Catching light with a reflector

When I woke up yesterday there was a thin layer of beautiful frost and a glorious sunrise. I was kicking myself for not scheduling the day’s photo shoot earlier. Instead I cycled through the cold morning to buy food for the week and already an hour later the sun had melted most of the frost. I met up with Christiana Smyrilli and Alicia Krozer at Newnham College after 10 o’clock. Since there were no clouds the sun would cast pretty harsh shadows, so my plan was to use a reflector to lighten up their faces. I bought one a couple of years ago, but never really used it for much. Time to change that! The girls got changed into a pair of dresses not appropriate for the cold weather. To make sure I would be more sympathetic to their need for speed I tucked my scarf, gloves and hat into the camera bag and opened up my jacket. Luckily the sun was out, so it was not too cold.

Before switching to the thin dresses we decided to do a trial run to see how it would look. Here is a portrait photo of Alicia Krozer. She is backlit by the sun, and Christiana is standing in front of her with the reflector.
The girls swapped places. Christiana Smyrilli in front of the camera. I like the colours in this photo. Alicia did a really good job with the reflector.
Wearing a thin summer dress can be a bit cold. Here the girls are warming up in between shoots using the reflector and a few layers of scarfs, sweaters and winter jackets.
In case you are not convinced yet. Here is an example of the difference that the reflector makes. Both these photos are unprocessed raw images. Here we were using the golden side of the reflector to create a warmer light. There is a great YouTube clip by SLR Lounge showing how to put your reflector to good use.
There is a bench in Newnham College with a few different expressions carved into the wood. This photo needed very little retouching. I mainly did sharpening and then got creative and added a bit of split toning, making the shadows a bit bluish.
This photo puts a smile on my face. We did a few different versions of this particular shot, but this was my favourite of them. Oh and note the season-appropriate shoes! Christiana is holding the reflector to the left. Having that extra light source really improves the photo.
One of the benefits of being three people is that one person can be responsible for the reflector. However, when we did this photo we were one pair of hands short so Christiana and I held the reflector between us to get some extra light.
On the way back indoors we passed this beautiful gate that just beckoned us to take some photos. There was a patch of light on the opposite brick wall, perfect spot to place the reflector in. When I walk around with the camera I am looking for spots of light, and reflective surfaces.
Christiana playing a bit with her scarf. I like how you can see the shadow of her face continue below the scarf. I have ever so slightly lightened the eyes to make them a bit more visible.
We did a set of reflection photos. My original plan was to have both them and their reflection in front of King’s College. However, the reflection itself provided quite a striking image. Here making it black and white, and boosting the contrast a bit helped make them clearer.
Onwards to new adventures.

I had a lot of fun during the photo shoot, and I think it is great to have a reflector and get everyone involved in the making of the picture. By placing the reflector to the side, and having the sun behind your subject you can get both a nice light halo around their heads, and interesting light and shadow on their faces. Christiana wrote a blog post about the day on her new blog, it includes some additional photos from the shoot so have a look.

Update: This is the 110 cm reflector I use (Amazon link). I bought it in 2012 for just under £10.

– Johannes

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