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Photography Reflectors—Keeping It Simple

Keeping It Simple

As photographers there are times were we want to check out a new location, but still want to grab some shots, so we travel light, another benefit of the California Sunbounce reflectors. They are lightweight, durable, and pack small when not in use and also help “tone-down” a professional photo shoot so you don’t get inundated with gawkers or annoying onlookers. There are times where it’s better not to look like a full production team with C-stands and sandbags, especially on public beaches filled with tourists, some who are even intoxicated while having fun in the sun.

Model, Virgin Islands, California Sunbounce

My assistant holds a California Sounbounce Mini, zebra fabric, to illuminate model Heather Carden while Dave Pruett photographs her in St. John.

During one of my Virgin Islands photography workshops, as a group, we decided to get away from St. Thomas and go explore what St. John had to offer. Photographer Dave Pruett, my assistant Michael “Mikey” Wisehart, professional model Heather Carden, and I decided to see what photographic possibilities Trunk Bay had to offer in St. John, after all, it’s know for it’s beautiful white-sand beaches and Caribbean blue translucent water.

Model, California Sunbounce, Reflector, USVI

Heather poses for me in St. John during one of my photography workshops. She is illuminated with a single California Sounbounce Mini, zebra fabric.

Dave, a proficient photographer himself, and I have worked together all over the world, so I try to stay out of his way more than give him hands-on instruction, but I was there and then I got that “itch.” That passion itch to create a photograph out of what was really an unplanned photo shoot for me. I really wasn’t worried, much less Dave being worried, as we had brought with us a zebra fabric (see part one), California Sunbounce Pro reflector plus a beautiful model, Heather.

So in less than three minutes, Mikey had already assembled the Sunbounce “Mini” reflector. Even though it was the wrong time of the day, I wasn’t too worried as it was partly overcast with a few “sun breaks” along the way. As with all reflectors, not even a California Sunbounce can give you more light than what strikes it because reflectors don’t amplify, they redirect light to where you need it and in this case, we needed it on the model, not the water where it normally strikes during the middle of the day when the light is overhead.

Now shooting a model outdoors, especially with water and sky, can provide difficulties, for example; if you expose for the model’s skin-tone, with no additional fill-light on her, the sky, and quite possibly the water, will washout, or be nonexistent. If you expose for the sky, or scene, the model will photograph too dark. This leads you to one of three choices, other than the ones just mentioned, if you want to keep the scene and model prominent in your photos, you must provide fill-light to your subject with either a flash, a reflector, or both. In this case I had no flash, just a reflector, but I wasn’t worried.

As mentioned before, the day was partly overcast, so the key is to capture the sunlight coming through the sun breaks with the reflector and placing your model in open shade, or as in my case, with the sun behind her. The sun behind her serves as a nice accent backlight. Now the other trick is too try and eliminate or make the sky behind your subject more interesting, thus reducing any blown out highlights, so I positioned Heather where you could see distant land behind her with partial sky. Sometimes I’ll even look for foliage, dark foliage, with the principal being that any dark background, when overexposed, since I’m exposing for the model’s lighter skin, is not noticeable to someone viewing the final result.

Model, California Sunbounce, Mini, USVI

Heather poses against a dark background, here again, she’s illuminated with a single California Sunbounce Mini, zebra fabric.

The other trick, since unlike flash a reflector doesn’t require a sync-speed, is that I increase my camera shutter-speed, which allows me to “open up” my lens aperture. Lower apertures means more “bokeh” or blurred out backgrounds. This keeps the focus on the model and overexposed, blurred, dark backgrounds become pleasant “unknowns” in the final image.

I cannot stress that reflectors have that “I don’t have to worry about camera shutter sync-speeds,” as discussed in my blog post, “Photography Reflectors And Reality—Part Three.” The key to this shoot, and any shoot that deals with battling the Sunny 16 Rule, is to make every attempt to look for “darker” backgrounds for your subject, thus exposing for the skin, which will overexpose any background when using reflected light on a bright sunny day, is not really noticeable by the viewer. You the photographer know the background is a tad lighter in the final photo than seen with the naked eye, but the image still appears acceptable to the viewer.

If you have no dark background, then you might have to settle for what photo editors call “over-lit” backgrounds. While trends change in photography on a regular basis, I’m not a fan of over-lit backgrounds unless requested by an editor or client. In fact in the old film days, we called these types of backgrounds overexposed. The few times I’ll shoot for an over-lit appearance is when I’m trying to add some mood to the image, but I’d rather do that with a low, or wide aperture using bokeh. Shooting more for bokeh also reduces your need for a ton of production gear because other than the camera, you just need a great lens (glass) with a great reflector like those from California Sunbounce.

With that I close and like always, let’s not forget the men and women in the armed services along with their families, God Bless them all, Rolando.

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Welcome to LensDiaries.com (Lens Diaries™), a hybrid photography blog with social flair. The photoblog provides photo tips, photo tutorials and photo diaries by professional photographer, author, writer, speaker and social media consultant, Rolando Gomez.

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