A Note on Content

The purpose of this blog is twofold: (1) to advertise my services as a photographer, and (2) to provide useful information to people who want to take better pictures, particularly when it comes to photographing children.

Although I have not organized the blog posts in any particular order, I have tried to start with basic information and build from there, so those wanting to learn more about photography and visiting the site for the first time may want to start with the oldest posts first.

If you have questions or comments about the blog, please feel free to leave a comment or to email me directly. I hope the photos and other information presented here help you appreciate the art of children's photography, and inspire you to take great photographs of your own.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Reflectors and Diffusers

One can't excel at photography without learning to control and manipulate light. To do so, a photographer can employ a wide range of tools, but I'd like to focus on two that are particularly important when it comes to natural light portraiture: reflectors and diffusers.

I'm sure you've seen those white circles professional photographers like to use when shooting outdoors. Well, those little (and not so little) white circles come in two principal types: (1) diffusers, which scatter the harsh rays of the sun, covering the subject in a softer, more diffuse light; and (2) reflectors, typically employed in shady locations or with a backlit subject and used to reflect additional light onto the subject. Fair enough, and one can read about those tools endlessly on various photo blogs and "how to" sites and buy them and try them out and "look professional," but here's the point I want to make: the world is full of reflectors and diffusers, most of them free (or cheap) and readily available.

Best diffuser: clouds.
Best reflector: water.

But that's only the beginning! ANYTHING that reflects can be a reflector, and ANYTHING that diffuses (scatters light) can be a diffuser. Consider for a moment your hand: does it reflect light? You better believe it does. Try holding it close to something small (say, a flower) and notice what happens to the light on the flower. Does that mean one's hands are make for a good portrait reflector? Not at all (far too small), but for that flower close-up? Maybe so.

White objects of any kind make wonderful reflectors: white walls, white cars, white drapes, white snow--anything--but so does literally anything bright or smooth: stone walls, the sides of building, parked cars, you name it. So, keep an eye out for those natural reflectors, and be sure to position yourself and your subject to take advantage of them.

Same goes for diffusers. Can't afford an expensive professional diffuser? Well, I made a diffuser for about $2.50 with an old screen from the local junk store (Deseret Industries). I bought the screen for $1.00 (maybe 3 feet x 5 feet) punched out the screen, and attached a double layer of clear polyethylene pastic in its place. Voila! A diffuser that works every bit as good as an expensive circle thingy. (I've seen similar low-tech diffusers used in professional fashion shoots.) I use another to cover windows: it's a cheap set of sheer white drapes I bought at Walmart for next-to-nothing. (I also bought a few stick on velcro buttons so I can easily attach it to any odd curtain rod.) What difference does it make to the final image that I used a cheap set of Walmart drapes instead of a professional diffuser? None. Nada. No difference at all.

But even if you don't have on hand a cheap set of Walmart drapes, realize that the light is there for the taking: it's a tool you can use if you pay attention and understand what's going on.

So, go forth and conquer. Lights, camera, action!

No comments:

Post a Comment