In the previous tutorial we covered how a reflector can be used as a main light, but there are other uses for the reflector as well. In this tutorial, we’re focusing on how to use the reflector as a fill light.

Most portrait photographers have been in situations with unflattering, deep shadows under our subjects’ eyes. Often times it’s on cloudy days or when the sun is right above our heads. But even in well-lit scenes with directional light, a reflector “bump” can divert soft light onto our subject’s faces to help lift some unpleasing shadows.

RECOMMENDED REFLECTOR

For portrait photography a reflector is a must-have because of its price and versatility. We use the Westcott 5 in 1 Reflector. which can be found on Amazon for around $40.

READ THE TIPS ON USING THE REFLECTOR AS A FILL LIGHT ARTICLE

There are two general rules we always follow when using the reflector as a fill light. The Westcott 5 in 1 Reflector has multiple reflective surfaces, and our lighting situation determines which side we want to use.

1: USE THE SILVER SIDE OF THE REFLECTOR WHEN SHOOTING IN SHADE

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In shade, you’re limited in the amount of light you have to bounce, so you want to use the more reflective silver side in order to bounce an adequate amount of light. You can control how much light the reflector outputs by adjusting the angle of the reflector or by adjusting the distance of the reflector to the couple.

2:USE THE WHITE SIDE OF THE REFLECTOR WHEN SHOOTING IN DIRECT SUNLIGHT

If you use the silver side in the bright sunlight from below you’ll be adding too much light upwards, which can give you that unflattering “campfire” look. Even if the reflector is far away and the light is being feathered, the lighting will still likely be too harsh. So in direct sunlight, we use the white soft side of the reflector in order to soften the shadows, and not completely overpower them.

ADVANTAGES OF USING THE REFLECTOR AS A FILL LIGHT

We have a side by side comparison of a portrait of our couple with and without using the reflector as a fill light.

Without Reflector Left | With Reflector Right
Without Reflector Left | With Reflector Right

You can see a huge difference when looking at the photos side by side. Our couple looks younger and the skin looks softer because there are less shadows on the eyes, smile lines, and neck. The reflector also brings out nice details in our female model’s hair, while decreasing the contrast in the facial hair of our male model.

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Without Reflector Left | With Reflector Right

The reflector also brings out beautiful details in the eyes. In the photo above the reflector is softening the shadows and diminishing the lines under the eyes. The iris’ on our model are much brighter, and the reflector adds a nice catchlight in the eyes.

When using the reflector properly as a fill light you’ll see a huge difference in the quality of light, and that makes a difference in the overall quality of your photo.

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