In my never ending pursuit for the perfect lighting modifier, I tested shooting beauty with a 7” reflector as my key light.
Shooting beauty with hard light is something I’ve always been wary about. All the downsides to hard light are more prevalent when it comes to shooting in macro situations. It exposes every little detail, the highlights are too strong, and the light can be very tough to control. Even with all of this, I wanted to try it out. I love the idea of just throwing a small reflector on my light and just going. With all that said, here are some thoughts I had after shooting with this.
Too Much Detail
I love getting skin texture in a shot. In clean beauty the most important part is showing the real texture. With the 7” reflector, it was just too much for this model. I loved the hard light and contrast I was getting, but I spent so much time dodging and burning due to patchy skin and the exaggerated pores I was seeing. I’ve shot with this model before with a different modifier as the key light and it was much easier to manage because the modifier was softer the first time.
The problem is skin is very thin, so when you expose it with studio lights you see the patchiness underneath. With a hard light source, The patchiness is more noticeable and you get more exposed pores because the light contrast is so high.
This was the reason I wanted to use this modifier in the first place. I love high contrast images. They’re bright and edgy, exactly what I was going for with this model. The 7” reflector is perfect for this because it controls the spread of light just enough but isn’t as directional as a snoot. You can just throw it on and get amazing highlights and sharp shadows. Something you can’t really get with an umbrella.
One of the biggest problems I had was controlling the shadows. With a larger umbrella, there’s more give to the direction of your lights. With a small reflector, every micro-adjustment changes the positioning of the shadow. If she moves 5” to the left, the shadows and light distribution will be noticeably different. You can remedy this by moving the light farther away, but I didn’t have that opportunity at the time.
All in all, the 7” reflector is a great light for hard, punchy images. It has its uses, but I’m not sure it’s what I’m looking for personally. I can still see it being useful in certain specific situations like using gobos or high contrasting images (see Lindsay Adler's work). But for me and for the title of my favorite key light, this isn’t the one.