Using Reflectors and Diffusers in your Photography

I’ve been doing food photography as a hobby for about 15 years. I try to use nature light as much as possible. However, I’ve found that using just one light source, like a window, causes some of its own problems. If the light is really strong, one side of the dish will be well light and the other rather dark. One of the other photographers who hung out in the Food Photo Forum introduced me to the idea of using reflectors. Before my daughter bought me a portable 5-in-1 reflector for Christmas one year, I used everything from white sheets of paper, to white plates to poster board to try and fill in the shadows. Trust me, having a REAL reflector makes a huge difference! I especially like the versatility of the 5-in-1 with its white, black, translucent, gold and silver sides, which meet the needs of various lighting conditions. Here is a simple shoot of my afternoon coffee to show you the differences. (None of the photos have been edited in anyway.)

Back-lit mug, no reflectors

Same conditions, white reflectors (My setup can be seen in the photo at the beginning of the post)

Gold reflector – creating warmth

Silver reflector – stronger light

The black reflector comes in handy when needing to block light. Usually, that’s because of reflections in glass. It can also be used to create more dramatic lighting effects, especially in portraits.

Window reflections on glass.

(Yes, I know the wine is crooked! The chair and tray I set it on weren’t straight apparently! LOL!)

Same conditions – black reflectors

My other go-to white reflectors are pieces of white Masonite board from Lowe’s. (The board you see on the left in the photo of my photography setup.) We bought one large sheet and my husband cut it into several different sizes for me. I use the larger pieces as a portable white surface to set food and other objects on. But, I also can quickly prop pieces up to help reflect light when needed.

I did a series of pictures the other day featuring various danishes. Here’s an example of the difference reflectors can make in a real photo shoot.

And because the 5-in-1 is so portable, (they all zip together and fold up into a cover that is about 10-inches across) it is easy to take on location as well.

Natural conditions

Gold reflector

I use the translucent center of the 5-in-1 reflector as a diffuser too.¬† That comes in really handy when what I’m trying to take photos of are in direct sunlight with a harsh shadow. Diffusing the light cuts down on the contrast without changing any camera settings.

Direct Sunlight

Using the diffuser

So, if you are looking for an item to add to your own photography wish list, or need to buy something for another shutter bug, I don’t think¬† you can go wrong with this $10 purchase!

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Roasted Italian Sausage and Potatoes

True comfort food!! So easy to make and the taste is sublime! Plus, if you are careful with the amount of olive oil and use the turkey sweet Italian sausage instead of pork, it is a comfort-food dish you can indulge in without any guilt!

Using red potatoes versions white or yellow versions cuts down on the roasting time. Make sure to cut your peppers and onions into big chunks or they overcook.

The foil-lined pan makes for super easy clean up as well. I prefer non-stick foil to make sure the potatoes are easy to stir while baking. Leftovers can be made into an easy soup or used as pizza toppings.

Roasted Italian Sausage and Potatoes with peppers and onions

red potatoes, cut into 1 inch chunks
red bell pepper(s), cleaned, and cut into 1 inch pieces
sweet onion(s), peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
olive oil
1 lb sweet Italian turkey sausage

Preheat oven to 425.
Spread the vegetables in a single layer on a large foil-lined cookie sheet. (There should be space between the pieces or they won’t brown.)
Spray lightly with the olive oil and stir to coat. Place sausages on top of vegetables.
Roast for 45-60 minutes, stirring once or twice. Bake until potatoes pierce easily with a fork and the sausages are browned. Serve hot.