3 Ways to Use a 5-in-1 Reflector For Better Natural Light Photography

Got a reflector laying around that you don’t know how to use? In this video, I’ll show you 3 different ways you can use a 5-in-1 reflector to get different looks for your natural light portraits. A reflector is one of the easiest light shaping tools to get started with, because what you see is what you get.

Equipment Used:

Team:

Photographer: Sal Cincotta 
Model: Anna May

#1: At the Waist

For the first look, we did the typical “light and airy” style: exposing for the face and a blown-out background. I placed the reflector at Anna’s waist (silver side up) to push some light back up at her face. As you can see in the before & afters, it makes a huge difference.

No reflector

Settings: f/2.8 @ 1/1,600, ISO 100

Reflector at waist

Settings: f/2.8 @ 1/1,600, ISO 100

#2: Throw the Light

For the second look, my assistant held the reflector overhead and threw the light from the camera left, with the silver side facing outward. You can see a huge difference in Anna’s eyes in the images with the reflector vs without. By this point the sun had started to come out more, so the reflector was able to bounce a lot more natural sunlight back on to Anna’s face, filling in the shadows. 

Pro Tip: The brighter the sunlight, the harsher the light will be thrown on to your subject. Have your assistant stand further back on really sunny days to avoid hotspots. In the summer, I’ve even had to switch to a white reflector because silver was throwing light that was way too harsh.

No reflector

Settings: f/2.8 @ 1/1,600, ISO 100

Reflector

Settings: f/1.8 @ 1/2,000, ISO 100

Reflector Overhead

Settings: f/2.8 @ 1/1,600, ISO 100
Settings: f/2.8 @ 1/1,250, ISO 100

#3: As a Scrim

Inside most 5-in-1 reflectors, you’ll find a scrim. I’ve run into many, many photographers who don’t know what this is for or how to use it. A scrim is a panel that you hold over your subject’s head to block the sunlight and create open shade. 

Ever been in bright sunlight where your subject can’t help but squint? Once you place a scrim over them to block the sunlight, it softens the light about one stop, and the squinting problem is solved. This allows you to shoot in direct sunlight and get a nice, even light. 

No scrim

Settings: f/2.8 @ 1/5,000, ISO 100

Scrim

Settings: f/2.8 @ 1/3,200, ISO 100

Scrim

Settings: f/2.8 @ 1/2,500 ISO 100
Settings: f/2.8 @ 1/3,200, ISO 100

1 Reflector, 3 Different Ways

Hopefully that helps you see the difference just a reflector can make, and 3 different techniques you can put to use on your next shoot. Now go out and make it happen! 

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