For photographers who haven’t amassed an array of equipment, eyeing others’ photographic accomplishments in sunlight with punchy fill and bright light that did not originate from that glowing orb in the sky can be envy-inducing as they imagine the possibilities a set of strobes could bring. However, there’s great news for people without a Profoto budget – you can get those results using something you can pick up at any hardware store. Photographer Alexis Cuarezma has a video showing off some impressive results with a simple solution.
THE DIY SOLUTION
Foam insulation, the kind that comes in large rectangular slabs with a highly reflective coating on one side can bounce back incredible quantities of light and are amazingly available and inexpensive. They have a texture similar to that of a Profoto magnum reflector which effectively gathers more light to throw back at your subject than a flat silver surface would. You can spray the other side flat white to double your DIY reflector’s capabilities, but make sure the paint you’re using is appropriate for foam – some spray paints will melt styrofoam. For beginners, this approach also offers an approach to learning lighting where you see your results in real-time and can easily adjust as needed.
In addition to using foam panels with natural light, they’re also useful in the studio for bouncing strobes if you do own them.
We actually brought you all a similar type of reflector alternative in the post:
It’s worth checking out and to produce results as follows:
There are a couple potential drawbacks, however, the biggest being the size. You can cut them into smaller pieces, but if you want to use them in all of their massive glory on location, you’ll need a vehicle large enough to transport them, or to get crafty with a way to break them down and put them back together once you get to where you’ll be shooting. Not to mention, you’ll need to be able to transport them home from the hardware store in the first place.
Another potential drawback is the flip side to one of their benefits – they’re bright. As in, you may temporarily blind your model as you make them look gorgeous with reflected sunlight glinting off of their skin and retinas. To work around this, just be aware of where you’re pointing that lovely light and keep your models up to speed if they may be about to receive a blast of light in the face.
If you can manage the size, these panels are can be a wonderful DIY alternative to more expensive gear. Even non-strobe products that can produce a similar effect like a California Sunbounce are prohibitively priced for a lot of new photographers and hobbyists who can’t dedicate a large chunk of their income to equipment, so for the price foam panel reflectors really can’t be beat.
Watch Alexis’s video for a few more tips on making the most out of a foam panel reflector and finessing the light.