The Differences in Using Silver, Gold, and White-Covered Reflectors for Portraits

Many of the reflectors available today come with a few different colored panels that can create slightly different results in portrait photography. Compare the looks with this quick educational video.

David Bergman for Adorama goes through a number of different purposes for each reflective panel color, plus how the black side will create negative fill and the less opaque center works as a diffusion panel. The particular reflector Bergman is using is the $99 Westcott 6-in-1 42-inch reflector which features silver, gold, “sunlight” (a mix of both silver and gold), black, and two different strengths of white diffusion. These types of x-in-1 collapsible reflector are super handy to have on hand as they are quite versatile in the ways they can be used. 

Reflectors are a great way to harness the power of the sun, but are also just as valuable when artificial lighting is being used to create a more dynamic image with subtle fill opposite of the strobe. What are your own tips when working with the various different color options on reflectors? What’s your go-to panel color? Leave a comment and your own example images below.

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Marc Perino's picture

Well. I am not at all convinced of those cheap reflectors. The best thing about them is the translucent silk inside them. For serious work - especially in hard sunlight and harsh wind conditions - they mostly fail, wobble around and do not evenly light the models body/face.
I'd rather prefer the Sunbounce models. They are more expensive but worth their money (no - I am not affiliated with them). A few years ago I ordered 2 of them and sent them back immediately. Bought a sunbounce afterwards. Never looked back.
The silk is quite ok if its not windy. That is the only reason I still have one of those cheap ones.

Also I only like the silver and white options. But that is a matter of taste. Gold looks rather cheap to me unless you have to light a darker skin tone but even then I prefer white or silver.

If transport allows it - the best reflector in my opinion is still a white/black polyboard/styrofoam (don't know what the proper english term is). It makes the best kind of reflection, is stable in windy conditions and you can use it for negative fill as well.

user-206807's picture

"the best reflector in my opinion is still a white/black polyboard/styrofoam"
100% agree with you!

Motti Bembaron's picture

I have a $40 cheap 6' reflector in silver/gold/black/white and translucent. The white is always the best. I guess some have the need to spend hundreds of dollars, I don't. I agree with you, a white/black Styrofoam works beautifully.