Definition: Reflector; photographic reflector

uDefinition: Reflectors; photographic reflector | Glossary entry

Definition: Reflector; photographic reflector

A reflector or, ‘photographic reflector’, is used to direct additional light into a subject. The reflector adds its light to a scene from a slightly different angle to the key light or other light sources. Using a reflector is a simple way to bring a small amount of light into the scene without using another light.

What is a reflector

Basically, a reflector comprises a reflective surface like frosted foil. The slight frosting on these reflectors helps to create some diffusion. The light reflects enough so there is a reflected, but slightly diffused beam. You can direct the beam of diffused light to the place you need it.

You can use a reflector to redirect light, say for shadow fill on the face. A hand-held reflector used in a studio will normally scatter some the light so the beam is not too harsh. The light you see will be proportional to the main beam.

Photographic reflectors can be made of different types of foil. Most often, these will be coloured either silver or gold. Silver will tend to reflect as a bright diffused daylight beam. The gold reflector will give you a golden colour diffused beam to simulate the golden hour, a sunlight colour.

How much light does a reflector give off?

The amount of light given off by a reflector depends on how much light you shine on it. The brighter the light the higher the reflected light from the reflector.

The light given off is also dependent on how much the surface reflects or diffuses the light. A reflection from a mirror-like surface would mean most of the light is reflected as a beam. If the surface is a good diffuser then it will reflect a low proportion of the light. Here are the two extremes…

  • High reflection, low scatter – silver foil: reflector
  • Low reflection, high scatter – white card: diffuser

You can vary the amount of light scattered or reflected between these extremes. If well equipped, your studio may have many different reflectors to vary the amount and intensity of the diffused reflection. That way you can get the exact light intensity and colour you need .

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Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

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