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Natural Light Reflectors

Lesson 7 from: Location Lighting 101

Lindsay Adler

Natural Light Reflectors

Lesson 7 from: Location Lighting 101

Lindsay Adler

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Lesson Info

7. Natural Light Reflectors


Class Trailer

Day 1


Class Introduction


Principles of Light


Speedlights vs Strobes


Compressing the Scene


Location Lenses and Lenshoods


Metering Modes and Back Button Focus


Natural Light Reflectors


Lesson Info

Natural Light Reflectors

and I'm going to jump into natural light so okay everybody this everything that we've just covered so far but I tried to talk through fast because it's kind of boring but it's kind of you got to know it and support from me it's less enthralling this is the part you probably been waiting for this is natural light this is everything about natural light reflectors diffusers angles of light that is what we're going to do for the rest of the day you'll see everything and how I shoot on location the most important thing I can say is to actually look at the light and I absolutely used to do this I had a friend we're both learning photography and if maybe if you don't if you don't feel like you really see the light every once in a while if you find a friend who's cool this just stop and say okay let me look at the light on your face take a look where the highlights air from and then say where did they come from take a look at the direction alight the quality of figure out what do you see on th...

at face and where is it coming from that made the only reason know howto light on location now is because of that actually like one of the main reasons because I would walk around and stop it go wow that's really beautiful glowing light on your face okay don't move all right so it's overhang oh there's a big wall reflecting light and then I would train myself to look for those things over and over again most the time I don't even need to bring reflectors or diffusers on location I just pay attention to what the lights actually doing and if this makes any one feel better this did not come naturally to me for years and years you would look at my shots and I didn't see it at the moment I could see it after like I could see that it wasn't really what I was looking for after but in the moment I was just looking at their face and I was just focusing on composition and exposure so the more you practice seeing the light which is what we're going to talk about these next few days it just makes it easier you know take stress off your shoulders are so analyzing the scene here um it's not just four naturally do want you to know this is important for using strobes and speed lights because that's where I see people fall flat is the let me just bring my speed light out and it will solve everything but it really doesn't they're so much more to actually seeing the scene so the questions I ask myself first one is ok actually in this scene where is the light really coming from because usually you say this son or something right but sometimes it's an opening in trees like and this is what it took me forever to realize let's say the person standing in the middle of a forest seems like there's no direction light except there's a little opening in the trees up there and that's actually why there's a little bit across light on their face because that opening is where the light from the sky is coming from or maybe I look and I'm looking this portrait I'm like wow you know actually the chin is really bright oh the sun's hitting the sidewalk in the sidewalk is bouncing up and lighting them so I'm looking like really the light hitting your subject where is it actually coming from in a room on the floor from an opening in the clouds is it bouncing like a bouncing off in new york city it's really cool because it'll bounce off the buildings and so you get this like really sharp uh it's really carving like but I got to figure out which building it's coming from and impose them to work with that so it makes a really big difference obviously you want to see the quality of light we talked about this in the brightest so this is kind of sounds familiar right like the quality in the intensity and the direction that the things that we talked about before sometimes just moving your subject makes a massive massive difference and sometimes just changing your camera angle so I wanted to show you this okay this is shooting in central park no reflectors no diffusers in this particular scene where I'm shooting her this is a light source this opening in the trees which is what this is on her faith and that actually what you can't see is on the other side it's the same thing this is not good like there's light from above late on her nose and in this cross light because the light is actually openings in the trees so if I move her and what actually is I I rotated her slightly and faced her away like all I like that like this is probably like ten feet away I just moved her underneath a tree and so now the light because the tree blocked off all the light it was just from straight ahead just like the light out and around so this was just from moving her like from out in the field just to kind of like under a tree and an overcast day so he was before and after no reflectors no diffusers maybe ten feet bad is highlights on forehead and nose and cross late good she's got cheekbones shadows under her lifts shaped to her face so that is for sure a practice thing find a photo buddy like find someone who's willing to do that um it's convenient if you have a willing partner or children but if not photo friends photo friends are good to have um and so well this is what we're going to talk about the good things to look for on location eventually this will kind of your checklist do I have natural reflectors yes that is awesome location light and cool do I have covered shade that looks really good so I don't have covered shade maybe have some open shade from any window light maybe and do I have any backlight like these are the things that I look for on location of these are good so let's start with lighting situation number one one of my absolute favorites which are natural reflectors and we're going to do a video on this when I go on location on a sunny day and I want to be traveling light what I do is I look for natural reflectors and what that means is if I can find a large light colored surface that is reflecting the sun I don't need a diffuser I don't need a reflector I don't need anything on location just that very large light source so in this particular instance what I found here is a nice neutral colored wall that's reflecting the sunlight so when she turned around right side can you turn that way a little bit cnn look right out that way perfect see how harsh that light is on her fate still she got bright highlights darker shadows pretty shiny but when she turns this way now she just has beautiful glowing light reflecting off that wall so what you're looking for is anything that is large neutral and reflecting the sun so here are a few things you can look for uh first well you