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.
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.
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!