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Reflectors: When to Use Silver or White and Where to Position It

The most popular reflectors are white, silver, and gold (although gold is usually used outdoors, because it adds warm yellow light). So, that leaves silver and white. Which do you use when? Silver reflects much more light, so you’ll use silver when you position the reflector back away from your subject. If you need to get a reflector right up close, then use white, because it doesn’t reflect nearly as much light as silver. Now, where do you put it? It’s job is to bounce some of the light from your main light (your flash) back into the shadowy areas of your subject, so you’ll need to position it where it can do its job. You can place the reflector directly beside your subject (on the opposite side from your studio flash), then move it a bit forward so it extends a little in front of the subject to catch the light and fill in the shadows. Make sure that: (1) it is indeed in front of them a bit, and not right beside them, and (2) it’s not positioned up higher than they are—it should be at their height. Another popular place to position a reflector for head shots is directly in front of your subject, usually right below your subject’s head and shoulders, so the light bounces back to lighten the shadows on their face—in particular, the areas under their eyes and neck. You can have your subject hold the reflector flat in front of them, or you can position it on a reflector stand, or even lay it on the floor in front of them. And, one other popular position is to place it out in front, where you’d place a second light (on the opposite side from your studio strobe), so it bounces light back toward your subject. The key thing to remember is: if the light isn’t hitting the reflector fairly directly, it has nothing to bounce, so make sure that wherever you position it, the light from your strobe is hitting it directly. A quick trick for helping you position the angle of your reflector, so you know the light is hitting where you want it to: hold the reflector by its side and tilt it up and down a few times as you’re facing your subject, and you’ll see the reflected light move across their face.

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