Reflectors, which allow you to bounce light onto your subject, are an often overlooked photography tool. Reflectors allow you to use the light already present to better illuminate your subject instead of adding light with a flash. Using a reflector eliminates harsh shadows without resorting to using your flash (flash can create additional shadows, cause red eye, and is only effective at a close distance).

Before and After

Here’s the great news for you: you don’t need a reflector to be able to reflect light onto your subject. You can go from the before to the after without spending a dime. It doesn’t matter what reflects the light. Sure, some materials work better than other materials, but what is REALLY important is the color of the reflector. We recently purchased a Opteka 43″ 5-in-1 Collapsible Disc Reflector, which gives reflector color options of translucent, white, black, silver, and gold. While it is great to have so many options (and a huge reflector surface), it isn’t always practical to tote everywhere when we want to take everyday photos.

You don’t need a fancy reflector, especially if you want to reflect white. You can use anything that is white to reflect the light. This can be a poster board or an ordinary sheet of 8.5 x 11 paper, or even a piece of junk mail.

To prove this, I’ve used my little brother Corbin as a subject in a photo. This photo was taken indoors in the evening under florescent light.

no reflector

I then had an assistant grab a piece of mail (hey, spam mail can be recycled for other uses too!) and hold the mail at an angle lower than Corbin’s head to bounce light upward towards his face. I then took the exact same photo as above without changing any settings on my camera. This allows you to see what a huge difference the reflector makes.

with reflector

The photo is now much more evenly lit. You can now see Corbin’s awesome eyes; before he sort of looked like a vampire (and not in a good way, you crazy Twilight obsessed ladies).

Here’s what was happening with the envelope behind the scenes:


There you have it! Next time you are in a lower light situation, try using a spare peice of white paper as a reflector instead of beaming up your flash.

P.S. If you’re really resourceful, you could use the white paper to also set your custom white balance! LOL.