Photography in actual terms is the game of light. If there is no light, there is no photography. You will never get the right kind of light everywhere. In portrait photography too, the photographers face this problem equally in studios and outside.
A photographer’s worries never end when it comes to lighting, you can get a lot of headache. On a sunny day, there may be too many shadows under the nose or the chin. While on some other days you may find natural light inadequate for a good quality photograph. The best picture is certainly an outcome of your creativity plus the best lighting conditions. How do you control light then? Well, you don’t have to go too far for the solution.
The best way to get ample light for your portrait is to use a reflector. A reflector is an improvised or specialized reflective surface used to redirect light towards your subject. In case the light is not balanced, you can hold the reflector to the sides and similarly use it in order to avoid unwanted shadows. The trick here is to hold the reflector at a certain angle to the source of light, so that you may get enough lumen on the right areas of the subject.
Portions beneath a subject’s face, such as the under eye area, nose and chin are commonly affected by shadows in portraits. Reflectors bounce the available light and fill these areas with highlights instead of shadows. Imagine yourself photographing a subject wearing a hat on a bright day. Reflectors may help here. It is very important to note that if the photographer is shooting from a low angle, then the reflector should concentrate on reflecting the light down. If the photographer is shooting from eye-level or higher, then the reflector is often held lower. You may also deliberately create shadows with the help of reflectors, just to add to the dramatic appeal of the photograph. Of course, there are no hard rules and the environment dictates the best perspective of use.
How your final image looks depends on different types of reflectors. White reflectors are the safest bet and work well in most situations. If you want the light to be warmer and more subtle then gold reflectors are the best. Silver reflectors on the other hand produce a brighter, lighter gold. However, you need to be careful as the effect of silver and gold reflectors can be too strong in bright light.
Reflectors usually come in two finishes, one either side, so white/silver is a great start if you don’t own one yet. Some reflectors can fit different colored covers which can be slipped over the basic reflector frame so you might want to give it a try.
The fold-out reflectors are big things in small packets. These portable and handy reflectors can be folded out for use and placed back together when your work is over. A couple of different sizes, say 20 inches and 30 inches, are enough for most situations.
The light is certainly the most important physical factor for photography. Luminous backgrounds and foregrounds with appropriate shadows and carefully planned lighting schemes will help you a lot in the process of capturing great portraits. However, do keep this mind that while using the gold and silver reflectors; you don’t mess up with the color temperature, especially inside a studio.
One word which is equally important but thoroughly unused in photography circles is customization. No two photographs will create the same effect under the same lights. Never be afraid of experimentation and try different things before you get to your ‘great’ click.