Using Fill Cards and Reflectors
PhotoFlex LiteDiscs collapse for easy storage and expand for use. Courtesy of PhotoFlex.
LastoLite's pocket reflector bracket lets you position a small reflector almost anywhere. Courtesy of Bogen Photo Corp.
The LumiQuest Table Top Reflector System. Courtesy of LumiQuest.
A handy reflector to have
around is an inexpensive shaving mirror.
Fill cards and reflectors can do two important things — soften light by enlarging the source and redirecting it to open shadows and lower contrast.
A light on one side of a subject will leave the other side in shadow. By placing a reflector — called a fill card — on the other side, you can bounce some of the light back onto the subject to open those shadows with reflected light. A small light bouncing off a large reflector not only redirects light, it also softens it because the larger reflector becomes the light source. You can get this effect by bouncing a flash off a wall or ceiling when photographing indoors. You can also buy reflectors with smooth or wrinkled surfaces in a variety of shapes and colors— including white, black, silver, or gold. The more wrinkled the surface, the more diffuse the light, and gold gives warmer light. You can make reflectors from large sheets of white poster board available from any art supply store. You can even cut up large boxes and cover them with aluminum foil. You can also crumple the foil and then flatten it back out to give an even more diffuse light. When cutting up the boxes take advantage of the folds to make large folding reflectors. You might also look for those reflectors that people put in the windshield on hot sunny days. The most portable and storable reflectors are the collapsible kind that you twist and fold so they are small enough to fit in a pouch.
This pair of photos shows the dramatic impact a fill card can have. In the top photo the car is back lit so the front is in shadow. In the bottom photo a fill card is used to bounce lite back to illuminate the near side.
One very popular form of reflector is the umbrella. When using one of these, the open side of the umbrella faces the subject and the flash fires into it. The light bouncing off the inside of the umbrella illuminates the subject with soft light reflected from a very large surface area.
When a light is projected into the center of an umbrella, the light bounces around and out. Since the umbrella is larger than the light, it casts a softer light on the subject. Courtesy of Smith-Victor.
Umbrella reflectors come in all sizes from the jumbo to the camera mounted. Jumbo courtesy of Bogen Photo Corp. Camera mounted umbrella courtesy of BKA Group.