Every photographer worth its salt knows that your photographs will come out as good as the lighting conditions allow you to. On top of that, we know that a great camera is a model that can capture light better than other models. Even photography the word itself means drawing with light. Everything is about the light, exposure, and shadows, so good photographers play into the light to get its full benefits, whereas better photographers alter and play with light to get the results that they need. We have established that you need to play with the light to get better results, and there are a lot of accessories out there that you can buy and play with to get the best results for your needs.
For example, you can buy strobe lights or something similar, but also one of the cheapest and most effective accessories are always 5 in 1 reflectors. These things will help you alter the light to better suit your needs. With a bit experimenting with reflectors, you will find out that easily you can create the scene and get the exposure you need for the perfect photography. Then again not all of them are created equal, and you will find out that there are millions of them out there, with different prices and qualities.
For that reason today we will take a look at the guide to getting the best photography reflectors. We will check the best options out there that will make your job easier and things you should know before buying a reflector for photography. Now without further ado, let’s take a closer look.
The Top 5 Best Photography Reflectors
5. Neewer 43 Inch Light Reflector
We are going to kick off this list with an incredible product that is super affordable while still delivering powerful performance, the Neewer 5 in 1 reflector. For those in the know with photography have probably recognized the Neewer name which is a brand that delivers excellent lighting devices.
This is a 5 in 1 collapsible reflector, which means that it is very easy to store and it can do almost everything you need.
This one is a 5 in 1 43-inch large multi-disc light reflector that comes with a superb carrying case and in different colors including translucent, silver, gold, white and black which is perfect. Moving on it fits most of the reflector holds and it is the best for most beginners.
4. Profoto Collapsible Reflector
Up next we have the Profoto Collapsible Reflector. This is just what its name suggests a collapsible reflector, by a brand that like its name suggests, is a pro in its own right. It is also one of the most popular brands with professional photographers, and if you want a large 120cm reflector in diameter than you should check this one out.
There are a lot of color options with this one, however, there are just 2-in-1 reflector options making it not as versatile as other options. But like I said it is not the best option for beginners since it is large and it is extremely tough. It will last you a lifetime and it is also waterproof and dustproof.
3. Lastolite Halo Compact Reflector
Lastolite is one of those brands that has been a synonym for innovation and it is the innovator of the first pop-up round reflector, this time it comes with the Lastolite Halo Compact Reflector. This one comes in a pretty easy to carry case that measures about 27×6.5×6.5-cm and weighs just 335grams in total. However, the whole thing opens up to about 82cm in diameter.
It has a detachable fabric up top that comes in white/silver reflecting surface or a two-stop diffuser version. like I said the biggest selling point of the Lastolite Halo Compact Reflector is that it is portable, lightweight, and is practical above anything else. It may be a little annoying to attach the 12 clips one by one, but it is worth it without a doubt.
2. Lastolite LR3696 TriFlip
The runner up in this list comes from a brand that has delivered great performance and has made quite some innovations in the lighting business, Lastolite, and the LR3696 TriFlip. The Lastolite LR3696 TriFlip is definitely an impressive reflector coming in with the triangular shape that is extremely manageable but while still offering plenty of area for reflection.
It has a great handle that makes the whole thing very easy to carry and operate with. On top of that, the Lastolite LR3696 TriFlip comes as an 8-in-1 kit with tons of colors, allowing you to get different lightings for your needs, as it has 2-top diffusers, reversible covers and with interesting hues such as Softsilver, Sunlight, and Sunfire that are not your classic options.
1. Phottix 5-in-1 Premium Reflector
We are going to finish this list with the Phottix 5-in-1 Premium Reflector which is a great round reflector with tons of features in its body. The features of this model by Phottix include the EasyHold construction that makes it better for holding it and it is more ergonomic than most models in the market out there.
Like its name implies it is a 5-in-1 reflector with the diffuser, silver, gold, black and white panels. It has double-sided reversible covers that give you all the needed features and great performance. It has different diameters including 120, and 80cm options but for this review, we chose the 107cm version which is great overall.
When shopping for a natural light photography reflector, make sure you get a 5 in 1 collapsible one, because those are the ones that get everything done properly and don’t take up too much space.
Things To Know Before Buying a Photography Reflector
Most of the photography reflectors out there come as five-in-one packages that are pretty attractive and super versatile delivering great performance. They will help you bounce light around and the possibilities are pretty much endless overall. Placement can be a great factor in the performance depending on what you want to achieve and how you want to light up your subject. Most of them are also extremely affordable and I recommend them to every photographer, even if you are just starting out. Like I said the opportunities are endless and for a price way less than $100 at times, you get yourself a solid kit. But then again there are a few things you should know before buying them so you will get the best pick.
