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Which reflector is best for you?

Updated: Jan 20


In the world of portrait photography, the use of fill light is essential to achieve the perfect shot. When I'm shooting a headshot, one area that I often add fill is under the chin, and I thought this would be a great opportunity to show the difference between the different types of fill. In this case, I used white, black, and silver.


At my recent workshop in Miami I wanted to show the students the difference adding different types of fill can have on the outcome of a headshot. I kept the lighting very simple and used a diffused Profoto Deep XL white umbrella to provide butterfly light overhead. This created nice even and soft light which was perfect for this demonstration. I also made sure to keep the model's pose the same for all three shots. To start, I had a v-flat from V-Flat World setup as a posing table on the white side, and then I had a 5 in 1 reflector with silver on one side and black on the other as my second and third fill options. Check out the image below for a behind the scenes image of the setup.

BTS of the lighting setup for this experiment

 

White Fill



The first fill that I demonstrated was the white fill. This fill is probably my favorite option for headshot photography as it gets rid of the shadows but isn't all that noticeable. It's not too powerful and doesn't create too much contrast. White fill is an excellent place to start when working creating headshots or portraits like the one here. Using a V-Flat World v-flat in this way is also great because it can be used as a posing table in addition to creating the fill.

Close crop of eyes when using white fill

 

Black Fill (negative fill)

The second fill I demonstrated was the black fill. This is commonly referred to as negative fill because it actually absorbs light rather than reflecting it. Negative fill will eat up all the light and create a lot of contrast. It's an excellent option when you want to create a dramatic effect and add depth to the photo. Typically I will use negative fill when I want to add some grit and contrast to a portrait. In this case, with her white shirt and a lighter background, using the black reflector didn't really add to the image.


Close crop of eyes when using negative fill


 

Silver Fill


Finally, I used the silver fill. The silver side of the reflector is perfect for when you need a little extra light to brighten up the photo. It's more reflective than the white side, creating a brighter and more punchy image. It's a great option for when you need to highlight specific areas of the photo. I don't often use silver fill because it tends to create too much fill which can be distracting. Another thing to consider, is that the silver reflector is a lot more directional, so it can be difficult for someone hiding the reflector to have the angle perfect, especially if you're outside on a windy day.


Close crop of eyes when using a silver fill

 

Catchlights

Catchlights are something you definitely want in a headshot or a portrait, but you definitely want to consider whether they're too distracting. Below you can see all three fills and the effect they have on the catchlights. The silver reflector catchlight is a bit too distracting with a super bright reflection on the bottom portion of the eye. The black reflector doesn't have any reflection at all, other than the key light, and the white reflector has a little bit of reflection, but it's very subtle.


Understanding the differences between white, silver, and black fill for headshots is essential to achieve your desired effect. The white fill is an excellent starting point, while the black fill is perfect for creating dramatic contrast. The silver fill is ideal for adding extra light and highlighting specific areas of the photo. Knowing which fill to use will help you create stunning headshots that are sure to impress your clients.


If you want to take your lighting to the next level and join me at an in person workshop, check out my workshop coming up in a few weeks in Chicago!



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