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Collapsible Reflectors for Photography - Which Color Reflector to Use

In earlier days Collapsible Reflectors were double sided and where available in combination of Gold and White, Silver and White and Gold and Silver. But now a days these collapsible reflectors have improved and they come in variation of 3 in 1, 5 in 1 and 7 in 1.

Foldable Photography Lighting Reflector
Foldable Photography Lighting Reflector

One question most beginners ask is how we choose the colour of reflector to use. The most common combination found in collapsible reflectors is silver, gold, black, white and translucent. Each has its own purpose and modifies light differently.

White and Silver Reflectors

While shooting indoors using studio strobes or flashes it is recommended to use either white or silver reflectors. The reason being studio strobes and camera flashes are day light balanced and they produce white light, so if you use gold reflector in combination with these lights you will end up with white light on one side of the subject and much warmer toned light on the other.

These also do work well when shooting outdoors during daytime (except golden hour). The choice between Silver and White is more a matter of personal choice. In general Silver reflectors bounce more light than White and they produce a slightly hard light than White so I personally use Silver reflectors when I use bare strobes/flashes (without softboxes) or when shooting with a beauty dish. White reflector produces very soft light and so is used more in combination with softbox, it could also be used as a white background for head and shoulders portraits and for small subjects like flowers and products.

To increase the amount of light reflected back, simply move the reflector closer to the subject and vice versa.

Golden Reflector

Golden reflector adds a golden cast to the light and simulates light during sunrise and sunset (golden hour) and is the preferred choice when shooting at those times. It works well with tungsten lights and other warm light sources (also with strobes and flashes gelled yellow or orange).

The Translucent Panel

Translucent panel is designed to be used as a Scrim which is placed between the subject and the light source to soften the light. When the translucent panel is placed between the subject and the light, the panel now acts as the light source, the size of the panel is now the effective size of the light and subject to light distance is now measured from the subject to the panel and not subject to actual light. The closer you move the panel to your subject the softer will be the light and vice versa.

The Black Panel

The black panel included in the collapsible reflector has two uses; firstly it could be used as a gobo. A gobo is something you place between the light source and the subject to prevent light from reaching the subject. It is used when you need to control the areas being lit by the light. Secondly it could be used as a black background for head and shoulders portraits and for photographing small subjects like flowers and products.

Related Reading

  1. Photography lighting - 12 Questions to ask yourself before clicking a picture
  2. Wide Panel in Camera Flashes, What is it? What does it do?
  3. Inner Diffuser Baffles in Softboxes – What is it for? What does it do?
  4. The Inverse Square Law and Practical Photography
  5. What Happens When Light Falls On a Surface

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