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The difference between A photography reflector and A camera speedlight

Photographers consider the desired outcome for their shots when deciding between a photography reflector and a camera flash or speedlight. 

Photography reflectors are used to bounce light onto the subject, providing soft and natural lighting, while camera flashes emit a burst of light, often used to fill in shadows or add extra brightness to the scene. Both tools are must-haves for photographers, helping them achieve their desired lighting effects in different situations.

A photography reflector, or simply reflector, is a tool made from special materials designed to bounce light from the primary light source toward the subject of a photograph. It’s commonly employed in studio setups and outdoor photo shoots to enhance lighting conditions.

The Difference Between A Photography Reflector And A Camera Speedlight

Using a photo reflector is especially handy when taking photos on a sunny day, as deep shadows often appear on the models’ faces. You can effectively reduce or eliminate these shadows by turning a reflector to direct light onto your subject, creating a softer, more evenly-lit image. It’s important to note that while a photography reflector doesn’t add additional light, it simply redirects sunlight to illuminate the models.

The camera flash or Speedlight is an artificial electric light source. When used during a photo shoot outdoors, it creates a blend of lighting styles where the main illumination originates from sunlight (natural), while the model’s face is lit up by camera flash/Speedlight (artificial). 

Photogrphy reflectors are available in various shapes:

  • oval
  • round 
  • triangular
  • square
ova photography reflector
triangular photography reflector
square photography reflector

They come in different surface colors, such as golden, silver, white, and golden-silver. Some of the most well-known manufacturers of reflectors are Falcon Eyes, Lastolite, and Manfrotto.

There are numerous techniques and options for utilizing photo reflectors. The more you incorporate them into your photo shoots, the more you uncover their artistic potential.

I love using photography reflectors because they offer versatile options for managing light during a photo shoot. They allow me to enhance natural lighting conditions, soften shadows, and create a more flattering illumination on my model’s faces. I can achieve a more natural and detailed look in my photos with reflectors, bringing out the best of the model’s features.

The photos below show the results of using a reflector to accentuate the model’s face. During the photo shoot, the sun was positioned behind her.

photography reflector vs camera speedlight
A photo was taken without using any external lighting equipment.
golden photography reflector example
For this photo, I used a golden photography reflector that casts a warm, golden hue onto the model's face.
silver photography reflector
Here, I used a silver photography reflector that produces the opposite effect, providing a lighter and cooler shade.
silver golden two photography reflectors
For this photo, I used two reflectors. The large, oval reflector illuminated the entire body of the model, while the model held a small, round reflector in her hands, which had a silver-golden surface. This setup helped us further soften the shadows.

For the next set of photos I used Nikon Speedlight SB-900. Take a look and notice the difference in lighting.

camera speedlight outdoor example
Here, I used a Speedlight flash Nikon SB-900 with the dome diffuser pointed upwards. It's evident immediately that the lighting has become harsher, and the photo looks somewhat flat.
speedlight straight in face
The Speedlight SB-900 was pointed at the model's face.
speedlight nikon sb900 poiinted upward
Here, I pointed Speedlight upward, and you can notice how it immediately changed the light distribution in the frame.
speedlight nikon pointed upward and white card
Speedlight was still pointing upward, and I also pulled out the white card which directed some extra light on the model's face.
camera flash speedlight nikon dome diffusor pointing at the model
Speedlight Nikon with a dome diffuser on pointed upward.
speedlight nikon dome diffusor pointing upward
Speedlight Nikon with a dome diffusor on pointed directly at the model's face.
nikon speedlight pointing left
Speedlight Nikon pointing to the left side of the model

The mastery of lighting in photography is an endless exploration. Whether utilizing reflectors or flashes, understanding light manipulation is key to crafting captivating images.

*All pictures posted in this article were taken by ArsVie Photo Studio. You cannot copy or share these images without permission from ArsVie Photo Studio.

Stay inspired,

Elena Sullivan 

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