Basics - 5 In One Reflector Use

White reflector used

White reflector used

You will often hear the term reflector used in photography and this relates to a means by which you reflect a light source onto your chosen subject, to help alleviate shadows, via some form of reflective substance. I?m not going to go into detail about that here, you can check out my other tutorial on that subject matter: Using a reflector.

Once you understand the principles of reflectors the next thing you will notice is the talk of 5 in one reflectors! The aim of this tutorial is to inform you what they are and what the different uses are.

The basics:

So what is a 5 in one reflector? - Well in simple terms it is a collection of pieces of fabric (usually) made out of various materials and in different colours that give you options for reflecting (or not) the light back onto your chosen subject in different ways. They are usually designed to fold down or pop up and all the different reflectors can usually be connected, via zips, to each other in order to allow you to carry them all as if they were one item.

The design:

So what do you get? - Well a 5 in one reflector comes with (as you would imagine) 5 different sides or pieces. They are Silver, Black, White, Gold and translucent, and each has its own specific use, in order to alter the way the light is affected and thus altering your photographs look.

White - The white side of the reflector will usually produce the most neutral reflected light. If you like the tone of light being produced by your light source then this is ideal, it will reflect back what is put in. Should help lift shadows, and over all create a pleasing result.(see image 1)

Silver - When using the silver side of your reflector you will find you get a much cooler reflected light, this can work really well with black and white images. The light reflected back will be cooled by the bounce off the silver fabric. And also can increase the highlights and create a more high contrast image.(See left of image 2)

Silver and Gold

silver and gold reflectors

Silver on left Gold on right

Gold - The golden reflector, a bit like the golden hour, creates a much warmer reflected light than the other reflectors listed. This makes it great for outside portraits when the light is right (used at sunset for example will likely create beautiful warm tones).(See Right of Image 2)

Black - I can hear you now, how does black reflect the light? Well the point here is that it doesn?t so the black side is often used to reduce spill or reflected light. Imagine you want to shoot with light only coming from the left but you have a big white wall on the right hand side, place the black side of the reflector over here and it will reduce the light being bounced back. It works almost in the complete opposite way to a reflector.

Translucent - This side is used as a diffuser rather than a reflector, in conditions with harsh light (picture outside shots on sunny days), the translucent fabric can create an even light source that wraps around your subject for a much more pleasing softly lit photograph.

Other uses:

As you can already see it isn?t just about reflecting light, with the translucent side for diffusing light and the black side reducing reflected light, we have two uses that wouldn?t automatically spring to mind (especially with the term reflector in the name of the product), but what else can it be used for? The main one I can think of is as a portable (albeit small) backdrop. Ideal for head shots, and due to the range of colours, mean you can have different choices in one compact uses. Used in this way it also means you may have some pleasant back-lighting to highlight your chosen subject (ideal for portraits, as this looks great when hair is involved).


It is worth noting that there are many different sizes and styles of 5 in one reflector (as with it seems anything in photography). Some are designed to be easily held by one person while also using the camera others will need to be fitted on some kind of stand, so shop around, think about what you need and what your budget is prior to purchasing your reflector.

Ashley Beolens

DISCLAIMERThe images used here are of a toy my daughter owns all copyright is with the manufacturers I am not trying to infringe on their copyright in anyway.