could look for a large white moving van that would be fine you can look for a large neutral wall uh you could look for a billboard you could look for a side of a building and that's something I'll frequently d'oh if I'm shooting on location it's a bright sunny day I look around and see if there any buildings that are light colored with a large wall hit by the sun if I can place my subject opposite that wall then I have the biggest reflector I could possibly want for example if you have a building that's fifty feet tall and it's white and it's hit by the sun that is a fifty foot reflector now what you'll notice is the light on her face is very very soft and as I said before the quality of the light is affected by the size of that reflector in relationship to the subject so if this is a fifty foot white wall it is a fifty foot wait reflector it is going to be huge and therefore extremely extremely soft so looking at this light right here not only is the light reflected off the wall but she's also got phil from below right here from the sidewalk which is neutral colored and then even the wall here now it's not exactly neutral but it's still you got some windows that's going to bounce light when I look at the light on her face now you'll see these big catch lights and just smooth even light this's probably not something that I would like from man um you could it's great for children great for women just very even and glowing let's take a quick shot of that beautiful great and where I placed her in this instance she's standing with some of the light on her hair so she has really great separation from her background and what I've looked for very very particularly in this scene is when I framed up I made sure what was behind her was dark and that's something that you want to do if she has a highlight on her hair to separate for her from the background I don't want light spots in the background but instead darkness behind her so she will be nice glowing face separation on her hair and then dark behind really really nice clean glowing shot beautiful couple things you should definitely be aware of if you're looking for natural selectors okay sing number one is whatever surface that you're utilizing if it has any color at all it will show up on the subject's face so let's say they have a big gray wall but really it's a little bit grey blue it'll actually make your model look cool or in this particular instance this isn't gray this is like a light tan so she has really warm skin tones but that's okay it's very warm and glowing like actually look in this instance um another thing that you want to watch out for is let's say it's a bright sunny day you've got that big reflective wall but there's also a time of light on a bright white sidewalk sometimes we'll end up happening is you get a lot of under light because that son is bouncing off the sidewalk and filling in heavily fuel particularly have this if the wall that slating your subject is really really far away because what ends up happening is that wall as it's far away reflecting light back into her face it gets deeper it's not as strong because it's not close to her to fill in that land on your face so the closest light source is actually going to be the white sidewalk right underneath her so what you'll get is really bright highlights her chin and underneath her nose and it's not going to be very flattering so instead you're better off looking for a darker a surface underneath her or maybe not reflective and instead of a nice big reflective neutral color surface in front of her so those were a couple of things to watch out for remember like I said it could be sidewalks moving vans billboards anything that's large reflective and neutral let me take a picture of you right here and then I'm gonna pop around to the other side and to show what it looks like with sunlight on your face look right here okay uh definitely not is nice beautiful great and then back here one more looking at this particular situation here I've got beautiful fill light on the wall behind but there's also a lot of phil underneath her chin from the sidewalk let's say that I want her to have a really defined jawline in the previous shots it's still beautiful and glowing or maybe I just wanted a little bit more definition of as it is her face or chin kind of runs into her neck the tones were all the same so here have a black piece of foam core really what you're looking for is a black piece of fabric something that is black and neutral tone no color cast to it and not reflective so now what I do is if I ever hold this and have her hold it beneath her chin of actually blocking out the light from the sidewalk so now the only light source on her face will actually be from this wall so it's frontal and she'll have more shape to her chin and your cheeks looks great beautiful also if I don't like the highlight on her hair in this case I do I think it's just the right amount of brightness if I don't like that I could take another piece of foam core block off from her hair so there's no light on her hair or I could try to place her in shadow still across from that nice large natural reflector aiken carrie white with nothing more than a piece of foam core or just my camera all right so this is the shot that I selected that was actually the last one that you saw and the reason that I like this one best is it's got that beautiful glowing light but see how there's a shadow in the bottom of her eyes this is the one where I held the black foam core underneath her chin because it just gives me a little a bit more shape because in the first ones they're all exactly the same it just kind of blended together so that would be something I would critique that I see often is someone will have an idea of how this whole natural reflector thing works they'll see a door way they stand the girl in a doorway but really it's the sidewalk that's lighting and so you'll get this major under light so keep an eye out for that if you see bright highlights underneath the nose and the chin sometimes it's better off to just block it off you know it's giving you this cutting out the monster light as they call it from underneath so I just want to show you this is some of the difference they're slightly different color I'm not sure why in this case originally there the same but this is with no board underneath and this is with can't see your cheekbones are just like a little bit more defined and you can see her jaw just a little bit more it doesn't make a massive amount of difference in this instance but it it does make a difference in the final lighting so it's called flagging your blocking off light got some questions about natural foot reflectors if you're okay with that we have one from a facebook users who says if you use a reflector like a wall where would you stand that would not cause a shadow so if you're sure so in an instance like that is long as it's a big wall the light just wrapped around you it's not really a problem because it's filling in from all signs that you're not going to be casting a shadow plus it's such a soft light source shadows are cast by crisper harder