“This is rubbish,” my colleague said looking at the image I had filmed in London.
“Well, the sun was strong,” I made a quick excuse while my heart beat fast.
It’s too easy to spot a mistake on the screen.
“Why is the reporter’s face so dark?” My colleague was talking so loud that other colleagues’ attention was on us. Embarrassing.
Well, the issue was that I had never used a reflector. I didn’t see the point until I used it recently on the field for the reporter doing a report. I could not believe I had never used them for these three years of camera work.
If you have the sun behind a subject and not have a proper lighting to kill the shadows on the face, the reflector can save the day. The reflector reflects the sun light to the subject, making their face lighten up by the power of sunlight.
I have summarized further notes on using reflectors. I hope this helps.
1) Reflector is mainly used to reduce the contrast difference of light and shadow when you have the sun as backlight.
2) Portrait photographers usually take photos with the sun as the backlight. If the sun is shining the face directly, harsh shadows will appear under the chin. The face expression of the subject becomes unnatural too.
3) On the other hand, if you film with the sun as backlight, the face of the subject becomes dark. You will need to brighten up using the camera settings to the extent that the background becomes white. This is when to use the reflector. It will bounce the sun light and make the face bright. Your image will look more professional.
4) Using reflector from low angle is usually not recommended. You will be able to erase the shadow under the chin, but it will lighten up the face like a ghost. It looks unnatural because it is like being in a ski location.
5) The larger the reflector, the wider space you will be able to light. Also, you will be able to create a soft light. If you want a soft light, you want to have a large reflector.
6) The easiest one to use is silver/White. White is for making the skin look clean and the light is soft.
7) With silver, you can reflect more light than white. It will be a sharp light and it will create a harsher contrast on the shadows and lights on the face. It is useful when you are in a shadow or the sun is weak.
8) Gold has low colour temperature, you will be able to make it look like sunset. When you want warmth, this is ideal.
I used to compromise by either making the background brighter until the background goes white, making reporter’s face bright enough. Or, making the face of the reporter dark and saving the background from going totally bright white.
Dah, how unprofessional.
A simple reflector can solve this problem and make your image look superb.
What I learned was to not put the reflector underneath the subject’s face because it creates a strong shadow on the face.
I learned that the key thing is to be sensitive about the shadow on the face. Especially the harsh ones created by strong light. By using the reflector, you get a subtle change to the shadow level on the face, it looks more professional.
White or Silver or Gold Reflector?
I use white or silver to reflect the light from sun. Silver is very strong. It works well when I am directly opposite of the sun. I do not use golden reflector, it seems to be too stylised for my type of filming.
Here is a video of Tom Anton using golden reflector:
Finally, I am looking for ways to improve this blog. So feel free to leave a comment!
I am a documentary/News cameraman based in London.