Looking to improve your photos? One of the most powerful and useful pieces of equipment you can buy, and also one of the cheapest, is a 5-in-1 reflector. In fact, a good quality reflector is an essential piece of equipment for every serious photographer. The Westcott 5-in-1 reflector is an extremely well-made product and very affordable at only $40 (at the time of this review). I own the 40″ (1 meter) reflector and highly recommend it.
“5-in-1” means that it contains silver, gold, white, and black surfaces plus, with all of the covers removed, a translucent surface. Let’s look at each of these:
* White Reflector – Do your subjects have raccoon eyes? A white reflector can be used to bounce light into shadows. If you are using a off-camera flash you can also bounce light off of the white reflector itself to create a larger light source.
* Silver Reflector – A silver reflector serves the same purpose as white but produces more specular highlights. The result is a higher-contrast image.
* Gold Reflector – Light takes on the color of what it bounces off of. The favorite of photographers shooting bikini-clad bodies on the beach, a gold reflector will warm up an image giving skin tones the Bay Watch look. (Or add warm light to the bouquet of flowers on your dinning room table>) Tip: You can also use a gold reflector as an out-of-focus background for portraits.
* Black Reflector – Taking away light is just as important as adding light. A black reflector can be used to make one side of the face in a portrait darker. It can also remove reflections.
* Translucent Fabric – Do you want really soft light? The bigger your light source, the softer your light. Holding the translucent disc is one way to do it. You can also shot through it with an off-camera flash.
All of the above equally apply to still-life and food photography as well. The reflector collapses to 1/3 of its size and slips into a carrying case. It’s light and easy to take with you.
At only $40.00, it’s a great value and something that you will use often and for a very long time. However, if you can not afford one now, then go pickup some white, silver, gold, and black pieces of flexible poster board and/or rigid foam core. In a limited way they can serve the same purpose (other than shooting through them of course!). All pro photographers that I know of will still supplement their lighting gear, including reflectors, with basic white and black foam core as necessary.
You can find the Westcott 5-in-1 Reflector here.
You can also make a DIY reflector holder my following these steps on studiolighting.net.