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.

DIY-reflector-beach-Miami-distance
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.

DIY-no-reflector-beach-miami
Without reflector
DIY-reflector-beach-Miami-white
With white side very close to face
DIY-reflector-beach-Miami-silver
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:

DIY-Reflector-Materials
materials
Reflector-DIY-Silver
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.