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Photoflex Lighting School

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Fashion Lighting with a Single Reflector

Lighting Equipment


My name is Jeff Rojas and I'm a professional photographer. But I'm also a small business owner, an entrepreneur. It's my responsibility to make smart investments. I'm always considering the best return on my initial investment. Let's face it: photography is expensive, regardless of whether you're a enthusiast or a professional. And after all of your camera costs -- bodies, lenses, batteries, memory cards, tripods, etc. - investing in lighting equipment can seem daunting. But it doesn't have to be!

Natural light or available light, is by far the cheapest source of light you'll find. In fact, it's FREE. Unfortunately, you cannot control sunlight, but you can do a lot in modifying it, and that's where reflectors come into play. Buying a reflector will not break your budget. At this point in my career, my reflectors, all Photoflex MultiDiscs and LiteDiscs, have paid for themselves many times over. They're indestructible, portable, and versatile. LiteDiscs and MultiDiscs have become an indispensable part of my lighting kit.


Reflectors help guide available light back into shadowed areas of a subject's face. To use a reflector, you'll generally have to be in close proximity to your subject, without entering into the camera frame. Ideally, you'll want your subject to be positioned so that they are more or less backlit (their back to the sun). It's important for me, when using a reflector, to avoid flattening out a subject's features. I don't try to eliminate shadows. Rather, I try to use shadows to my advantage. By holding a reflector overhead - downward toward my subject - I can carve out the cheek bones, jawline and define the face, all of which helps to create depth in the shot.

One of the best elements of a backlit portrait is the beautiful rim light you get on your subject. They become lit by a thin outline of light, which helps to separate them from the background. And shooting at a wider aperture will give you a beautiful, shallow depth of field, which also helps to separate them from the background. In most available light situations, however, shooting without a reflector will leave the subject dark in comparison to the background. This is even more pronounced if your background happens to be the sky.

If you were to adjust your exposure to compensate for your subject being underexposed, you would likely overexpose the background. In this rooftop situation in Manhattan, I faced this very issue. Here's a shot of my model (both full frame and cropped) where the background and rim exposures are good, but she is dark in shadow. [Figure 1]


Figure 1

For this shoot, I wanted to create depth in the images by having three elements exposed well:

1) the front of the model
2) the rim light on the model
3) the background

This called for a 42" MultiDisc!

It seems natural to want to catch the sun from a low angle and bounce the light back into a subject's face, but the effect you'll get from this approach is more akin to "monster lighting", where the main light comes from below. This quality of light, which works great for telling spooky campfire stories, doesn't generally render attractive results for portraits or fashion work. Here's an example of "monster lighting", full-length and cropped. [Figure 2]

Figure 2

It's important to note that even pulling the reflector up to the height of your subject can create a flat and unflattering result. [Figure 3]

FIgure 3

Shooting with a reflector overhead allows you to create a natural look to the lighting and to carve out your subject's features. Since everyone has different facial features, you cannot rely on a single predetermined angle. It's best to take some time to study these features and determine the best angle of reflectance. This may take a little practice, but the more you do it, the faster you'll get at arriving at your optimal positioning.

As you can see here, I used the shadows to my advantage and was able to shape the contours of my model's jawline, cheek bones and collar bones to accentuate her profile. [Figure 4]

FIgure 4

Here's a side-by-side comparison of the results with and without a reflector being used. [Figure 5]

Figure 5

Finally, here's one of the final images after adding some post-production filters, which gives it the vintage feel I was after. [Figure 6]

FIgure 6

Learning how to control the direction of light is a necessary skill to have when photographing your subject. Using a reflector is a great way to practice how to manipulate light to your advantage without having to break the bank!


Photoflex 32" MultiDisc

Canon 5D Mark II with Sigma 85mm lens, f/1.4
Aperture: f/2.2
Shutter Speed: 1/2500th of a second
ISO: 100

To see more of Jeff's work, check out his Pro Showcase page
To learn more about the 32" MultiDisc, click here






Lighting Equipment


On December 07, 2012 at 11:21 PM, Carlos Hinojosa said:

Thanks very much for the tips

On December 15, 2012 at 12:49 AM, nur hidayat said:

Pelajaran yang bagus. terima kasih

On December 18, 2012 at 03:28 PM, Jeff Rojas said:

Thank you for all the comments smile

If I can be of any help, please shoot me an email at:

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

On January 01, 2013 at 05:21 AM, lori said:

We use our reflector more than we ever thought we would! What a fantastic tool !

On February 13, 2013 at 10:02 AM, Diego Miranda said:

Simple but very important technique. Thanks for this. Hugs from Perú.

On February 13, 2013 at 07:05 PM, Jeff Rojas said:

Thank you so much for the compliments. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask me! smile

You can reach me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Jeff Rojas

On April 24, 2013 at 06:13 AM, oscar baffoe bonnie said:

i well to know more.

On May 16, 2013 at 05:55 AM, lakshya joshi said:

I was desperately searching for this video on youtube.You explained it so well smile
Thank you
Lakshya Joshi

On July 23, 2013 at 10:33 AM, Elizabeth Martin said:

Great tips on using a reflector.  Thanks

On January 17, 2014 at 10:19 AM, felix romero said:

Great!! pictures the information very educative thanks!!...

On July 23, 2014 at 06:38 AM, Pascal said:

Hi Mr. Rojas,
Thank you very much for the great tutorial. I’m still confused about one thing though: I often see people using reflectors from underneath and in front of the subject with beautiful results. Would it be correct to say that a reflector can be used from underneath as a fill light to open up the shadows and should (in most of the cases for a natural looking light) be used overhead when used as a main light?
On this particuliar picture, your reflector looks like a main light, the sun would be acting as a rim light and / or kicker light.
Kind regards

On June 30, 2015 at 12:31 AM, Brian B. Hayes said:

I often use reflectors from underneath but just not to far underneath… it helps to also use a soft silver as new reflectors can be more harsh…. also don’t get to close to the model with the new reflectors.  Lastly, models that have deeply set eyes, like the one above, it’s actually better to reflect from underneath because it helps to bring more light into her eyes instead of making them looks darker.  This is simply my style and I’m sure other photographers may have different styles as well.

On January 02, 2016 at 02:46 AM, cosmetica groothandel said:

It is a most powerful solution for beauty.Which your post.
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