Introduction to Reflectors

Reflectors are a simple and inexpensive way to add another light source, by reflecting a light you are already using in an angle that redirects its spill back onto your set. Most commonly they are used for adding fill against a key light but they can also be used to provide a kicker (edge light), a touch of hair light, or even an accent highlight to the background of the set.


shot from a movie
The two hard reflectors that redirected sun through the far window solved the problem of how to light the long corridor dramatically and quickly while maintaining the anonymity of resident juvenile prisoners. from Ross Lowells "Matters of Light & Depth"


The more mirror-like, or hard, the reflector; the more literally the light is reflected. For many purposes a less efficient and less obvious reflection is preferred. Depending on the way either are used, the difference can be subtle or more profound.

Soft lighting umbrellas, whether silver reflective, or white nylon, are also forms of reflectors. A common sheet of white paper, not to mention foamcore, mirrors, mylar, tinfoil, and even the broad sides of a white building or truck are examples that can be used as reflectors. So when looking for fill-light out in the real world, be inventive. A reflective answer may be staring you in the face.

Some reflectors are made of stretch fabric on easily collapsible hoop frames. While lightweight & convienent, they can billow in outdoor breezes and cause flickering in the reflected fill on your subject.

Other reflectors are rigid and made to be used on stands, usually with some built-in ability to be tilted & angled.

    flector soft side
Tota-flector, Textured (softer) Reflective Side

    no reflector
Notice the steep fall-off of light on the right side of the object.

hard reflective
Tota-flector, Hard Reflective Side, positioned on the side of the object.

  flector hard side close
Notice the strong highlight on the right side and dark center, due to the position of the reflector.

hard reflective
Tota-flector, Hard Reflective Side, positioned more towards the front of the object and angled in.

  flector hard side
Notice the more even mix of light & reflection across the object.

soft reflector
Tota-flector, Soft (textured) Reflective Side, also positioned more towards the front of the object and angled in.

  flector soft side
The difference between Hard & soft sides is subtle, but the reflected light is softer.

Same lighting setup, but with foam-core reflector on a hinged Maxa-mount arm.

  close up foam
Notice the lowered reflective output on the right side of the object, yet it still has a highlight.

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