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Tips & Tricks

7 min + $7.00 = Rapid Build DIY 2 Sided Reflector

By Kishore Sawh on December 9th 2013

Time, space, capability, usability, and, unless you’re a shooter along the vein of Mario Testino…money. These are all precious to photogs.

In a studio or on location, situations of compromise often arise; Maybe you’re running late to a shoot because you lost track of time down the rabbit hole of post processing, or you’re a one person team for the day since you’ve exhausted your friend-bank of ‘assistants’; or you just dropped rent on a piece of glass that’s the lens embodiment of a Victoria’s Secret model, and now can’t afford the new scrim you want…or food. This can help.


Illustrated here is size of reflector and average relative distance from subject

I had a friend in town (read: guilted assistant) and was shooting at the beach. Time was pressed for the model and myself, and in the haste of trying to catch the right light, I forgot my reflector. But the shoot had to happen. I’d like to share with you my improvised solution that yielded surprisingly slick results. I had mere moments to build so the materials used were crude, as was the build, yet effective. Given just 15 minutes however, it is possible to make foam board and foil into something that looks crisp, and presentable. The shiny side of the foil proved a large and bright reflective surface in the Miami sun while the white of the foam board was actually brilliant at softening that equatorial blaze into something soft and marshmallowy.

The examples below illustrate the model shot using each side of the reflector, and without.   *See image at top for average relative distance from subject and size.


Without reflector


With white side very close to face


Using foil side

What You Need

1 foam board – carried in most pharmacies – typical poster board dimensions
1 roll aluminum foil
1 roll of tape
1 knife/scissors
Glue Stick (optional)

What You Need…To Do

Step 1: Select one end of board to host the handle. From the center of that side cut a quadrilateral 3″ x 2″ section 3″ from the base.
Step 2: Layer your foil in sheets across the width of the board. Leave an inch on each side for overlap. Secure the foil with tape. Ensure the foil is as taut around the board as possible. *Using a glue stick here I have since found advantageous as it allows an even crinkling of foil, and is more secure leaving little to no air between the foil and the board.
Step 3: (optional) Wrap the handle area with tape a few times over. This aids in the structural integrity of the area and for easier handling. What you’ll have is something that resembles the following:




finished foil side

[REWIND:Great DIY Reflector for Outdoor Work]

Now I am not suggesting this as a replacement for proper gear, I’m a fan of Lastolite TriGrips and Sunbounce reflectors, but for those who are just starting out and need practice, or you find yourself in a jam as I did, this may just be your ticket. Let me know how you find this, or if you have any suggested alterations or variants of your own, I’d love to hear.

All photographs by Kishore Sawh are copyrighted and have been used with permission for SLR Lounge. Do not copy, modify or re-post this article or images without express permission. You can also follow him on twitter, and instagram.

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Kurk Rouse

    To the store for some foil

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  2. jaime

    i agree with Alvaro. she is very attractive. Makes me want to get my tan back. I may try this once New York gets warm again. what reflectors do you suggest for portraits? Thanks for the tip.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      Thanks Jaime, I’ll be sure to pass that compliment on. I wish I was having a white Christmas up north this year so maybe we can switch.. I don’t really know what to tell you for reflectors. I could list off a bunch of brands and models but I would need more info, such as; is it for indoors or studio?, whole body or not, budget, how specific or versatile you’d like them to be, if you’ll have an assistant or working alone etc. As I mentioned in the article, Lastolite TriGrips I find very easy to handle and quality builds, and then anything by Sunbounce is very good – more on the pricey end but good.

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  3. Alvaro J

    This is a good idea but how you make it rigid for shooting outdoors. sometimes there is wind. gracias also beautiful model.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      Alvaro, you can find foamboards of different thickness and overall size at hardware stores if the pharmacy is slim on pickings. That ratio will affect the rigidity. I have to say even the standard foamboard fared very well in terms of structural rigidity. As with any reflector especially windy environments can make them difficult to handle.

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  4. Tracy M

    It looks like it works great! I will definitely give this a try.
    PS – I am jealous of that sun!

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  5. Chad

    Smart and simple. I’ll give it a try.

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  6. Andrew

    nice idea. nice model.

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  7. George Roberts

    Good idea! Thanks for sharing.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      You’re more than welcome. If you try it let me know how you come along. Cheers!

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