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Reflector Types and Sizes

Lesson 8 from: Location Lighting 101

Lindsay Adler

Reflector Types and Sizes

Lesson 8 from: Location Lighting 101

Lindsay Adler

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Lesson Info

8. Reflector Types and Sizes

Next Lesson: Reflector Angles


Class Trailer

Day 1


Class Introduction


Principles of Light


Speedlights vs Strobes


Compressing the Scene


Location Lenses and Lenshoods


Metering Modes and Back Button Focus


Natural Light Reflectors


Lesson Info

Reflector Types and Sizes

let's talk about reflector so I've got a video that I want to just get to so we can start answering questions diving into reflectors after reflectors we delve into diffusers so we got a lot to talk about there reflector is the most basic and most essential tool in a photographer's location lighting kit it's a tool that you're going to use absolutely the most but if you've looked online or if you've looked at a store and you've seen all that exist for reflectors you might be wondering well what's the difference which one is right for me and there are so many different ones so I wanted to take a minute to cover all the different elements of reflectors their shape their size the material on what might be best for you as a photographer so the usual or the most basic of reflectors would be something like this it's kind of a medium sized silver and white reflector and later on I'm going to tell you about the different qualities of light that are created by using white versace silver so this ...

is the most basic and the reason this is nice is because it compacts pretty simply so it is very very portable you have the essential silver and white which are the ones that you would use most commonly when you're shooting a portrait okay this is great but because it is round if you're reflecting on your subject you definitely need two hands to do it right it's not really something you can get away with what one hand it starts to fall so it's a little bit more difficult and you definitely struggled to do it yourself you could have your a sister your model hold the reflector you hold this for a little bit of phil but let's say that you are a one thank you a one man show you do everything yourself well there's a couple of ways you can help yourself out first of all most commonly the reflector that I use it's about this size it's the thirty inch silver white ah westcott reflector and westcott actually makes a stand with a grip so that you can actually put the stand on location and then have it uh hold it for you if you don't have an assistant the downside of that of course is on a day like today when it's a little bit windy it's gonna be falling all over the place and watch when it's windy every movement of the reflector makes a difference in the light on her face so that's not always ideal and then you might have to carry a sandbag which is extra weight so it actually if you're the on ly person on set you don't have a uh an assistant there is actually something intended to help you out please have the tri grip please so this is the tri grip and it is made by last delight and a lot of people like this particular reflector because it can be held with just one hand and you could hold it with you if you wanted I suppose but what's nice is that if you're the only person on set you have no assistant you can actually shoot and hold your own reflector it's a little bit of a challenge but it is definitely something that you could dio and I could go ahead catch light on my subjects face and shoot at the same time and I actually get quite a nice quality of light on her face is well it comes in many different material has silver white there's ones that air silver white you can get the ones that actually have the different sheets that khun slide over top you can also get it so that it has the ability to attach to a stand but this is very useful for those of you that needs able to hold your own reflector okay so this is pretty good but what I also recommend that you take a look at when you're first starting off would be a five and one or three and one reflektor depending on your goals of a particular photo shoot your waited need different materials and we'll talk about that in length but this is either a three in one or five and one reflector which means that actually unzips has different materials inside this particular one is white silver for white black which is negative phil that we'll talk about and a diffuser so we're going to talk about diffusers and how they're useful for handling made or for just softening sunlight and so right now I have all of these different options in just one reflector so if your first starting off you're trying to invest in your first reflector that might be something that would be of use to you so definitely check this out all right now we've looked at a couple of their options another one that's really nice for holding a reflector could you get me the small the three by four there is that california sun balance has a line of reflectors that actually have thank you actually have frames okay so unlike the flimsy round reflectors with no spine this is actually easy for an assistant to hold up overhead to fight the sun to manipulate in different ways and to attach to stand so this gives you a lot of flexibility and this is a this is a favor on a lot of commercial shoots now of course california sun balance isn't the only company that makes the different reflectors with a frame but this is definitely a favorite I like this size it's relatively portable and there's a lot of different sizes in fact we've got a huge one here four by six foot were the frame as well so if you needed to have it mounted or need to hold it up over the scene you've got this flexibility so even talked about the differences in size yet so let's talk about that right now why would someone care about the size of the reflector what difference does it make so obviously a smaller reflector is more portable but does it always create the ideal amount of light and the answer is no we talked about earlier that the bigger the light source compared