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Are Reflectors The Most Important Photography Lighting Tools?

by Topher Kelly
featured, photo & video

photo courtesy of Eric Krebs

Lara Jade and uses a reflector during her creativeLIVE photo shoot

The first thing any portrait photographer learns is that lighting will make or break your image. You can have the prettiest model in the most beautiful location in the world, but if your light isn’t quite right, your results will be mediocre at best. Reflectors, or surfaces used to to balance and redirect light, are some of the most useful tools you can use to balance, fill, and even bounce light onto and off of your subject. For professionals, reflectors are an irreplaceable tool. In fact, some might argue they are the single most important item in a lighting toolkit.


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Most reflector sets come with with a soft white, silver and gold panel. Each has its own unique effect. The white creates an even, neutral-colored tone. The silver produces a natural light and also increases specular highlights, which yields a high-contrast image. The gold, as you might expect, creates a soft golden and vibrant touch. Westcott reflectors, including the highly-praised 40’’ inch 5-in-1, are particularly popular amongst creativeLIVE instructors as well as SLR Lounge co-founder Chris Lin. Other suggested brands include Lastolite and JTL.

For a short tutorial on how to use both the gold and silver reflectors, check out this AdoramaTV video with veteran photographer Rick Sammon.

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Topher Kelly

Topher Kelly is a San Francisco-based freelance writer and editor at CreativeLive. Follow Topher on Twitter@Topher_LIVE.