Flash Reflectors

by Johan J Ingles-Le Nobel
Last updated August 31, 2017

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Reflectors, unsurprisingly, reflect light. Reflectors are used more in extreme macro in the field, but nevertheless I also use them in the studio.

We only have a limited number of light sources so another made out of nothing isn't such a bad thing.

Making a Simple Reflector

Reflectors are easily made. One of the oldest methods is to use a simple note card and rubber band on your flash. White plastic milk jugs cut into shape make a great reflector too. They're not rocket science or brain surgery.

Using A Reflector

Metz flash reflector

Commercial Metz flash reflector. My favourite macro reflectors are the homemade ones I have made out of A4 pieces of cardboard. I tape kitchen aluminium foil on one side and white printer paper on the other.

Two of the four I have flat foil, shiny side out, for hard light, and two of them have the foil crumpled and matte side out for slightly softer light. For the softest light, I use the paper side. Typical light loss is up to about two stops, so adding an extra reflector can give you an extra ¼ - ½ stop.

My favourite macro reflectors are the homemade ones I have made out of A4 pieces of cardboard. I tape kitchen aluminium foil on one side and white printer paper on the other. Two of the four I have flat foil, shiny side out, for hard light, and two of them have the foil crumpled and matte side out for slightly softer light. For the softest light, I use the paper side. Cheap, simple, and effective.

Reflectors Everywhere

Even the smallest surface of your extreme macro setup can benefit from having a reflector on it to help give light where you need it. For example, one of the hoods I have for the anybrand Mp-e 65 has foil on it, for exactly this reason, to reflect light off the hood onto the specimen. Every ¼ stop helps!

Coloured Reflectors

Reflectors don't need to be just white or silver. A gold coloured reflector will add a nice warm tone to your image, and a black reflector has a sharp falloff.

Side Reflector

Sometimes light coming from the front just isn't enough to make the image pop. Frontal light can be quite flat, so adding a bit of side lighting by using reflectors will bring out a bit more detail in your image.

Reflector Light Loss

In my experience the light that you get coming out from a reflector is usually at least a stop if not more lower than the main light. Of course this depends on the size of the reflector, its position and its colour. But, it's enough to add a bit of fill.

Making A Blue Sky Background

A great use for reflectors is to have one straight behind your extreme macro subject out in the field, bouncing the flash light back into the camera. This is one of the ways we avoid having a black background in a picture using flash, and aluminium foil is especially handy as this makes for a faint blue background depending on the angle, so can give the appearance of a natural blue sky. This technique can be extended and any colour or material can be used to create a nice background for your macro photo.

Reflectors & Tripods

Wouldn't it be nice if there was a tripod attachment that could hold angled reflectors in place so we didn't have to traipse around everywhere with extra support plamps to be able to do this. Hopefully a decent tripod manufacturer will come along and do this, one day.

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