Seasoned photographers understand the importance of convenience and versatility; when you have to haul, unload, and set up everything you need for a location shoot, anything that can make that process less stressful is appreciated. Now, there’s never an excuse for cutting corners — you should never arrive to a job ill equipped. If the job calls for you to use the heaviest lens in your collection, then that’s just how it is. You can’t substitute a lighter weight, lower quality lens just because you’re not in the mood to carry the big one.
There are, however, options available designed to help you streamline your setup, especially when it comes to lighting and all the modifiers you might need.
Case in point: the incredibly versatile 5-in-1 collapsable reflector kit.
A reflector, in and of itself, is already a simple yet highly effective photographic lighting tool that’s easy to transport given its light weight; but instead of having only a white reflector or only a silver reflector, for example, you can have access to 5 different light modifiers (white, silver, gold, black, translucent) while placing no significant burden on your weight and space limitations.
So, what use could you possibly have for five different reflectors? Let’s find out.
The most basic and, perhaps, most commonly used type of modifier, the white reflector creates a soft, subtle effect that works well for reducing shadows on your subject. Another one if its advantages is that the white reflector doesn’t alter the color of light. White reflectors are most effective when they are very close to the subject and they aren’t what you’ll want to reach for when working in low light situations.
Of the five panels included in these kits, the silver panel reflects the most light and is, therefore, the ideal choice when you need more pronounced fill light or when you’re working in low light situations. Since silver reflectors bounce more light you don’t need to place them as close to the subject as you would other reflectors. But the silver reflector’s advantages also require a word of warning — pay close attention to the intensity of the effect you’re getting when using the silver panel; you may need to lower your flash/strobe power or, if working in natural light, reposition the reflector to feather the light.
The gold reflector can add a beautiful touch to your portraits but can also be tricky to use. It is capable of adding a warm glow to portraits, especially when used to reflect sunlight. But gold reflectors can also be overkill if you’re not careful; they change the color of reflected white light and can create uneven color casts on your subject. You’ll end up with a subject who appears to be giving off a radioactive glow instead of a warm, healthy glow.
This, of course, isn’t a reflector at all; black absorbs light. Use the black panel to essentially cast shadows on a subject when the lighting is “too even.” Typically referred to as a “flag” by photographers, the black panel is also useful for minimizing reflections from shiny surfaces, which is why it is commonly used in jewelry and other similar product photography.
Like the black panel, the translucent panel is also not technically a reflector — it’s a diffuser. You use it by placing it between the light source (whether natural or artificial) and your subject. This works wonders to spread and soften harsh light and is, therefore, among a portrait photographer’s most frequently used modifiers. As a bonus, if you have a large enough diffuser panel, it can double as a background for head shots.
These 5-in-1 reflector kits are functional, portable, versatile, and perhaps best of all, extremely affordable. A 40-inch set shouldn’t set you back more than $40USD, if that. I consider it a worthwhile investment.