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How to Use an Artificial Reflector to Get Gorgeous Skin Tones

 

Before we dive into how to use an artificial reflector to get gorgeous skin tones, let’s define what we mean.

Artificial
Anything your bring with you on a shoot that’s not found in nature.
+
Reflectors
Objects that reflect or bounce light from the sun onto your subject.
=
Artificial Reflectors
Anything you bring with you on a shoot that’s not found in nature that reflects or bounces light from the sun onto your subject.

How to Use a Reflector

Why does a reflector matter?

As a photographer, you know that the most common misconception about what we do is answered with one question:

You can fix that in Photoshop, right?

Truth be told, we don’t work in Photoshop  because we’re committed to nailing our images in camera, maintaining the timeless quality of the image, and not living behind a computer screen. We’ve spent thousands of hours practicing, studying, and learning to become masters at our craft, so that we can nail our color, exposure, framing, and posing in camera.

It saves us hours in post-processing time (we use Lightroom), so we have more time to work on our business instead of in our business. We get to show our clients their images on the back of our LCD screens, because we’re excited to show them. Our clients get our images FASTER, because the post-processing time is cut WAY down. Everybody is happier, and we get to do what we love as professional photographers and entrepreneurs instead of what we hate: sitting behind a computer screen like professional Photoshop experts.

Two Benefits of Doing This Right

1. Brightens Faces

Using a reflector correctly (following our tips below) will brighten the part of the image that you want to be brightest: your client. So, instead of manually brushing each image with a brightening tool and giving your clients fake, overly-enhanced eyes in Photoshop (which is boring, tedious, time-consuming and never looks as good), the reflector will do it for you with natural light. It’s like mobile Photoshop!

2. Softens/Smoothes Skin

Again, instead of manually softening your client’s skin with a softening brush in Photoshop, reflectors will push light into the cracks and crevice of your client’s skin, making it appear more smooth and even than it really is. Also, the light will help make imperfections and even blemishes less noticeable. You may still have to do some slight retouching in Lightroom depending on the situation, but you’ll save yourself so much time. You’re already on location, right? Why not get it right in camera!

How to Use a Reflector_0001

8 Tips For Using a Reflector

1. Tell Your Client What You’re Doing

The doctor always preps you for procedures, because it makes you feel comfortable, educated, and empowered. Have good bedside manner with your clients, too, and tell them what the reflector is and what it does. We say something like this… This is our really expensive, glorified car shade. It’s gonna bounce AMAZING light into your face and really make your eyes sparkle.

2. Stand at 45 Degrees

45 degrees always provides the most flattering light, whether with sunlight or flash and keeps the reflector out of the shot.

3. Line the Center Up With Their Eyes

You always want your client’s eyes to be the brightest part of their face. Always. So, on a sunny day, hold the reflector up so that the middle of the reflector is the same height as their eyes. The strongest bounce of light comes from the middle of the reflector, not the edges, so you’ll send the most light to their eyes. This is different on a cloudy day! Read about that here.

4. The Closer the Better

If you’re taking head shots and your client is squatting down and looking up at the camera, rest the reflector in their lap. The bounce of light will go directly up into their eyes. (Just remember good bedside manner and tell them before you do it. Otherwise, it’ll creep them out. Most clients don’t like to be touched without a warning and explanation first!)

5. Other Times, Stand Back

If you’re taking portraits and your client is standing up, odds are the photographer is shooting them from at least the waist up. Take a few steps back from the client. It will create a larger, more even bounce of light that will brighten their face and body. This is also a good idea if the light is extra bright.

6. Choose the Right Color

Our reflector is interchangeable. It comes with white, silver, gold, and silver-gold. We use white 99% of the time because the Arizona sun is SO bright. We use the other three on overcast days when we need extra light. Just be sure to try all three so that the reflection doesn’t change the color of your client. You don’t want to make anyone orange!

7. Take a Test Shot Without It

We always take one test shot without the reflector so we can compare the two in camera and decide which we like better. Also, it’s cool to show your clients and friends online what a BIG difference it makes. Look at the two photos below and pay close attention to the eyes. The shot on the left was taken on a cloudy day without a reflector. All of our camera settings are exactly the same, but the one on the right we’re using the reflector! Talk about  a reason to use them!!

How to Use a Reflector_0003

8. Make Sure It’s Not Too Powerful

Double-check that your bounce of light isn’t TOO powerful. The camera is more sensitive to light than our naked eye. A good rule of thumb: if the light it too bright, take a step back. If the light is not bright enough, take a step forward.

