The most important piece of gear in your bag |Part 1

When out shooting a wedding or a portrait session, you don’t have control on what type of lighting you have to deal with that day. It might be sunny, cloudy or even rainy. Regardless, our clients still expect great images and the best way to set the stage for a great image to happen is with great lighting. Because lighting is not always predictable, we need to be able to manipulate that lighting to do what we need it to do to capture those moments as best we can for our clients. golden hour   Over the 7 years we shot weddings and the now 8 years and counting that we have been taking pictures on a professional level, we have realized that one of the most important tools for controlling light is not all of our fancy off-camera lighting, soft-boxes and speedlights. The most important and used piece of gear for us is a simple reflector and diffuser. This tool is a must-have for our gear bag and allows us to add just the right amount of light to many of our portraits that make them sing. In this 2 part series, we will cover how to get the most out of this key piece of equipment. Today we are going to break down the first 2 of our 4  main ways that we use reflectors to our advantage.

The Gear

Screenshot 2014-07-08 11.18 We use one 5 in1 reflector from Westcott Lighting and one Diffusion Panel from Westcott. Even though the 5 in 1 reflector has a diffusion panel inside of it, we don’t want to take the time to take the cover on and off during a shoot, so having a separate diffuser helps speed things up. As we go through our different Methods of lighting below, we will talk about which color of reflector to use and when to use it.

Method 1. Reflecting Flat Light

50mm Cloudy days are great, but the issue is all the lighting is coming straight down on top of your head and it creates shadows under the eyes. All the lighting is even on cloudy days, but it is pretty flat and unless you have your client tilt their chin up to the sky for all their portraits, you are going to need something to get that light into the shadows. lighting-diagram-9crokoc39s Any time we have a cloudy day, all we have to do is simply bounce light back in the opposite direction that the light is coming from. On cloudy days all the light comes straight down, so we bounce that light straight back up into the shadows. We use the SILVER side of the reflector on cloudy days because silver bounces a LOT of light back (and cloudy days there is not a lot of light), and the silver color is similar to the cloudy day tones which helps with white balance really well. 50mm-2   The light in the under side of the eyes and the reason these images have such a soft look, is because of the huge reflector that is just out of the camera’s view bouncing light back up into the shadows. The added benefit of adding extra light is that it also softens out the skin, so you won’t need to do as much retouching on your images. Heck yeah!

Method 2. Reflecting Direct Sun

direct sun If we have some harsh, direct sun, then our go-to method is to put that sun to our clients back or around 45 degrees over their shoulder and make sure no sun his their face. We then use the WHITE side of the reflector because that bounces light very evenly back at our client. Most of the time, if you put the sun to their back, you have very little good light on their face. Our reflector will then become our MAIN light, and because it is the main light, it needs to be placed much higher than any of the other typical reflecting positions. The rule of thumb is, when the reflector is your main light, put the center of the reflector slightly ABOVE the center of the eyes. 0063

Bouncing direct light back with white side of diffuser with center of diffuser slightly above eye height.

diffuse sun reflector You can also move the reflector off to one side to create nice contrast on your subjects face. This works better if you have some light bouncing off the sky behind you to fill in the shadows so they are not too deep and dark. You can clearly see the reflection of the reflector in the above subjects eyes and the contrast on the face. TIP: The closer you move that reflector, the softer the light on their face. If it is really close, you will also have that light “fall off” or go from light to dark much faster.   Stay tuned this coming Thursday for part 2!   PS. If you like this post, do us a HUGE favor and share it with your fans! Just click HERE to tweet it out!  Or, copy and paste the below into Facebook! “I am digging this 2 part series on using reflectors by @zachandjody and you should check it out at!”