to your subject the softer the light so the sun very very far away is very very small it's going to be very contrast e a small soft box from far away isn't going to be that soft but if you take that so same soft box and you bring it very close to your subject like it's much softer and it begins to wrap around so if I take going to pass this to you can I have so it's one of the small reflectors if I take a small reflector and let's say that I'm trying not to be in my frame I'm doing a little bit of a wider shot thank you and I'm trying to lighten my subjects let's ivor I'm required to back up there's actually a really contrast the light source because I'm far away and it's small to soften it up you actually need a light source much closer but that I'm in my frames you run into that problem so the next thing I could do is get a larger reflector the general reflector sizes there twenty twenty four thirty or thirty to forty two forty two and then bigger and typically when they get bigger they then have a frame to give them a little bit more support if you have a small reflector and you want soft light or softer light that wraps more get closer or get a bigger reflector okay so here's another problem if I talk frequently about light like water right so when you use when you're trying to light your subject if you have a small bucket of water from far away or from even close up if I take the same reflector and I liked her if you actually look at her I'm just lighting from the top of her head really to about her waist okay it's only really lighting from here here that creates a lot of problems um now you might be fine for this shot maybe I don't care if she's darker at the bottom of her body no big deal but let's say perhaps that you are lighting a wedding dress and now you light and you just really bright hot spot on the subject's face and chest and then the dress becomes grey and dull down towards the bottom of the body that's not usually ideal and more importantly of course is groups let's say that I have a big group of people and I have just this small reflector I'm sure if you've tried this you know exactly what I'm going to say you go ahead you try to light your group and only a small a portion of the group is illuminated one or two of the faces and the light falls off almost immediately so one of the solutions is you think of that bucket of water example if I get really close just here I'm on lee lighting a small part of her face and of her chest but if I back way up I can light a lot more of her body you see that now I'm lighting midway to her knees and her face so it's that bucket of water when I'm really close throwing the bucket of water it just lights her face or if I back up really far it has time to spread out but think of the bucket of water again when I'm really close she's soaked right all the water is focused right there if I back up and throw that same bucket of water all that water spreads out it goes everywhere and so not as much reaches her says she's not going to be soaked head to toe okay so what does this mean in photography terms if you think about it means if I take this small reflector and I'm trying to light my group I can back up and get out even spread but not as much light will reach my subjects and sometimes almost not okay but your solution is to go out bigger get of water if you grab a big bucket of water and back up really really far or back up his faras you need thio now the light will spread out the water will light them or get them wet evenly and then you don't have to be in your frame so the better solution is if you're trying to light a group is to use a large reflector so grab that large reflector again so for this large reflector first of all I could bring it nice and close to her and we said the closer your light sources the bigger it is the softer the light so see how nice and soft and wrapping that light could be or if it's an entire group and it's already almost lighting her whole body now if I back it way way up good and kick some more light in time and you can feather it a little bit I can light I'm easily lighting from her head to her toe but now I could like an entire group so these when the sizes would make a difference this light is much less portable certainly if I bring it close it's softer I can illuminate head to toe whereas a smaller reflector doesn't have as much light I've got to get closer and then it won't spread out as much so those are just a few of the considerations there are dozens of different sizes every different size and shape you can imagine don't forget of course that in a pinch anything khun b a reflector let's say that you're at a picnic and you don't have a reflector with you but you really need one well maybe there is a cake pan or um you know the things they put pasta in and the whole thing is silver you could use that adds a reflector but of course it still has those same qualities it'll be silver so it's highly speculative very reflective but it's small so it'll be contrast and not really cover your scene or you could grab a white surface just like this a white piece of foam core and you could have nice subtle white phil on your subject and you could use that just as a little bit of phil but this doesn't have to be a piece of white foam court it could be the white insides of a pizza box so let's just put it this way you confined reflectors wherever you are but you have to remember all those effects of the material and the size will change the light on your subject let's take a look at this in action let's take a look how the differences in the size of reflector make a difference to our subject and then also the distance of that reflector from the subject let's see it in action and one of the things I want to do first I'm going to move you up a little bit because I'm going to put her closer to the edge of the shade because the problem is if she's way back here the light that I'm catching is actually the sunlight over there and so now it's going to have to be reflected that's further back it becomes a contrast your light source so this is something that is commonly referred to as kind of like wiping on the where you're