How to Use Photo Reflectors.

How to Use Photo Reflectors.

Have you ever tried to make a portrait but somehow the person on it looks really exhausted, the face is too dark, the background too bright And it just doesn’t look like it should? I will show you a super simple and cheap solution. photo reflector


This is a reflector there are many different ones out there but all of them are very similar they work just like any other reflector. Light shines on them and bounces off. Since you need light anyway to take a picture a reflector is a cheap, handy and very versatile. Usually there are two types of light when you take pictures artificial and natural light.  Of course, you can also use a flash and a soft box but, I like to use natural light whenever I get a chance to because I don’t need to carry it around and recharge it 😊.  And that is why I want to show you how you can use and get good results.

What do I need to know when I buy one?

I answer this question because it was the first one that I had. when I wanted to buy my first reflector. When you start looking on the internet you will find thousands of reflectors in a many shapes, sizes and reflectors diffusers

The first thing you should decide is what size you want. If you want to make portraits, street photography, Macro photos or want to travel with it you might be better using a small one. Of course a big one makes a bigger and softer source of light but they are more complicated to handle a when its windy you have lost the war. 😊  I like to use a round  43 inch reflector it is the perfect compromise of both worlds in my opinion.

When you know the size, you want, you can start looking at the brand, shape or name but there are all similar. You will find some with handles or on a frame, as well as whole photo reflector kits. Those with a frame usually don’t have as many features but the frame might be worth the money. I never needed one 😊. A photo reflector kit has usually between 5 or 7 reflectors (White, Silver, Gold, Black and a defuse) so you can experiment a lot with them.

How to use a Reflector

One thing should be aware of is don’t look directly in the reflector and don’t let your model do that. The last thing we want is two blind people who try to make a good photo.

But let’s start with the basics.

The White side is one of my favourites because it lights the subject up a little bit and it’s still soft enough to be used as fill light. You should hold it very close to the reflector collapsible

The Silver side is like the white side but brighter and harder light. I use it when I don’t have enough light for the white one or together with a flash. If you use the silver one I would try to move away from the subject so you don’t get to much light on reflector kit

The golden side gives a very warm golden light. I only use it for sunset portraits. In every other case the gold just gives such a warm light that the model starts to look radioactive. Other than that the golden one is pretty useless in my experience. But you can try 😊

The Black side is actually not exactly a reflector it is quite the opposite it works like the white site but with shadows. you can use it to cast a shadow when you have to even light or as a light absorber when you hold it very close to the to the object.

Last but not least the diffuser. It is supposed to be always between the light and the subject to soften the sun light. I like to use it quite often, it is like a real little soft box.

How to use a reflector

Everybody has a different opinion on when or how to use a reflector and when to use natural light or artificial light on it. I will show you 2 of my best techniques to get a good result, but if I would be you I would also go and just practise that.


use photo reflector
Reflector light from the right front.

I like to use the white, silver or golden reflector for sunset or backlighted portraits, in such way that the sun is behind the subject and gives it a nice silhouette. While the reflector is in front of it to give the subject a very nice filling light to the face so it wouldn’t be too dark. Since the very strong sun in boming from the back.

use photo reflectors
Sunset portrait with reflector from the front to the face.


Without a reflector.



Another way I use it is when I need some more light. For that you can lay it in front of the subject to use it as fill light and get rid of shadows under the eyes. If you do this PLEASE don’t overdo it like for some reason lots of other photographers like to do. Put it far enough away from the subject. When you get to close to the face it will have shadows above the nose and it will just look horrible. Indeed, since the only places humans know light from below is when they stand beside a pool or when they watch a horror movie. What I want to say is every human will subconsciously think that the picture looks weird because light usually come from above like the sun. Of course, you can also use it like that, when you want it as an effect for a photoshop project. For natural light portraits, I really wouldn’t.

Bad bottom light example.

Examples of good filling light.

Just enough fill light from the front bottom to get her even lighted.
A White reflector from the right front to get some strong natural looking light on his face.

Conclusion: It is a interesting very cheap gadget to learn to work with light and comes in very handy when you need better light. Plus you can not only use it for people photography.

I hope the post is interesting for you. If you have any opinions or questions let me know in thew comments. I will get back to you in no time. 🙂



6 thoughts on “How to Use Photo Reflectors.

  1. Chris

    Hey Aaron,
    I’ve been wondering about reflectors for a while. I am a very amateur photographer, actually I probably wouldn’t even go that far but it something I am really interested. I always wondered how I could play with the light. I was finding my photos were either too dark or too bright with a flash.
    Are the reflector kits easy to carry around?

    1. Aaron

      Hey Chris, yes when you have it in your bag it is folded up twice that means it has the quarter of its original size. 🙂

  2. Anton

    Hi, Aaron!
    Great advice for me, I am not a profesional photographer but during traveling sometimes have a need to make a photo. Mostly I had to delete it cause it looked not as I would like and thank you and knowledge about reflector and how to use it, I can save everything and have memories not only on mind but to show it to everyone. This article helps me a lot..
    Think I found your site as gift from god and I can learn a lot from you.

    1. Aaron

      Haha Anton I am glad I could help you. 🙂 And I hope that you will be able to make awesome photos in the future. 🙂

  3. Shirley

    I’m not a fan of flash at all, so I use my reflector quite a bit for portraits. The only difficulty I find is holding the thing where I want it, sometimes it’s difficult without an assistant. Is there some kind of stand or something that you recommend to make this easier?

    1. Aaron

      Hey Shirley, the only things I know is studio stands which are not really easy to carry around and a gorillapod with a clamp for the reflector on it. This can be helpful in some situations, but nothing goes over a helpful assistant. 🙂

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