Regular readers of my column and blog know that I love my little Nikon speedlights for all the wonderful things they do so effortlessly. From fill flash, to slow synch to cordless off camera TTL control, these units have changed the way I work and have made me a flash maven.
But there are some contrasty situations where my first choice will be a reflector, usually one of the pop-open types like the Flexfill or Photoflex or Lastolite. What are those situations and why do I like to use a reflector instead of flash when I encounter them? Hit the jump to find out.
Well, the quality of the light from a reflector is generally broader and softer than that from an undiffused, shoe-mounted flash. A reflector provides a broad wash of light, puts a nice big catchlight in the subject’s eyes (compare the catchlights, and the overall light quality, between the Huli Wigman at the top of the post as opposed to the shot at the end of the post) and the light has more of a “glow.”
Having someone hold your reflector makes the shoot into more of a communal event. While it’s easier to have someone who knows what to look for hold your reflector, you can recruit anybody (why, even a magazine writer can be trained in a matter of moments…yes, it’s just that simple!), and this makes the whole portrait session more fun. In some situations, the subject himself can hold the reflector, and it makes for some good laughs and relaxed moments.
But using a reflector requires a situation where you have some time and control. If you’re in a fast moving event or parade, where you can’t just stop the proceedings and pop open a reflector, those are the situations where flash comes into its own. Like a lot of choices you make in photography, there is no right or wrong answer or set of ironclad rules. It’s situational, and the important thing is to recognize the right choice for a given scenario.