HOW TO: Five-In-One Reflectors

Not long ago I ordered a 5-in-1 collapsable disk reflector, which was recommended to me by another outdoor photographer. Basically, to replace the mangled piece of poster board I was using to add fill-light on subjects. The poster board worked pretty well, although not the most convenient way of doing things. The 5-in-1 reflector is easier to use and fits inside my camera bag.

Featuring a removable cover, the reflector has five different surfaces that are used to reflect light, diffuse light, or block light from your subject. The white side is for normal fill-light, a translucent side to diffuse light, silver for strong fill, a gold side for warm light and black side to block or absorb light. It unfolds to 22 inches in diameter, folds down to eight inches and even comes with a carrying pouch. The whole thing weighs about a half pound so it is quite portable. There are larger sizes available, but for around 20 bucks I figured I would give the smaller size a try.

Earlier this week, I decided to experiment by shooting the abundance of snapdragons in one of our front garden beds. We had missed these snaps while doing last year’s fall clean-up and they had re-seeded themselves throughout the bed. Just what I was looking for to play with my new gadget, especially since most of the snaps were in dappled morning sunlight.

I have to admit, it was a little challenging to look through the viewfinder, hold the cable release in one hand and the reflector in the other hand. Only because it was so breezy. My usual assistant (aka, my wife), was not available at the time, so I had to make do on my own. I composed the shot and adjusted the camera settings where I wanted them. Then leaned away from the tripod and held the reflector where it needed to be for that shot. With the cable release, I fired off a few shots, but you could do the same with a self-timer. Not only did the reflector fill in the shadows nicely, but it also helped block the wind. At the end of the session, I had quite a few keepers.

I will say, my biggest coordination test was folding the darn thing back up the first time. And if I am honest…several times after. No instructions came with the reflector on how to fold it up. So, I looked around on YouTube and believe it or not, I found a dozen instructional folding videos showing how to get the pesky thing back into its carrying bag. Obviously, I was not the only person failing this test.

So, if you are using a piece of poster board or some other method to add fill-light, you may just want to give one of these reflectors a try. I think you will like the convenience and the results. I know I do. Now that I can fold it back up in five seconds flat.

  1. September 30, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    Good information! ….RaeDi

    • October 1, 2011 at 10:53 am

      Thanks and glad I can help with tips tools and experiences!!

  2. September 30, 2011 at 5:34 pm

    Ain’t YouTube grand! But where did you get this reflector?

    • October 1, 2011 at 10:49 am

      I purchased the reflector from Adorama. It was 17 bucks or so and I received it in 2 days!! P.S. Amazing stuff on YouTube four sure!!

  3. tedgriffith
    September 30, 2011 at 6:41 pm

    Excellent information, David! I have been using a fold up automobile window screen. The one I use is half of a 2 part set for the windshield and is about 28″ across when unfolded and folds to a disk about 10″ across. Not as versatile as yours, because it is only black on one side and a silver/grey on the other.

    • October 1, 2011 at 10:54 am

      Ya know…whatever works is the best tool to use!! That old hunk of poster board worked for quite some time!!

  4. September 30, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    Very interesting. I’ll have to look into one of these. Thanks for sharing!

    • October 1, 2011 at 10:57 am

      Hey you bet!! These reflectors are way cool. You can use them for portraits or whatever else needs some light enhancing. Check out Adorama or B&H photo. I’ve good experiences with both.

  5. October 1, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    This was interesting and good information for me too, dear David, I always take note from your sharings. Thank you so much, with my love, nia

    • October 1, 2011 at 4:06 pm

      HI Nia, So glad you find my little tips and experiences helpful.

  6. October 3, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    I wish I had a fancy camera so that I could play with these toys as well. I will have to make do with my point and click for the time being. Your fold up exercise reminds me of the pop up sunscreen I had for a car once – it was almost impossible to get it back in its bag 🙂

    • October 5, 2011 at 8:49 am

      Some of these toys work quite well with point and shoot cameras. Light is light and all cameras see light the same way. Oh yeah…if you do purchase a reflector, be careful taking it out of the pouch for the first time…they SPRING to life !!

  7. October 4, 2011 at 7:56 pm

    those are 17$ very well spent.

    I have been procrastinating researching on reflectors for a year now. Your article has reminded me once more its high time. Thanks for sharing David

    • October 5, 2011 at 8:29 am

      Hey Abu !! You Betcha…they work really well and so portable. Open it slowly the first time…they SPRING to life once out of the carry pouch!!

  8. October 5, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    Thanks for the tip on the reflector. I’ll bet that does come in handy on those cloudless days.

    • October 5, 2011 at 3:11 pm

      It sure is handy and it is so portable there is no reason not to fit one in your camera bag. Remember to remove it from the carry bag slowly.

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