Using Gold Reflectors for Effect

Gold Reflectors
I work with reflectors a lot. They are used for main light, bounced light, fill light, areas of light or color to be reflected back… all kinds of uses can be found for these versatile and lightweight tools. There are generally three different types of reflectors: White, Silver and Gold.

We are going to look at the Gold reflector on this page. I will show you how to use them as full reflected main light, soft edge light, a small portion of reflected light and using it in a shadow to provide just a little warmth where nothing else exists.

Gold Reflectors on

I have a list of reflectors from Amazon on the right side, but you can find them at Amvona and Adorama as well as MPEX.

Let’s start with a full reflected light. The shot of Alyson (above left) on the deck of a friends house illustrates the use of the gold reflector to full on light the model. The sun is coming from behind her and slightly over her left shoulder (see shadows). This put her face in the dark and would have necessitated a large amount of overexposure and would have killed the detail in the deck and maybe even the grass.

There are many options to the round, fold up discs. You can use shiny gold art board, available in most frameshop, as well as gold aluminum foil. I recommend a kit of at least one gold, one silver and two white. Medium reflectors are usually fine, but I also carry 2 large ones. One is a very large, stand mounted square reflector that has silver and gold… wow.. does it kick. And the other one is a very old, extremely worn 6ftx3ft gold/white that is so worn that it has a soft, almost dull look. I love it and will be very disappointed when it finally gives up and rips or something.

I had a gold reflector held right out of frame on the camera left side. It is in the shadows of the trees as well and that adds a nice touch to the reflection… kind of like a ‘cookie’ on the reflector. This shadowing on the reflector also helped cut it down a bit so it wouldn’t blow out Alyson’s eyes.

I used the exposure from her face and let the background go a little hot. You can see also how the reflector’s ‘hot spots’ lit up her face well, and let her body and legs be a little less lit. I like that the light seems to have different strenghths to it. Makes the light a bit more dramatic.

Next up is a shot using the gold reflector to bounce the light into a softer area so as to soften the entire look. Christina (above right) is sitting in a courtyard with light colored walls all around her. We took a gold reflector and bounced the main part into a white reflector very close to her. We used the edge of the gold reflector to light her face instead of the center hot spot. You can see how soft the light is and yet there is a very bright catch light in her eyes.

Gold Reflectors on
The next image is a shot of Jasmine in the edge of the sunlight. The sun is coming over her shoulder and she is stopping it. We took the gold reflector and slid it in close, but without having daylight hit it. So the face simply picks up a little warmth and soft reflected ambient light.

The final shot below is one I really like a lot. It shows how subtle the use of reflectors can actually be. We set Christina in the doorway of the courtyard, then focused the edge of a stand mounted gold reflector from camera right and behind her. It was aimed to just give a little hint of light. The front reflector was also used to ‘skim’ the light past her face and only add a tiny bit of soft, directional light.
Gold Reflectors on

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  1. Last weekend I saw my daughter outside in a interesting pose with sun light striking her from behind and to her left. I was about to get out a flash and cross light, but decided to use my gold reflector instead.

    Problem was she was being blinded by the reflection. How you avoid squinty eyes and pained expressions? I understand how in the final shot because the light is being feathered away from her eyes, but in the patio shot where the reflector is the main light I’m puzzled.

  2. Keep in mind that the sun was very soft and it was literally bouncing more of the bright ambient rather than the main sun. It takes a little time to get that feather thing going, but it is so worth it. When it is full sun, I find that the gold cards are very far from the model… sometimes more than 20 – 25 feet. That makes it easier for the model to look at you instead of that blinding gold thing.

    Hope that helps.

  3. I had the same question. Your answer makes sense. Looking forward to giving it a try.

  4. Thanks for the tutorial… that last shot is very nice (and the diagram to go along with it is helpful too)


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