There is no light on Earth more abundant than the Sun, and the best way to take advantage of that light is by using reflectors to modify it to be exactly what you need. When shooting outdoors, reflectors are extremely powerful tools, and when used correctly they can be used as a main light, fill light, rim light, etc.
In this tutorial, we are going to show you how to use a reflector as your main light while we use the sun as our hair light for a simple, natural and effective two light setup. The beautiful thing about reflectors is just how effective of tools they can be for the price. A simple Westcott 5 in 1 reflector like the one used here can be picked up on Amazon for only $40 bucks.
GEAR USED IN THIS TUTORIAL
For this tutorial, we are using the following gear. However, keep in mind that you can use the techniques in this tutorial to achieve beautiful professional results regardless of your specific gear setup.
Camera: Canon 5D Mark III
Lens: Canon 50mm f/1.2L and Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 Mark II
Light Modifier: Westcott 5 in 1 Reflector
TIPS ON HOW TO USE THE REFLECTOR
The Westcott 5 in 1 Reflector has 5 sides for different uses. When using the reflector as a main light, we are going to be using the silver side of the reflector to gather and redirect as much light as possible.
But, using the silver side of the reflector to bounce direct sunlight makes it an incredibly powerful constant light source. The bright constant light can cause your subjects to squint their eyes, get sweaty, and can even cause them to overheat. So before shining the light into their faces, give them a heads up and ask them to tell you if the light is too bright or if they get too warm.
When using the reflector we typically reflect light into the direction of the the female’s face. This way the light wraps around the males subject’s face while mostly or entirely filling the face of the female subject. While we don’t mind shadows on our male subject, it can look a little too dramatic and unflattering if there are significant shadows on our female subjects face. Take a look at the difference in these two shots showing just how much light is being added to our couple with the reflector.
Keep in mind, when we using the Westcott 5 in 1 Reflector (or really any light source for that matter) we generally want the light coming from the top aiming down. There are two reasons for this, one is to avoid capturing photos of the couples squinting too much if light is entering directly into their eyes. But, the main reason is because in general, light is typically coming from above us. So as people, we are unconsciously trained to notice when that isn’t the case. Light that is coming from the bottom-up, or from other directions can not only be unflattering, it is also very noticeable and something will appear to be “off” in the photo.
To get the reflector at a good stable height, we often have our assistant put the reflector on their shoulders, gripping it on each side with both hands, with their head in front. This way the assistant has a firm and comfortable grip on the reflector, and they can see exactly where the light is being directed as seen below.
The most simple way to “find your light” is to simply aim the silver side of the Westcott 5 in 1 directly into the sun, then pivot and move it back towards the subject. With the photographer’s guidance, the assistant should add and remove the reflector light as needed so as to not overheat the couple. You should keep the amount of time a reflector is on a couple to a minimum because you don’t want them to get sweaty, potentially ruin their make-up or just overheat.