We use the 42″ Westcott Illuminator Reflector Kit 6-in-1 and we LOVE it!

Next week, we’ll talk about our favorite photography tool, the one that revolutionized our shooting and took us to a whole new level. We never leave home without it — and after you see how easy it is to use, neither will you! If you found this post helpful or if you have any questions that we can help answer, please leave a comment below and take a minute to join our exclusive community, where you’ll get more goodies like this for FREE!

Have a great week, guys! Let’s keep making each other better!

How to Use a Reflector_0002

p.s. Want more resources like this for FREE? Join Our Exclusive  Community!


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Looking for more resources?

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  1. I love that you use Lightroom! It is very encouraging to a beginning photographer! It just shows you don’t need photoshop to make your photos look beautiful! I also use Lightroom for post production. Would you consider writing a blog post about some of your favorite features or custom presets that you like to use? Also, is it possible for a photographer who doesn’t have an assistant to use a reflector?

  2. I love that you use Lightroom! It is very encouraging to a beginning photographer! It just shows you don’t need photoshop to make your photos look beautiful! I also use Lightroom for post production. Would you consider writing a blog post about some of your favorite features or custom presets that you like to use? Also, is it possible for a photographer who doesn’t have an assistant to use a reflector?

    • Amy & Jordan says:

      Hi Tessa! We started in Photoshop because we thought that’s what we were supposed to do and we weren’t getting things right in camera, either. We never use Photoshop anymore, so good for you for getting it right faster than us! We keep a running list of blog ideas for future series and we’ll add yours for sometime down the road. Great suggestion! Hmm… If you don’t have an assistant, you could have a friend of the client or a parent (if it’s a senior) help out, or you could just look for great natural reflectors, like pavement or white walls, but I wouldn’t try and hold it yourself while shooting. That might get a LITTLE crazy! Hope that helps! Good luck!

  3. Amy & Jordan says:

    Hi Tessa! We started in Photoshop because we thought that’s what we were supposed to do and we weren’t getting things right in camera, either. We never use Photoshop anymore, so good for you for getting it right faster than us! We keep a running list of blog ideas for future series and we’ll add yours for sometime down the road. Great suggestion! Hmm… If you don’t have an assistant, you could have a friend of the client or a parent (if it’s a senior) help out, or you could just look for great natural reflectors, like pavement or white walls, but I wouldn’t try and hold it yourself while shooting. That might get a LITTLE crazy! Hope that helps! Good luck!

  4. Hey y’all! With the Westcott 42″, are you able to hold it & shoot simultaneously? Or because of it’s size, is it a 2-person job?

    • Amy & Jordan says:

      Hi Lorin! Great question! It’s always been a two-person job for us (but we’ve never tried it out any other way!) We typically suggest for individual photographers who can’t bring an assistant to try to solicit someone else who’s already around to help! So for example, if you’re shooting a senior session, ask mom to hold it. Or if you’re shooting a wedding, ask a friendly guest! We actually do this sometimes when we get in a stitch, and we’ve found loved ones of our subjects love to help 🙂

  5. Ashley says:

    I don’t see how the reflector helped that side by side image. The right photo is definitely overexposed.

  6. Susan Culler Soden says:

    I am finding your posts VERY helpful in my portrait work. Do you have a video demonstrating the proper use of a reflector?Thank you,

  7. Angela J Gonzales says:

    Thank you for your help with using reflectors.

  8. Donna Nyapol says:

    Of great help thank u

  9. Tracee says:

    I am so thankful for all your helpful tutorials! I mainly do photography free of charge for family and friends but the demand is growing and I need advice. You are very kind so spend time writing these articles!

  10. Rose says:

    Hi Amy and Jordan,

    Would you use a reflector indoors with natural light? Also do you also use it in conjunction with the expo disc for setting your white balance ?

    Thank you !

    • Amy & Jordan says:

      Hi Rose! We always use our ExpoDisc (first) to set our exposure and white balance. From there, if we were inside, and our subject was standing by a window, and we wanted to fill some of the shadows on the non-window side of his or her face, then we’d absolutely use the reflector, too!

  11. Adam says:

    These tips is simply amazing. Thank you for sharing it with us, I’ll definitely be using it in the future.

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"I LOVEEE the Monday Minute and I look forward to it every week!"

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