One of the cool things that photographers can do is use a shoot-through reflector. Most of us use it to soften the light that the sun outputs and work with natural lighting. But did you realize that you can also use it to soften the light from a flash or a strobe. In fact, if you’ve got an assistant around and a lightstand, it’s one of the best ways to diffuse the light.
Here’s what you do:
- Set up your subject.
- Set your lighting up from the distance you want your subject to be lit. The larger the reflector is, the closer you can have it to your subject. The larger the reflector is in relation to your subject, the more area you can photograph and still have soft light.
- Pull the light back slightly, and have your assistant put the transparent reflector in-between the subject and the light.
- Test the lighting out and make sure that it’s soft and diffused.
- Keep shooting and instruct your subject to stay in relatively the same area.
That’s all you need to do. For the best results, do this indoors or under the cover of shadows. Awnings, trees, the shadows under bridges, and so many other things can work perfectly. It also lets the flash’s output have more of an effect on the scene.
Here’s how this works: the reflector takes the lighting output from the flash or strobe and softens it. Because the reflector is diffusing the flash, it acts as a large, soft light source. This gives nice, soft light on your subjects with little shadows on them. If you blend the natural light accordingly using your shutter speed, it can even look like natural lighting. Better yet, you won’t even need to do any post-production at all.
This also works because the reflector is all white. White naturally softens any lighting as opposed to silver or gold. Think of it almost like a softbox without bringing a softbox on set. It’s also only one layer of diffusion, so there’s a chance that one area can have more light output than others. However, just like with an umbrella, that’s kind of the beauty of all this.
Want to make it even softer? Add a softening lens filter of some sort. Pro Mist filters do the job. To add even more of a mystical look, consider gelling the flash. Typically, we’d only ever want to do this with studio strobes on location.
Here are a few other tips:
- Shoot at a lower ISO setting. If you’re outside during the day, I’d never tell anyone to shoot above ISO 400.
- Use mechanical shutter
- Don’t even bother with high speed sync unless you really need it.
- Don’t do this with the flash on-camera. The light will look really ugly and you probably will just give up and lose motivation.
- Have powder, water, and other things nearby so that your model doesn’t sweat all that much.
Most of all, be sure to have fun and have a concept before you get onto the shoot. This is the best way to make things happen. Always also allow for you and the model to improvise.
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