Photography: Using reflectors

So you’ve got the fancy camera, maybe even purchased a macro lens to go with it, and are raring to take photos of jewellery. Living in Singapore, where the majority of the population resides in high-rise apartments with an appalling level of natural light (no thanks to small, boxy floor plans and tiny windows), I often wish we could make better use of the abundant sunshine and daylight hours, without having to resort to shooting outdoors or bothering with a lightbox.

I shared my photography setup somewhere sometime ago (sorry, didn’t import every single post here) and it’s a very simple, small pack-away tabletop area next to a window in my living room. Fortunately, the window doesn’t get direct sunlight until the late afternoon or evening, so at most times, I’m able to just lay out some background paper, some small props and shoot away.

From the photos I’ve seen out there, quite a number of sellers don’t use lightboxes (or maybe they do, but with limited lighting?) or reflectors to balance the often single point light source. While I agree this lends a dimensional look to the photos and adds to the overall style or presentation, I feel that some items can benefit from more evenly cast lighting. Such as jewellery, with tiny bits, subtle textures and sparkly surfaces.

Here are 2 versions of the same photo, where the window light is to the right: The one on the left was shot as-is, while the one on the right had a white reflector to the left.

without_reflector      with_reflector

I don’t think one is necessarily better than the other – photography is, like all forms of art, subjective – but I love how:

  • The reflector eliminates the dark shadows cast onto and by the prop, helping it to blend more unobtrusively into the background (obviously, having them in similar colours/tones help). The shadows bug me when I have a piece with lots of little details and the constraints of its positioning plus my photo setup just throw it all into a murky darkness. This effect is more obvious when using lighter-coloured backgrounds.
  • The light playing on the faceted gems gets a little boost from an additional light source. Why do you think jewellery looks that much more inviting under mirrors and multiple spotlights?
  • More light makes the metals appear much brighter. Something shiny like sterling silver will just reflect whatever’s around it. So if it’s darkness, the metal will appear dark. Compare the wrapped parts of the briolettes above.

You don’t even have to buy a fancy reflector kit – any large, plain white board will do. I grabbed a styrofoam board because it was lying around – not the best solution on windy days but it achieves the effect I want. Secure it to the opposite side of the main light source or adjust its angle manually to erase the shadows you don’t want, and you’re good to go!

2016-11-18T15:45:37+00:005 April 2013|Tags: , , |Comments Off on Photography: Using reflectors