David Šanda: How to Shoot in Daylight with Reflector Panels
Studio equipment can be used even in daylight to help you reach the right effect in your picture. David Šanda shoots a lot of outdoor photography – it may actually be what he does most – and now he’s written an article about using reflector panels in the countryside for you.
I like taking pictures outdoors
The location and natural light are often enough to create the story and the atmosphere of a picture. Since
I mostly shoot portraits, I try to enhance the atmosphere by choosing appropriate clothing, poses, and
composition, so that all elements fit together and create a picturesque and eye-pleasing unit.
The stars and the elements do not always favour your actions
And that’s when FOMEI’s magic equipment comes in. However, I don’t want people to be able to see right
at first sight that I’ve used any tools at all. I try to find the right balance between natural and artificial
light (which may take the form of a reflector panel, constant light, or a flash), in order to achieve
good illumination of the model and to avoid destroying the natural light atmosphere. I rather want to
enhance the atmosphere of the natural light.
I just grab my model and the panel and off we go!
Today we’ll talk about FOMEI
Reflex Panel 100x220/black/white. We’ll look into using this reflector panel outdoors but
it’s just as handy for indoor shooting and for classic studio photography.
I am very fond of this panel because of its flexibility. It allows me to cast a shadow on the entire figure
of the model or, when using the white surface, to have a large, soft and softbox-like light source. The
qualities of the panel include compact size and good handling, which allows me to take pictures without
the help of an assistant.
To some extent, the black side of the panel (turned towards the model) can also be used for soft light
modulation: the shading limits the direction in which the light propagates and thanks to the black
colour, no light is reflected back. This effect is mainly useful for face photography because
the panel has to be close to the model, in order to shield as much light as possible.
And now some physics
I apologize in advance to all physicists because my explanation will be rather simplified.
The white side of the panel can be used to reflect light. When light strikes the white surface
and is reflected back, it diffuses in all directions, which makes white colour much more convenient
than for example silver. If you use a silver panel, you follow the law of light reflection, which sometimes
causes problems as we do not get the light reflection we need. The intensity of light reflected from a
white surface is lower compared to silver surface and therefore the model is less likely to be dazzled.
To some extent, the white reflective surface can be compared to softboxes which also
make light spread in all directions. The nature of the light is determined depending on the size
of the softbox and the distance from the photographed object (model). A larger light source area
placed closer to the lens creates softer, less contrastive and less plastic light. The further we move
the softbox away from the model, the smaller is the light area and the softness of the light disappears.
If you let the sun shine on a white surface (panel), it will reflect light and become a light
source. Then it’s up to your creativity to use the light source to illuminate the model. Of course,
if there is to be any effect, the illuminated white surface must be somehow directed to the model. Unfortunately,
the fact that the white panel turns into a light source results in another law - the light intensity decreases
with the square of distance. This means that the greater the distance between the light source and the
photographed object (model), the lower the light intensity. From some point, there is no effect
at all, as it becomes less intense than the surrounding natural light.
Another thing characteristic for the white reflective surface is that it takes over the colour
temperature of the light it reflects. This enables you to achieve a better colour balance of
the entire photographic scene than if you used light reflected from the sky which has a different colour
temperature than objects illuminated by direct sunlight.
A reflection as well as a shade!
The panel can also be used to create shade, even in direct sunlight. However, more often
I use it to shield undesirable direct sunlight which falls on the model. This can be used for shooting
in a tree shade when the sun rays shining through the tree crowns create unpleasant light spots on the
model. In this case, all you need to do is to place the panel in the sun direction and thus create a compact
shade on the model. As you can see, the panel can be used in multiple ways and it’s a very useful helper
for outdoor portrait photography because it makes shooting easier and gives you more options. Of course,
the panel has certain limits, as has been indicated above. And then there’s also wind – a natural element
that can give you some hard time :)
David was born in 1978 in Dvůr Králové nad Labem. He now lives in Hradec Králové. He took his first pictures
as a child with a Flexaret camera but he didn’t take photography seriously until 2008 when he bought a
digital reflex camera and started shooting actively. David’s first photographic steps led him to reportage
photography – he documented historical celebrations and oriental dance shows. As reportage photography
mostly means capturing people and is close to portrait photography, David started to explore this genre
in the form of self-study and his own shooting. Portrait photography has become David’s most often photographed
genre and he keeps improving in both portrait shooting and the subsequent post-production.