lighting on the edge of this shape she'll still be in the shade and I might back her up I might back her up a couple feet like three two feet that way good at making sure there's no highlights on her hair or on her shoulder and now I can't had it was the sunlight just on the edge of the shape to pop light back to her face so keep that in mind if you have your subject really far back in the shadows or next to a tree it's gonna be much harder for you to catch that light and direct it back towards your subject right stephen so I'm gonna have you come in with that small reflector really close to her great step a little closer good and the great at me a little higher with that reflect us even good and get right there perfect okay exactly that same angle back up ok so the light is spreading out a bit but it starts to get dimmer and even further back let's try to get full body let's see that about full body good so that shot we were able to light close about here and then as we backed up the lights spread out but it got much dimmer so now let's switch to a large reflector really really close it's I mean right up close is going to be full body illumination and back up and soften the light a little bit that would be great perfect face perfect okay great so it's full body elimination right there perfect and he doesn't even need to back up but if he does back way up great and angling towards her a little more groot perfect one more thing that I wanted to mention just to keep in mind when you're thinking about what difference size makes in a reflector is a small reflector really close to the subject is relatively large the subject larger means softer but let's say you have a medium sized reflector further away as faras relative size the subject that meeting reflector faraway might be about the same size so it might have about the same softness and so a really large reflector really far away might not even be that much softer so it all has to do with relative size to that subject a big light source a large light source is going to rap more and it's going to be softer so keep that in mind when you're considering size it's not all about let's have a huge reflector if you're not using it the right way a small reflector can still be great as long as it's nice and close subject okay so do you guys have any questions on that at the moment how do you control when you're working with handheld reflectors that sometimes like it puts almost like too much light in their face okay so a couple things and I'll jump on and ask that we got a lot of questions from susa designs I noticed that sometimes people squint when you bounce a reflector what am I doing wrong how can I bounce light on the subject without causing them to squint so there's a there's a couple of different things you can do one quick tip if for some reason no matter what you're doing and it's still really bright you can actually bender reflector out and this actually diffuses the light on your subject so flat it catches a lot of light and it actually will capture more and it'll be harsher and out it gives you more diffused so if you're just trying to give a little bit of kick you can actually bend your reflector a little bit so that's something you can consider what I typically dio if I have a ton of light and I'm trying not to blind them I'll say okay hold on a second I'm trying to find my find my light just close your eyes for one sec and I'll try to figure out where the light comes from and it kind of follow it up their body and then feather it off like just changed the angle so the problem that you run into is if it's windy but there's not much you can do like feathering the word feathering which we talk about which is that I was kind of holding off but means instead of catching full amount of light you either rotate your reflected a left or right or up and down and so instead of going full power reflection what I have in you guys now just back it off a little bit so it's the edge of the light it's the corner of it but when you have you know windy day there's not much you can do that's why I prefer something with a frame on a windy day this one right here is westcott scream jim this is the small version of it they have this size six by six foot told by twelve there might be other sizes and we're actually going to use this as a diffuser later and I like it I actually think this is incredibly useful especially when I do bigger productions because it is a frame and so you just changed the material on it so I can compacts is down put it back together and I can have a diffuser I can have a silver reflector I can also make this pure white if I want a white reflector instead um and you can get it bigger if you want a bigger reflector so I like uh this one again in the wind there's not as much uh give as say you know something with plastic kind of bouncy spine like that you had a question I was winding with the handheld one hand held one was called again absolutely so this one is called the last delight try grip um this a lot of people like for a couple of reasons first because you saw it like I can shoot if and I honestly did this a lot you can hold it above your subject's head bounced a little bit late in with this hand and shoot with the other it is definitely doable it's also if you have an assistant instead of something like this where on a windy day when they do they need two hands with a try grip you only need one so that's pretty useful and this is the one I have the other piece of fabric um this is the one that you can put different types of fabric on so it comes in a kid it's a five and one itself or even more I think which this is the silver gold side my diffusers inside I've silver inside silver white inside black and then a slightly sparkly or white so you have all these different abilities and the company makes a stand intended with the grip intended to hold this if you are working on your own okay okay let's see uh you touched on it some in the video and just a lot of discussion just ah whole whole bunch of how do you handle reflectors is solo photographer I mean you talk a little about using stands we had one person who's asking what lens are you