if they're very pale, then you might do that, but there, in most cases like even when they're pale, like putting a silver and just warming up the temperature in camera yields a more natural look. Or using a white and warming it up in camera gives it a more natural look. The gold is fantastic for stylistic effects. So, usually golds are used on like fashion, swimsuit, you know, fitness, that kinda stuff where you want the person to have a gold tone, so that we can drop the, it's similar to putting on a CTO gel, but with a constant reflector. So you're using a constant light, it's going orange, you drop the temperature in camera, so that way everything comes out more blue and more, you know, kind of dramatic and like that. So, that would be the way that I would use that. I generally don't use it for engagement. Cool? And you can still use a silver in direct light. The difference is when you use a silver in direct light, you don't wanna ever be underneath. You don't want it to go being bottom up as a silver, because it's gonna push so much light into the face. That's that up light that we talked about, right? But you can use a silver, you can hold it off to the side and use it as a main light in direct sun. It'll actually add like one to two stops of light to your subjects. It'll look equivalent to a flash basically being added to 'em. The only thing is, why do we use a flash over a silver in midday sun? Why do you guys think that we would do that? You control it better? Kind of. I mean you can basically see a reflector, like if I put a reflector on you, it allows me to visually see it, so the control is super nice on a reflector, right? You can actually visually see that. The problem is that it's also constant. If we're working out in midday sun or if it's even like, you know, 4 p.m. and the sun is still just bright in the sky and I put a reflector on you, it makes you squint, it's gonna heat you up, it's going to give you a tan if I hold it on you long enough. (audience laughs) It's gonna do a whole lot of things that are kind of uncomfortable for the client, so once you put that silver on them, it makes it difficult to get natural poses and reactions, as opposed to a flash. If I put a flash going through a white umbrella right next to 'em, I can add the exact same amount of light, it only pops when I need it, and I can keep the moving and posing throughout that whole set. So it's not to say that I won't use a silver as a hard, like I'll use it if my couple, especially if my couple is a more, a darker-skinned couple. Usually they're more like, they're immune to the effects of a reflector. Versus my fair-skinned couples, like if you're fair-skinned and you reflect hard light into the eyes, because the skin around the eyes is so fair it bounces back into your eyes and it makes it more difficult. Like you saw the, our first client, she actually kept saying like her eyes were hurting. "Can I look this way, can I look that way, my eyes are hurting." It's 'cause she's so fair-skinned that we have to be really aware of that. Okay. Kind of focus on each other. There you go. Perfect, just like that. Love that. (shutter clicks) I love that. That looks so fantastic, guys. I want you guys both looking, oh, that's perfect. Hug onto him again just like that, looking kind of down and out towards that side. That's beautiful. And then both y'all look towards me, I want you to sit up straight, Ryan, a little bit. And then Kai I want you to lean into him. I want this to be like kind of your guys' portrait. So if there were a Save the Date kind of look into the camera, it would be this guy. There we go. And Ryan, smile like your buddies are gonna see this. (laughs) I don't know what that smile would look like dude, I'm just sayin'. (laughs) That's fantastic, right there, I love that. I love that, love that, lean into him, perfect. Now nuzzle his cheek a little bit. (shutter clicks) Guys, those are so good. Wow, look at this. Fantastic, love that. I love. So we bring in the head tilt, and I think the timing of the, what you're seeing was a little bit quicker than what was actually being said. Because we said head tilt, and then they tilted the head in. But I wanted to also show this video because I'm a big guy for simplicity in shots, and simple backgrounds like this, when I see them, they're fantastic. And the way to get a background like this larger, is to make them sit versus stand, you know. If you put 'em, if they're in a small area and you just want a simple shot, make them sit, especially if you have steps and that kinda stuff that you can actually stagger them a little bit. Because then you can shoot a little bit more of the background, as opposed to if they're standing, you're trying to get their heads in, there's not really an angle to do that when their heads are going above the staircase, you know what I mean? So, I love these simple backgrounds like this because for general portraits it really lets the viewer focus on just the story, and on their expressions, and on them. And this is one of their, you know, this is one of the shots that they wanna use for like Save the Dates and those kinda things. It's such a great, casual shot that's just featuring them. And then we of course do that crazy shot of them and the canvas as everybody walks in the reception room. They see that epic composite shot that we did, and then their guests freak out. Cool? Any questions on this scene? One other thing that I wanted to mention was that notice when we pulled away and got out wide, I really wasn't worried about the reflector. I knew that Disney was gonna come over and stop us as soon as we were like five minutes into it, so I started in close, did my reflector stuff, we got told, I started working back to my wide shots. So I'm just kind of playing around a little bit and then we're just working out why when I go wide like this I don't care if the light's not perfect on their face. It's not a huge element to make sure that, you know there's a little tiny sparkler at the bottom of her eye right there. Cool? Okie dokie. Oh, you know what, there was one other thing that I wanted to show. Again, they can go back through the other videos, but one thing that I love to do once I have a couple into a pose, let me just bring this guy up. I'm gonna scrub this. Basically we have. So once they're in a pose, I love working around the angles. So I might start with like a wide shot like this, where we start in wide. So, notice that we either go close, work wide, or wide, work close, and we, you know, are gonna incorporate our effects and all that kind of stuff. We didn't do too much of that here because our mood boards didn't call for like, dreaminess and stuff, our mood boards were straightforward. So what I love doing is putting them into a pose and then working the angle around them. And it's great if you're short on time. Like you're doing a wedding, you're doing whatever, you have 10 minutes. Put the subjects into a pose and literally walk around them on the shots. And so as you're walking around, you might say, "Okay, bring your heads down and to the side." And you're gonna shoot from this side. And you're gonna keep walking, and you're gonna keep finding kind of very unique and different angles off the poses that they're already in. And so that's what we're doing here is we have them into this pose, we do a couple wide shots, we kinda work our way in, and then I start shooting this angle. They're in an open pose, right? But I'm just shooting a non-straight angle. And we get really cool just different-looking compositions with our shots. You know, we have him in the foreground, a little bit blurred out, we have her kind of right there. It makes for a lot of very unique kind of images, as opposed to just always standing in front of them, shooting that straight-on shot. So do the little walk around. Do the walk around. And then the Persian Cowboy.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Pre-Shoot Videos
Keynote 1
Keynote 2
Presets Installation Guide
Gear Guide
Favorite Software
Lightroom Presets

