DIY How to Build and Use a Reflector to Take Better Portraits

I came up with five DIY options to serve as a reflector and tested them out. Here are some tip on how to use a reflector to take better portraits:

  1. White mount card from an art or hobby craft shop, size A1(33.1 x 23.4inches) 300g
  2. Kitchen aluminum foil crumpled up before fixing it on the back of the white card using spray
  3. Radiator reflective foil
  4. White plastic garden table
  5. Silver car mats

I still have, and use, the white card for demo purposes when I give workshops for beginners. It is so simple and affordable ,and the impact is quite dramatic. This option is the easiest to buy for a few dollars(USD). This piece of card can enhance your shots whether you are inside or outside. It’s great.

A simple indoor set-up for a portrait shoot using the white card

Have your model or subject seated (or stand) beside a large window. The model will be facing the camera, so one side of his or her face will be in shadow. Take a shot. Then have someone hold the white card near the model’s shadow side, at an angle so that a nice even light is cast across your subject’s face. Take numerous shots as you will need to direct your assistant on how close or far they hold the card up to the model. When you have taken a number of shots, you will get a clearer understanding of how to reflect the light upon your subject in a more pleasing manner. When you have uploaded your images to the computer, you will have the initial shot as your frame of reference to see the difference.

Tip – if the surface of your card starts to get grubby, I have covered up dirt marks using white interior matt paint.

Using kitchen aluminum foil is really simulating a silver reflector, which adds a cool light on your subject.

Becky silver reflector

If you don’t have spray adhesive or photo mount, an alternative method would be to water down a little PVC glue and paint this on one side of the white card. Then lay the aluminum foil (crumpled first) on top and smooth it out. This needs a good 24 hours to set. Also be careful when reflecting the light onto your model. Keep your distance as it reflects a large amount of light.

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