using that you can shoot with one hand a lot of lenses air really heavy you know stuff like that you just talking about the general issue yeah that's a great question so when I'm shooting one handed with this um I'm usually shooting within eighty five so I would use eighty five one four I can get a really nice head shots catching the light with this within eighty five one for we're going to talk about angles of light a little bit more later and so how I would use this if I'm lighting versus if they're just using as phil but when it's just me I either will take something like this and hold it myself or you can get a stand which is what we have here you this particular grip that's up here is made by photo flex the one that I use is westcott but it fundamentally does the same thing and if I put this around yeah I kind of see what it does so it's it's basically like those potato chip bag clips things on either side just a fancy or nicer version and holds it in place and you can buy unscrewing this you can change the angle of tilt it pretty simply there's another side in a downside to this the up sizes I can change us at any angle I can have it boomed out really really high far back hopes me light a group I could use it with a bigger reflector than this even the downside is it is a giant sail without someone manning it perhaps so at that point you would need to bring a sandbag on location which then means you're carrying a sandbag so you kind of have those tradeoff so if it's not a windy day or if I'm the on ly person lighting a group I would absolutely have something like this um I used to do a family portrait with big groups and I would use the scrim jim the six by six foot silver and a grip kind of like this we'll see it later on so that I could angle it and have this giant reflector really far back and this is if I was photographing in a park I would just put the sand bags in my car go grab the sandbags set it up it's not like it's not a very mobile situation if you do that but you can light a whole group now let's see we had fashion tv what's your opinion on using more than one reflector in a scene motorists multiple reflectors especially we don't have a large reflector for people who don't have the giant ones can you just use two of them so you can use two of them but you kind of got to be careful how you used to have them it would be fine to use to perhaps stacked or right side by side but I've seen this where someone will have one reflector on this side of a group and the other and you actually get split light she'll have a highlight on this side a shadow in the middle of faith and a highlight on the other and it's not flattering so is long is they are together like even just something like that something like this would be fine that's fine it's just I think this is harder than just having a bigger reflector so if you had to I would go that direction that's great let's see if we've got any final ones a lot of questions about reflectors but I know we've got two more videos on those subjects I say let's go on to those and if we don't get to the answers to these questions we'll ask him in a bit okay so I'm going to summarize what we talked about you for the couple more images here smaller is more portable it's more focused it's good if you're trying to do a spotlight on a specific area but it's definitely not good for bigger groups or if you're trying to have broader light in the studio this is my favorite reflector this is the westcott thirty inch silver wait reason I choose is for the studio is it's nice amount of fill light underneath the chin but it's not so big that it's hard to handle and it can sit between the subject and the light even if the lights close on location it's the only really good for me for head shots as soon as I want to go full body it's a little bit too small so that's why your location choice for your studio might be different than on location but that's good cause reflectors or one of the less expensive things with the rights have to buy more than one of those thankfully okay all right so just wanted to point out real quick no reflector this is with the silver reflector you khun see about how far away he is I think we're lighting maybe this part of her body ok so you get kind of mid length white when we do the same thing we're going to talk about that it's much more subtle like you can't quite get as much kick this is part of the next section okay this question is starting to come up I just wanted to give you a preview of this discussion silver gold up close medium sized white we get bigger can you see how far the white can reach now is about to her fingertips and it's still giving her a nice glow so size shape all makes a difference these ones really are standard for industry like the with nyssa frame to them so you can mount them up over the scene and then a large silver no problem had to don't head to toe elimination so head to toe bigger and back it up that's how we're gonna be the best approach and waits just a little softer so you'll see that in a second

Class Materials

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Keynote 1
Keynote 2
Keynote 3
Gear Guide

Ratings and Reviews

a Creativelive Student

This class was amazing. Lindsay Adler is a great presenter...I learned so much.....I love that she spoke about natural light..strobes and speedlites. Wonderful information. I purchased this and I am glad I did. Great job Lindsay. Jean


Lindsey Adler is one of the best and most engaging photography instructors in the USA. I highly recommend this lighting course. It felt more like a 101 and a 102 course than just a basic course. She teaches in a way that makes learning alot of fun and the amount of time & effort that she puts into her video and class presentations are second to none. Her classes are well worth their weight in gold and you will walk away with a wealth of knowledge!


Lindsay is amazing , I love the way she explains everything!! This course is filled with GREAT information and helps you better understand natural lighting,strobe and flash. Thank You Lindsay, please keep your classes coming!

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