by Jamie Rae | Guest Contributor
When I first started shooting I loved the soft pretty glow of naturally lit portraits but I was in a constant battle with light and shadows. I was left unsatisfied with the dull, flat light that seemed to deflate the power of my photographs.
1. See the Light and Control it (with a Reflector)
Over time I slowly began to see and then utilize natural light to enhance my images.
Great light will play to the beauty of your subject, minimize wrinkles and imperfections,
and give the impression of an “inner glow”. Garnering an ability to understand light
allowed me to relax during sessions, which in turn allowed my subjects to relax and be
more of themselves! I soon began to bring in reflectors in order to direct and control the
natural light available to me during a shoot.
I always think of a reflector as if it is just another light source- such as a flash or
strobe. You are simply using the reflector to redirect the natural light and bounce it back
towards your client as an additional light source. Reflectors typically come double sided
and fold easily so that they are portable and convenient to take on location.
2. Use the White Side of the Reflector for a Soft Glow
I tend to always use the white side of reflectors. This allows for light that is very
natural and soft and does not affect the white balance of my subject. Reflectors are also
available in gold, which adds warmth to your subject on a cool/cloudy day and silver,
which adds contrast to your image and brighter highlights.
3. Look for Catchlights
The light reflected off of my reflector is subtle but I am always looking for the light to
be even across the skin and for catch-lights in the eyes.
4. Ways to Hold the Reflector in Place
Once I find the sweet spot of angling light towards my subjects face, I will either have an assistant hold the reflector or if the subject is sitting down, I set the reflector against a chair, wall, tree, or post. Moms are great reflector holders too (and it distracts them from trying to get their child/Senior to say “cheese”-ha!) You can even have your subject hold the reflector parallel to the ground against her stomach. I have also been known to hold my reflector up while simultaneously shooting, but this takes some juggling skills and a very fast shutter speed!
5. Use Reflectors with Sun or Clouds
On a sunny day I will position my subject with their back to the sun and then angle my reflector to fill in any shadows. I will often reposition the reflector several times until I get the angle and glow I want on my subject.
I try not to underestimate the power of reflecting back soft light on a cloudy day or indoors. You can easily bounce the soft light coming through the clouds back into your subjects face.
6. Get Close
It seems counterintuitive, but the closer your light source (reflector)
is to your subject, the softer the light will be. You will sometimes see large round catch
lights in a subject’s eyes when a reflector is used.
7. White Poster Boards, Foam Core, or Styrofoam can be used as Reflectors
Before I bought a reflector, I actually just played around with light reflecting off of
large white poster boards. This may sound silly but any large reflective surface can
add light to your subject, and this is a great way to experiment if you are hesitant about
adding reflectors in to your sessions. At the end of a session there is nothing sweeter than coming home to a camera full of beautiful, perfectly lit images.
Jamie Rae is a natural light photographer in Portland, Oregon.
She loves helping women tell their unique story of beauty through photographs and does so through portrait and wedding photography.
She lives for learning, lovely light, and the occasional daily chocolate.
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