One trick that will improve your pictures overnight… really? Yes, really.
If you haven’t already heard it a million-gazillion times, a great picture is all about great light. Unfortunately we can’t always get great light, or can we?
A few years ago, it happened for the first time, the mom of a senior I was photographing started asking questions. She was the first in a long line of moms who asked me the exact. same. thing. During the photo session she watched and helped (because if moms have an interest I’ll put them to work 😉 ), as we moved her son around a private garden for his senior pictures.
The garden location meant a lot of shade, sometimes deep shade. While my professional flash could light up a small stadium, I rarely need to use it; instead I opt for reflectors whenever possible. As we moved through the garden and I showed this mom how to position the reflector to bounce the light back toward her son’s face, she fell in love — with the reflector.
Professional photographers have been manipulating light since the beginning of photography. It’s what we do.
Reflectors are simple to use, and can be nearly anything. I bet you have something in your home right now, that could be pressed into service as a reflector, and BOOM, your photos just got better! Here are just a few items you might already have on hand that bounce light:
1. white poster board
Most moms with school age kids have some poster board in a closet somewhere. This flexible, cheap, and easy to use item works wonderfully to gently bounce light back toward your subject.
2. a white sheet or towel
A towel or sheet work best when your subject is on the floor. Place this on the ground in front of them to reflect light back onto their face. If they are sitting, place the towel or sheet across their lap.
3. a white door
If you have white doors in your home, count yourself lucky. They are amazing when you’re trying to take pictures inside your home. Just move that giant, hinged reflector, back and forth to see where the light falls, and voila’!
4. concrete sidewalk
Use this just as you would the white towel. Concrete is particularly helpful if you are photographing someone laying in the grass. Have you ever noticed how the grass bounces back green light, and makes people look, well, green? Avoid that by having the person lay close to the sidewalk so the light bounced back will be neutral. Works like a charm 😉
5. reflective car window shade
If you have one of the foil-like shades you put in your cars’ windshield to reflect the sun, you can use it in your photos for the exact same purpose. One of the benefits of these is that they are generally easy to prop on something, freeing up your hands.
6. aluminum foil
To make a DIY reflector, wrap aluminum foil (dull side out) around both sides of a piece of cardboard, poster board, or other firm but lightweight, surface. Leave one side with the dull foil facing out. One the other side, mist some white spray paint (hold about 24 inches from surface). The paint will soften the bounced light. This gives you two reflectors to use in dark areas. Using foil can be overkill, because it’s a very harsh reflector of light. I would only use it if the location is extremely shady.
If you are just dying to know what reflector I use, while it’s no longer available, this one is very similar. Do you have another idea for a reflector? If so, please share it here so we call all learn something new!
until next time,
play hard, and have fun,
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