Agnes Caruso Photography

Photography


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Using a reflector – indoors and outdoors

Light is the heart of photography and getting it right is extremely important. Reflector is something that many starting photographers wonder about. “Do I need it? How do I use it?” If you cannot or do not want to invest in anything super fancy, you like taking pictures with natural light – a reflector is something that I would strongly recommend. There are stacks of different types, priced from very cheap to very expensive. So how do you even start?

What are you photographing? Portraits, still life, large scenes or objects or small? An answer to this question will determine what size reflector you will need. The larger the subjects, the larger should be your reflector or you will only get change of light in a small portion of your object. A related consideration is how are you going to handle a reflector? Are you going to buy a stand or are you going to hold it? Questions just keep coming and honestly you have no idea where to start or if on fact you need a reflector.

I will try to explain in this post why you should use one and when as well as how to start working with a reflector.

A reflector at its basic, is a piece of white foam board. However, more frequently reflectors are much more advanced with silver or gold foil covering them. You can make one yourself if you wish (DYI Photography How to make a photo reflector, Make your own reflector DIY tutorial) or you can even use your car sunshade. Using a white foam board will help you not to blind your subjects and depending on the board can actually produce a nice soft light. That said, the most frequently used reflector is probably the silver one. Similarly to white board it does not alter the appearance of the subject.However, you need to be careful not to blind your subject so reflect with care!

You can also use a gold foil reflector, however, it will give your subject a bit of a golden glow. Depending on your intentions that can be a desired outcome. All this is very interesting but why should you even bother using one? It is not even convenient carrying one with you all the time.

If you look at the following pictures you will notice the difference between the images on the left with no reflector and ones on the right with silver reflector on the side opposing the light source.

As you can see, in an image with no reflector you can see the dark shadows on the face away from the window. They do not look pleasing and it would be best to lighten them up. One way of doing it is to place another light source to lit up this side of the face. However, a much simpler way is to place a reflector opposite to the light.

In order to get a appearance you wish a reflector can be easily moved a little to the front or to the back. I can hear the next question, how do you hold on to a reflector while taking a picture? You can ask someone to hold it for you, place it on a stand, have your subject hold it, stand it on a chair, table, hand it from a door, coat hanger… There are many ways to place it in position.

Light will reflect in many directions, so the little drawing is a simplification of the set up.

 

 

 

 

 

My favorite model, toy chimp, this time has a light coming from the right, this time a strobe. A reflector in the second image is positioned on left. You may also notice that a reflector has softened shadow cast by the light.

However, those are not the only cases for using a reflector. It can be also used when shooting outdoors, especially on a very sunny day a reflector can come in handy. Would not having one affect your pictures? It does not have to, however, in such case you will need to stay clear of a bright or direct sunlight if you are taking portraits and want them to look great. Yet, even then it could be handy to bring just a bit more light onto your subject.

A little bit of reflected light here makes a difference. In this case, I was taking picture in shade and while no obvious deep shadows are seen, the image is not appealing. By using a reflector you can make a lot of difference in appearance.

Portraits and studio pictures get usually the most attention when it comes to use of a reflector, they are not the only ones that benefit from such approach. How many times have you gone out to photograph flowers? Yes, those great subject that do not walk away or fly away. Frequently we go out in nice weather or the flowers we want to photograph are in full sunshine. Yes, we can come back when it is cloudy. However, that is not always possible. So how can you make a pleasing photo while still photographing in full sunshine?

You guessed it! Use a reflector. I took one with me on an outing to National Arboretum in Washington DC. And here are some of the images it produced.

 

   

The first image was taken without a reflector. By adding a reflector I was able to reduce the highlights, soften the image just a little, bring the azalea flowers to much more natural and pleasing appearance.

 

Creative use of a reflector can allow you to manipulate light and highlight the area you want to bring to a viewer’s attention. In general I use mostly silver reflector as it keeps the colors true, while the gold one will warm up your images by altering the color just a bit. If this is something you wish to do, then try it out. You also need to test different angles as not all will create a desired effect. Above all be creative with objects you already have, until you truly know if you need a reflector make it happen with things you have on hand.

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My best images of 2015

I decided to look back at 2015 and try to pick a few favorite images. While doing that I realized that I am not sure which images should I be showing, those I find the most amazing or those which gathered the most response on various social media? So I decided to include a selection in a few categories. All of the images can be found on my Flickr site as I used BigHugeLabs to create the mosaics you see here. Their mosaic tool is easy to use and great fun.

Flickr Favorites of images taken in 2015:

The images were chosen based on number of views and number of favorites.

Flickr Explore, images posted in 2015:

This is a funny category, as the images are chosen by a computer algorithm, however, as you can see some are consistent with some of the other categories.

FineArtAmerica Favorites:

My Favorites:

This is the category, where picking the images is really hard to do. You tend to love all of your pictures or most of them. How to pick just a few? It was not easy.

There is a story behind everyone of those images you see here. Fog in Savannah was just a few minutes when it looked amazing. The three night images all taken with the same camera but only two of them on a tripod and I had a lot of time when shooting just one of them in St. Louis. Portraits shown here are all posed except the last. The little princess shot was just one of the candid moments.

This year, I traveled to some of the most amazing places last year and picking just 4 pictures was hard but decided on the four you see. Why? A sunrise hike to Delicate Arch and being lucky for some 2 minutes was priceless, Sunset at the Windows in Arches was a game of patience till the sun goes low and comes out from behind the clouds so the colors change. This is one of the images while the sun was still high and I took this image lying on the ground. My beautiful panoramic shot would not appear nicely in the mosaic so it is not shown here, but you can see it on my website or Flickr.  Bryce Canyon – a great place to visit, but poor weather can make your plans of taking pictures go out the window. Here is a moment of sunshine caught on the rocks just before it started drizzling.

I am fascinated by bees and this little one was, I think, the best capture this year. They are fast and unpredictable, but really beautiful. Renaissance Festival in Crownsville, MD, was my first. I like shooting action and this was yes, you can guess my first fast action set of pictures at the jousting arena. Then we come to the end of the year, autumn or fall is one of the most beautiful times of the year with colors and light being quite stunning. I picked the picture which showcases the gold color of the fall. Why? I like it but also I set out on a day trip to take some images of fall,, however, the weather decided that rain is the most appropriate thing in the fall. Therefore, when sun was poking through the golden leaves I was quick to take some pictures.

All this brings us to the end of the year and Christmas. The beautiful cards that we used to get at Christmas time long time ago always made me want to create an image as beautiful as they were. Not sure if I succeeded by your standards but I love this golden ball in the tree.

What is coming in the New Year? We will see. My camera is ready and already working hard this year. I hope to see more of you visiting my blog and connecting with me on Instagram, Flickr and Twitter this year. Have a great New Year!


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Portrait 2014

This last year, 2014, I worked on portraits with models and non-models. I love working with people, trying to get their individuality and personality captured in a picture. Beautiful image might not be the most perfect picture of a person or the person the client likes.

While taking all the images in color I often explore B&W presentation as it is a much more interesting presentation. I used to work a lot with B&W film years ago and still like the way it allows you to focus on light and shapes, rather than be distracted with colors.

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I worked both outdoors and indoors. I love natural light and prefer working outdoors. Light can be the most challenging aspect to get the perfect image. Through using a diffuser and reflector you can successfully take a picture and get a perfect illumination.

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However, business portraits and headshots are primarily taken indoors. They are extremely important for the clients as they are intended to reflect not just their personality but also their position in a company.

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