Ratings and Reviews

CPR Photography

I think Pye Jirsa is one of the best, if not the best, instructor for photography on Creative Live. He is very personable, smart and approachable. He has a perfect blend of personality (comments, laughs, tangents..) to the amount of instruction. He asks the questions for you, because he knows you are thinking those questions right then. He's very good about identifying settings, gear, etc.. and not leaving us in the dark about how he "got the shot". He goes into great detail. His instructions flow, but are linear, which is helpful. He's very organized, and you can tell that he really put a lot of work into his presentations (slides, video, test shoots, live teaching, graphics, etc..) I have been listening to him for like 10 hours straight, and still haven't gotten tired of him. He keeps things moving, He's very funny too. Nice job, I've learned so much. :)

a Creativelive Student

This course was AMAZING. I'd say int he past year or two I've fallen into a slump. Uninspired by my surroundings and uninspired by my clients. As a result, it showed through my work. My posing suffered as well and more than a handful of times some of my shoots became more than awkward. Then I bought this course and watched most of it in the course of a day. I walked away inspired, blown away, and renewed. The next day I walked into an engagement session confident. I gave my couples a quick overview on posing and then we just had fun in front of the camera. Immediately afterwards they texted me about how amazing their shoot was and how relaxed I made them feel about posing. The photos turned out fantastic to say the least. I've since shot several more engagement sessions and each one of them has been amazing. If anything, this course should inspire photographers to think outside the box and provide you with the necessary skills to take incredible engagement photos. Thank you Pye and Creative Live! I cannot speak more highly of this course. I should also state I purchased Pye's Natural Light course on SLR Lounge: this course is a wonderful addition to that. If you already own the natural light course and are hesitant about purchasing this one, don't. Buy it and reap the benefits!


This is by far one of the best courses I have taken. Pye makes learning fun and easy to understand. I feel like I have learned so much throughout the course, that I have truly advanced my photography skills. I am so excited to get out there and try so many of the techniques that he showed. I would love to take another course of his. The pricing for the course doesn't even compare to how wonderful the education truly is, I really got more than my money's worth on this one.

Student Work