Shooting Beauty With a 7" Reflector

Shooting Beauty With a 7" Reflector

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 left photo was shot with the Profoto Deep Silver Umbrella (small). You can see the differences in how the light shapes the face here. The lighting on the left is softer, the transitions to shadows are smoother than the right.

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.

Lighting Contrast

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.

Shadow Control

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.

See how when she turns her face, the shadows change drastically. Lighting wasn't changed during the shoot.

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.

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Alexander Petrenko's picture

What’s the size in mm?

Motti Bembaron's picture

7" is 175mm

Blake Aghili's picture

Try Mola too WITH opal glass attached. ... that gives you the harder light than Profoto's BD and then it is also larger ...
This is an example of how its light looks like ...

David Justice's picture

I've been dying to buy a Mola Rayo, but they're impossible to source for purchase. I've rented before and loved it. Recently upgraded to a Glow magnum reflector with the diffuser and I love it. It's a little bit of a trade off, but I like it more than my previous modifiers.

Blake Aghili's picture

Yes so out of stock ... I found mine ( Rayo, 16" ) in an online store in Europe that didn't ship to US, so I shipped it to my friend in London and he shipped it to me lol :D THEN I walked into Robert's camera in Chicago and they had one right there ! although it was not listed on their online website ...

Jason Bodden's picture

This is gorgeous. Beautiful work.

Jason Bodden's picture

I think both images look fantastic. I see the differences and the 7" fared much better than I thought it would. Thanks for this.

Rex Larsen's picture

The solution is a tiny bit of fill.