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Photography, travel, and self-reflection

PRO TIP: Use a Reflector To Add Life To Your Outdoor Photo Shoot

Much of my photography is shot outdoors in purely natural light. I find it more rewarding to work with shifting sunlight, shadows, and reflections than within a controlled studio environment. As the color and quality of natural light changes and the photo shoot progresses the photographer must keep pace with the whims of the sky. Chasing this natural light is a joy and artform in itself.

Of course, there are varying degrees of outdoor natural-light photography. Some photographers will use a standalone portable strobe as fill light or highlight to supplement the sun. Others will use reflecters to bounce and manipulate existing light. Still others will shoot with no additional gear and work entirely au naturel.

I typically fall into the latter category and shoot outdoors sans assistance, strobes, or reflectors. But earlier this year while shooting on assignment for Yuri Arcurs in South Africa, I captured some great comparison photos before and after the use of a simple photo reflector. These images are such good examples of fundamental light manipulation that I must share them with my fellow natural-light fanatics. Below you will see the results of pushing the boundaries of natural light, while still maintaining authenticity.

Before

Below is a photo of three young women socializing at an outdoor cafe at Camps Bay. Shot in completely natural light, note the flatness of the image. There is no depth or dimension, and the colors seem somewhat desaturated.

After

Just a moment later, I reshot the scene using a large white reflector to bounce the sunlight behind them back onto their faces. Instantly, this added a spark, intensity, and color to the photos. It also earned me kudos from Yuri Arcurs himself, along with applause from over a hundred fellow photographers. I must be doing something right!

Continuing on to another location, you’ll see the before and after below. These two women were lounging in a clubhouse pool. The first image is flat and desaturated. The second image, using a reflector to bounce the sunlight, has a rich golden hue.

Even if you’re a diehard natural light shooter like me, it’s worth taking the time to organically enhance existing light. When used properly, the results will make your images stand out. If you’re new to using reflectors in your photo shoots, I recommend this reflector on Amazon. Pick one up and experiment with techniques and angles. It will add another dimension to your photography.

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