These 5 in 1 units have 5 different panels inside like their name would suggest and each of these panels will help you out in a different way. So let’s see.
Silver panels are one of the most useful ones out there and the most frequently used ones, because of their versatility. Silver is the best for beginner photographers that are just starting to use reflectors.
You should know that silver panel reflectors reflect the most light in comparison to the others. Silver is a perfect option for those that need a strong filler light for their scenes. They don’t change the color of your white balanced flash and work seamlessly with other studio lights, great both for indoors and outdoors.
The biggest feature of silver panels is making it better for a beginner because most beginners don’t really like putting reflectors close to their subjects. But thanks to its high reflectability silver panels still create great results even if you place them further away.
Then again because silver panels are the strongest of the bunch they require a bit of experimentation until you get the hang of it, as the brightness can get a little out of hand at times.
The gold panel is next on the list and it is also widely used by many photographers. Gold reflectors are more frequently used in outdoor portraits because they deliver warmer lighting which works in harmony with sunlight. Gold works great in many scenarios, but it is better for reflecting sunlight and casting warm glows on targets, which is pretty beautiful and pleasing.
With gold panels, skin tones come out as beautiful, however, if you are not careful they can look as yellow which is not pleasing at all.
For indoors or studio work gold reflectors are not the best options and flash doesn’t work properly with it. When flash hits the gold reflector, it alters the color of the white light and casts it unevenly on your target.
White is a pretty interesting option and the favorite of many photographers for a variety of reasons. The white panel reflector might not bounce off a lot of light compared to silver or gold, however, if you use it correctly you can get enough light to overcome shadows and add a nice dimension to oppose larger light sources, which can come out perfectly.
White is pretty soft and clean. The light works perfectly with it in both outdoors and in-studio scenarios, where there is also a large light source available.
On the other hand, it is pretty difficult to be effective with white panel reflectors if you are dealing with low light scenarios. On top of that to make the white reflector work properly you will need to get it pretty close to your subject. One of the most popular uses of white light is in wedding photography as it doesn’t alter any of the colors, neither of the light nor the dresses.
Black reflector panel is mostly known as anti-reflectors. As you already know black absorbs light. This is pretty useful in photography in some cases, for example when you need to cut down reflections from shiny surfaces that reflect light, I have used it extremely effectively for jewelry photography, and it is the norm for that kind of photography. If used correctly, a black ‘reflector’ creates nice shadows that light falls evenly across the subject in question, which is beautiful overall. Black reflectors are mainly used to create a negative fill, meaning that it creates shadows rather than eliminate them.
This is the option that comes in the end, the translucent panel technically is not a reflector as it doesn’t reflect light.
Translucent works as a shoot-through diffuser mostly for your flash or location lighting with your lights. On top of that, translucent can be used as a panel between the sun and the subject as a diffuser to deliver perfect results.
The larger the light source the softer the light and there where this translucent panel comes into play at delivering you a portable large diffuser for your light source.
While there are uses when you place the translucent panel as a background, mostly you will place it between the light source and the subject itself.
Besides the color of your reflector, you also need to be careful about the shape of it as it will also change the way it reflects light. Let’s check out our options.
Circular reflectors are definitely the most popular out there and the most frequently used by many photographers. Especially for those in portrait photography, as it gives a nice round catchlight that is pretty pleasing and creates a nice effect on your subject’s eyes.
As i mentioned earlier, a 5 in 1 reflector is what you should look for. Most circular reflectors are 5 in 1, which means that they can do everything you need.
Rectangular reflectors are also pretty popular, but are mostly used for larger subjects and when you need more light for it. Most of the time these are so large as they can be used as backgrounds as well, however, due to their size, you won’t be able to operate them without an assistant. Then again you can utilize a reflector stand such as the Impact Multiboom Light Stand, to work without an assistant.
Triangular reflectors are also a good option when you are shooting alone without an assistant as they are easier to hold and allow you to grip them with one hand. Also, the light can be quite good and I see them as good options for beginner photographers.
Fill light is also very important, so make sure you have good fill light coming into the subject or the room you plan to do the photography on.
To conclude I want to say again that there are millions of reasons to buy a photography reflector. These things are pretty cheap and very versatile. You will have tons of fun with them and there are a lot of things you can do with just simple packages.
Filling, key lighting, backlighting, diffusing, negative filling, backdrops, and even can act as softboxes, a reflector is a super versatile device that will allow you to have plenty of fun. You might also be interested in reading about the best flash diffusers, so we wrote an article on that too.
If you are not sure what to get check the top picks section to get a good idea about the best options in the market. You can also take a look at our best ring lights article, where we reviewed the most popular ring lights of this year.
If you can’t afford a reflector, natural light will do the job just as well, but it will be a bit harder. Have fun and enjoy your new accessories.