Featured Lifestyle Photography Tips

Diffusing harsh light with a reflector

October 27, 2017

Diffusing light with a reflectorThis week’s Creatively Squared competition is #cs_travel so I thought it was the perfect opportunity to join in since we are currently wanderlusting our way back to Australia. We’re currently in Thailand where it’s a balmy 28 degrees with 80% humidity everyday. As you can imagine, the sun is really intense – something I haven’t had to deal with in a long time while we were living in London!

For my picture, I knew I wanted to capture an image by the pool to bring out the true holiday vibes! The problem was that the strong sunlight also produces harsh shadows and burns the highlights which the camera finds difficult to meter.

Diffusing light with a reflector

What’s a girl to do? Bring in the trusty reflector! One of the cheapest and most useful pieces of photography equipment I own! ‘Luckily’ I packed a small travel reflector with me in my suitcase (such nerdy photography thing to do).

These days, most reflectors have a translucent panel and a double sided cover that you can zip over to create four panels:
– Black: blocks light to create darker shadows and give your image that ‘moody’ look
– Silver: brightens and typically creates a cooler light
– Gold: brightens with a golden sunlit glow
– White: brightens shadows to create more even and softer light across the area

In London I was consistently using the white reflector to help bounce window light back onto my objects. But in this post, it’s all about the translucent panel.

Using a reflector to diffuse harsh sunlight

As you can see here, taking photos without a reflector is very difficult. The camera finds it difficult to ‘compute’ the light in the image because there are really bright highlights and also really dark shadows. This often means you will lose some of the detail like you see in the top right hand corner of the towel.

Diffusing light with a reflector
Diffusing light with a reflector

Using the translucent panel of the reflector will help you to diffuse these highlights and shadows. This will create a better dynamic range of your image where everything is in balance and also retains the detail in your images..

In order for the diffuser to work, you need to find the direction of where the sun is coming from. Then you ‘block’ the sunlight with your diffuser.

 Diffusing light with a reflector
Diffusing light with a reflector

My diffuser has handles which is great for holding the diffuser but can often mean that a little bit of light escapes through the holes. This is easily fixed in post production… or….

Rope in someone to help you 🙂 Mr TUQ is always very obliging!

Diffusing light with a refector
Diffusing light with a refector

Can you guess where the light is being diffused in this image? On the second image, the pink shading is where the light is being diffused.

In saying all this, sometimes you may want to have a look with really harsh shadows. A lot of editorial images often create this for a more dramatic feel to the image.

Diffusing light with a reflector

Diffusing light with a reflector
Diffusing light with a reflector

It’s all up to personal taste and/ or the mood you’re trying to portray.


Tips if you don’t have a reflector with you:

– Try to position the objects in the shade or wait until a cloud comes over the sun. These will both act as natural diffusers and create consistent light.

– Take the objects indoors by a door or a window. Try to take the picture when the sun is directly coming through your door or window. Use anything stiff and white to act as your ‘white diffuser’. It needs to face the window (i.e. window on the LHS, objects in the middle, diffuser on the RHS). Usually a 45 degree angle works best. A few pieces of A4 paper often works well!


Want to buy a reflector?

There is a huge range of reflectors and most are really affordable. Here are some reflectors that I have in my photography kit:

Diffusing light with a reflector
Diffusing light with a reflector
Diffusing light with a reflector
Diffusing light with a reflector

1. Large reflector: great for diffusing larger sources such as door or window light

2. Travel reflector: Nice and company with handles so it’s easy to hold

3. Triangle reflector: Good for standing up without a stand or an extra pair of hands.

4. Circle reflector: Best for portrait photography as the model can hold these themselves to bounce light upwards


I hope you enjoyed this post! If you’d like me to do another post explaining the other coloured reflector panels then let me know in the comments!


PS this was the final image I posted!

You Might Also Like