light sources bounce light is soft so it it won't really even be a problem fashion tv in view of natural light in a green environment and I think I'm just going to make it more general what about the color cast from the natural reflectors that something that you need to worry about something you can do about it yeah so well you will see an example of this when we're shooting out in the park in the reflectors section the problem is and I references because everybody has this problem I think is you're standing out in a part right maybe have the son to the back of people's heads and all the light is bouncing off the green grass which is balancing back onto your subject and they are green really there's not much you can do about it like for example people have asked me can I set a white balance to fix it well if you try to correct for that now the backgrounds the wrong color it actually doesn't work so if you have a really strong green cast from like bouncing off grass there's two things that you want to do the first thing is try to overpower that try even if the light looks okay use a reflector to tryto give you whiter light instead of that green light or use a flash or you somethingto overpower it but the other one is to set the subjects further back in the shade if you if there is shade away from that natural reflector so my example would be if we can see the floor right here let's say that this is shade okay and I have my subjects standing right at the edge of the shade and the sun is really bright on the screen grass from below it's going to just be a massive amount of green underneath urchin I mean even if this is in the middle of the day and they had their back like it gives him all that green so you could do two things if you can back them up in the shade a little bit it kind of gives you a little bit more of the mix of the sky being the light source a little bit of the green and then try to overpower with the reflector or a speed light or if you can get your subject this is going to sound ugly but it's all about it's like the movies it's all about what you show in your frame let's say that I'm photographing and there's black um what do you call it pavement if you could maybe put your subjects back a little bit but what's kind of in front of them that's outta your frame is black pavement then you're not gonna have that same balance or maybe it's going to be neutral sidewalk so it's doing something evil either overpower that grain or just move them away from it try to move them away from that really strong green cast that used to be the number one problem in all of my location portrait ce especially in the middle of the day so the shade makes a difference and then mari ella and steven thomas smith we're both asking about natural flow reflectors when you're in the middle of a field of some kind eso at that point you don't have any except for the ground and then you deal with it in the way that you just described with the green cast and everything yeah and if let's say it's not a field of really nice natural reflector is if you live let's say in las vegas and you go out to one of those dry lake beds that is awesome because it's light colored dirt forever and it is a giant reflector so you'll see a lot of people that actually will shoot in the desert still a little bit earlier later in the day and they don't really need to take many lights cause that son blast down on that that huge lake bed it's light colored it bounces like back up and it's just glowing from everywhere so that comes with practice and just like seeing where is the light bouncing does it look good or do I need to get away from it maybe one more from arjun davis and michael were both asking you said that this was not a good look for men s o can you talk a little bit about the difference between lighting for men and women in this particular situation yeah so in this situation it's really flat lit and really glowing it's not traditional male lighting usually there's a little bit more shape to the jaw and cheek bones with men usually want more defined jawline when lading like this you really don't have that so what you could do if your if this is the light that you wanted you could go ahead and take two pieces of black foam core like I had in that and try to ve them in so you're really saying like block off light from there there jawline cases when I would light men like this is what I'm shooting groups when I choose to shoot weddings if I had a white side of a church hit by the sun and I could put the entire bridal party across from it I'm letting the whole group with broad even light I would just go for it like it is just going to make my life easier but if you can with guys watch that under phil it's that balance off the ground that actually messes it up because it completely gets rid of their jawline which is part of what we associate with masculine features all right let's keep going I know we've got a few more long videos for this one so let's keep going exactly totally eh so I'm just gonna run through these real fast so you can see this in action okay she's got this white building behind her terrible light on her face I did nothing but turn her around towards that white wall and now she has that nice balanced light so this is like my go to if I can find it terrible light on her face got a wall behind her turn her around and now it's try it again now it's just gorgeous glowing light on her face this wall is outside of my apartment which is why every time I'm shooting in central park I shoot that first like we get that glowing light because everyone always like it just the eyes explode like there's beautiful sparkles of light this is what I want to say watch out for this wall is slightly yellow and so then she's really yellow so color will absolutely make a difference white and gray is really what you are looking for another example here all I do is I turn her round to face the wall night and day so watch for natural reflectors okay so our goals I'm just keep putting up there if you keep seeing them

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Keynote 1
Keynote 2
Keynote 3
Gear Guide

Ratings and Reviews

a Creativelive Student

This class was amazing. Lindsay Adler is a great presenter...I learned so much.....I love that she spoke about natural light..strobes and speedlites. Wonderful information. I purchased this and I am glad I did. Great job Lindsay. Jean


Lindsey Adler is one of the best and most engaging photography instructors in the USA. I highly recommend this lighting course. It felt more like a 101 and a 102 course than just a basic course. She teaches in a way that makes learning alot of fun and the amount of time & effort that she puts into her video and class presentations are second to none. Her classes are well worth their weight in gold and you will walk away with a wealth of knowledge!


Lindsay is amazing , I love the way she explains everything!! This course is filled with GREAT information and helps you better understand natural lighting,strobe and flash. Thank You Lindsay, please keep your classes coming!

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