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Old August 19th, 2013, 08:17 PM   #1
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Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada
Posts: 172
SPC: Using reflectors outdoors

I was on a shoot recently on a sunny day, and was setting up a reflector using a reflector holder and light stand. Solo shoot, simple interview, a little wind but not bad. When I started setting up, the client told me that a broadcast news crew had recently been there doing basically the same setup, and they abandoned using their reflector. Too windy. I was told not to use a reflector ó they didnít want it falling over on someone.

So that got me thinking ó it's time to take another look at how I use them. Maybe we can share some ideas here that will make it a little easier when we're out shooting as a single person crew. (I'm referring to collapsible disc reflectors)

Some options:

#1: Don't use a reflector. Shoot in shade, and try to find a background that isn't too bright. Could also use a translucent disc to eliminate shadows.

#2: Find a volunteer: If it's a quick interview, see if someone is available to hold the reflector.

#3: Use a white vehicle (van or truck) or a white wall as the reflector

#4: Use two light stands and a reflector holder. I have a Manfrotto spring-loaded holder that works pretty well. Itís not totally secure as youíre relying on the springs to hold it in place. To keep the wind from catching it I sometimes use another light stand with a convertible boom arm (Manfrotto 3398B) and secure them together. (See photos) Add some sandbags and itís pretty solid. You can adjust the height of the reflector and change its angle. Takes time to set up and not easy to move. But as a solo shooter I know itís not going to fly away.

#5 : If thereís no wind at all, you can use the reflector-holder without any extra support. But if some wind comes up and blows it over, you wonít impress your client. And it doesn't take much wind to wreck your setup.

#6: While I was taking these pictures I realized that I could use the reflector-holder vertically, and just use one light stand with some sandbags. Makes it a lot easier to set up, but youíre pretty much stuck with it being vertical. Could find a way to use zip ties to secure the disc to the holder.

So there it is. Anyone have some ideas?

BTW, I didnít mention the placement of your reflector and interview subject. Do you like to put the sun behind your subject and use the reflector to fill in their face? Or use the sun as the key and the reflector as fill?

- Keith
Attached Thumbnails
SPC: Using reflectors outdoors-r1-sandbags.jpg   SPC: Using reflectors outdoors-two-ls-sb.jpg  

SPC: Using reflectors outdoors-two-ls-rear.jpg   SPC: Using reflectors outdoors-1-ls-sb-rear.jpg  

SPC: Using reflectors outdoors-r-vert-no-sb.jpg   SPC: Using reflectors outdoors-r-vert-cu.jpg  

Keith Dobie is offline   Reply With Quote
Old August 21st, 2013, 06:00 AM   #2
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Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: Lakeland Florida
Posts: 584
Re: SPC: Using reflectors outdoors

Hi Keith.

Most of my clients are working with modest budgets, so I tend to stick with options 1 and 2. Plus, many of the shoots are in crowded locations, with lots of inattentive people around, so safety becomes a major factor.

I tend to take the same approach with lighting for the indoor shoots. If I bring all the lights it's for a larger budget gig with ample crowd control for safety.
Roger Van Duyn is offline   Reply With Quote
Old August 21st, 2013, 10:49 PM   #3
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Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada
Posts: 172
Re: SPC: Using reflectors outdoors

Hey Roger, good points about safety. If you're shooting solo you don't have that extra person around to keep an eye on things and keep people away. Part of this is to find a setup that's as lightweight and small as possible, so I was thinking today that I'm probably using too big of a reflector. It's 42" diameter, and a quick check online showed me that you can get them in 12", 22", 32", and 42" sizes. If we're just using it for fill on an interview, then I wonder how small of a diameter we could get away with. If it does the job, a smaller one wouldn't catch the wind so much, and a single sandbag would hold it all in place. Would just have to do some experimenting and see what is the right size for interviews.
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Old August 22nd, 2013, 10:38 AM   #4
Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Posts: 1,482
Re: SPC: Using reflectors outdoors

Hi Kieth,

You have obviously thought this through and are using all the right gear. Your post did give me one idea. I usually never buy cheap stuff. But reflectors can be found dirt cheap for the crummy ones or more for good ones. What if you bought one of the cheap ones just for windy days. Why cheap? Because you could take a knife and cut a few slots in it for the wind to go through. Just like they do for vinyl banners. It would be one more level of protection to keep it from becoming a sail.

I have one disk that's about 14 inches. I bought it thinking it would be cool because I could keep it in a kit and almost always have one with me even when I left the big ones at the office. It is almost useless. In my experience reflecting light, the bigger the better.

Steven Digges
Still learning twenty years later.
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Old August 22nd, 2013, 11:09 PM   #5
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Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Arlington, TX
Posts: 2,229
Re: SPC: Using reflectors outdoors

Very tough decision. I prefer to have the sun behind at an angle and use the reflector to fill in on the face. It is best to have the reflector high to get the light at a different angle than the camera so the subject does not have to look so much into the light. But, the higher you go, the more of a sail it becomes!

I think finding a person to hold the reflector along with sandbags is the best approach. I hate outdoor shots without lighting, so using the reflector is worth the effort imho.
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