27/06/2009

Reflectors (on the cheap)



One of the downsides to photographing subjects outdoors on a sunny day can be shadows just where you don’t them. Especially when you’ve got half sun and half shade, this is not a problem for our eyes, they will adjust accordingly, but it can cause some exposure problems for your camera’s metering system. And as photographers, we must always strive to get the “right” light, in all situations.
If your subjects are people, you can always move them to a different location, but some subjects you can’t move and it’s always handy to have some apparatus with you that you can use as a reflector to even out the light to shade ratio.
The size of the reflector you need is determined by the amount of light you will need to reflect onto your subject, but you really shouldn’t need anything bigger than about 1 metre x 1 metre (3’x3’). For small objects like flowers, etc., one or two say, 15cmx15cm (6”x6”) should suffice.
You may need a second pair of hands to hold and adjust your larger reflector, but you may be able to lean the smaller one against something to get the right angle of light reflection where you want it most.

Now, I did say, “Light reflectors - on the cheap”. And I said that because you can make them yourself, quite easily, or find other things around the home that will work just as well.
Things like the sun shields you have in the car that fits against your windscreen to block out the sun. You can get oval shaped ones and square ones that fold up in gold or silver.
Sometimes even a small mirror will help.
To make reflectors yourself, all you need to purchase (and you may have this at home anyway), is a piece of double sided white board. “Core flute” is excellent. It is stiff and thick and yet very light. You can pick up a piece as an off-cut from your local photographic/framing shop and get another couple of smaller pieces while you’re there.
When you get it home, cut it down to suit your size requirements. Then, go to your pantry and grab the roll of cooking foil, (while the wife’s not looking), and run off enough to cover one side of the board.
Lightly scrunch it up a bit, flatten it out again, just enough to retain that slightly crumpled look and attach it by tape or construction adhesive to one side of the board. And that’s all there is to it. The plain white side is for very light diffused reflection and the foil side is for much brighter reflections. These will allow for a natural bounced light, but for added warmth to your subject, you can duck down to the newsagent’s and pick up a sheet or two of gold gift wrapping paper and do the same will that.