No, not what you think. I’m talking about using a reflector to bounce some light into or onto your subject. I had a chance to shoot a fun family portrait session a few days ago and I walked into it not really knowing what to expect. I ended up at a public facility on the base without any trees or shade to speak of at 10AM on a bright day. I did find some shade by a gazebo and so I set up shop there. I was on soft grass and a bit of slope with a three year old running around so I was not comfortable in setting up a softbox with my SB800s so I went another way. I tossed a diffuser on the SB800, put it on the camera (yes, I hear the howls already about the evils of on camera flash) and set the camera to manual. The flash was set to TTL but that varied from -1 stop to +1.5 stops.
I was shooting pretty much head on to the subjects so you would think “washed out, hard shadows etc” and normally you would be correct but this time I pulled out a 36 inch silver reflector. I put it on a stand and locked it down and used it to cross light my subjects and fill in alot of those nasty shadows from the on camera flash. I did not have to worry about it being knocked over or anyone getting hurt. I did not have to go hunt for power (none around) and I didnt worry about the softbox falling over in the breeze and soft soil.
I could have used the white one I had but I wanted a bit more “edge” to the light so I went with silver. It has a brightness to it that works well with the SB800 flash.
You can really see here on the arm and around the boots, there is not the hard shadow you would expect from the strobe being on camera and just a piece of plastic to diffuse the light. Her hair on camera right also has some really nice light bringing up the highlights while there is a touch of the sun on her hair on camera left.
Here is a quick diagram of the shooting situation. I had some shade, bright sun and a silver reflector. The SB800 provided most of the light and the reflector provided the fill light.
So get a reflector or a few of them. And it does not have to be a California Sunbounce.. I used a cheapo that came with a strobe kit I bought off ebay a few years back. You can also use those windshield reflectors or anything else that reflects light. White fabric will provide a softer light than the silver while gold will provide a warm light.
- Photojojo’s Clever Use of Reflectors to Magnify Light (core77.com)
- Shooting with Available Light – Lifestyle Portraiture (digital-photography-school.com)
- Natural Light is Not Always Best (zachner.wordpress.com)
- Using Window Light in Professional Portraiture (pixiq.com)
- Book Review: Speedliter’s Handbook: Learning To Craft Light With Canon Speedlites by Syl Arena (seattlepi.com)