Using a 5-in-1 Reflector

Brittany K. is a current student in the Portrait Lighting Photography class. She submitted some great photo examples of what a 5-in-1 reflector is good for, and has given permission for those photos to be shared here on the site.


openQuoteI just finished watching Lesson 3 of the Portrait Lighting Class, which was very helpful! I’ve used reflectors a couple of times but obviously haven’t really known how to use them correctly (I recall using the gold side to cast light on us when the sun was facing the wrong direction – but we ended up blinding ourselves in the shoot!).

“I thought that in this scenario, the diffuser ended up producing the best result because the model wasn’t squinting since the sun was blocked. However, I can definitely see how beneficial (and how much easier to use) the white side would be for filling in the shadow on the other side of the face (especially without an assistant). How would you prevent the model from still squinting from the sun hitting the opposite side of the face?

“I practiced using my reflector (which I’ve had for a while and not been able to use successfully). I’m excited about how much cleaner and softer the light is when I used the diffuser and reflectors in the bright outdoor sun. Here are three before/afters of the diffuser and white reflector. No edits!


KuterbachLighting3Storyboard2 KuterbachLighting3Storyboard3 KuterbachLighting3Storyboard1

“One other question: Do you find a reflector stand to work well, or does it flop around with any wind? I can definitely tell the benefit of having either an assistant or a stand (preferably an assistant). In these photos, the model was holding the reflector, which made it much more difficult to get a full body shot.”


— Brittany K.

Jim’s response:

openQuoteWhen you’re shooting outside in bright conditions, the diffuser is OFTEN the right choice because it makes the light source close to the person, the light comes from up high, and it stops the person from squinting. Reflectors add more light to the scene, so they definitely have the limitation of making people squint. You could use both a reflector and a diffuser if you wanted the best of both worlds.

“Using a reflector doesn’t really work well by yourself, as you noticed. If you’re shooting a headshot only, though, you can have the subject hold the reflector down low to shine up at them. I honestly have not used a reflector stand because I always seem to have someone else on the shoot with me, but I can’t imagine they are very practical for outdoor use as they would get blown around quite easily.

“The photos you sent in are a PERFECT example of how helpful the reflector is for portraits. The lighting is MUCH softer and better looking with the reflector! That’s a world of difference!”

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