Photo Tip - Softening shadows

Is there an easy way to reduce or soften the shadows on my subjects face? I love this question and the simplicity of the fix that comes along with it. We all have those photos of friends or family members outside or inside with the light coming from directly above them. When you take the photo they look fine but later you print off the photo or go to post it online and oh my goodness where did the dark shadows all over their face come from? Here’s a quick trick to help solve this problem in the future, use a reflector! No this isn’t some fancy thing you need to go out and purchase (though there are lots of different configurations out there available). All you need is something that you can position in close to your subject to bounce some of the overhead light back up into those shadows. Chances are you already have a great reflector in your home right now! Household reflectors include poster board, foam board, paper, bed sheets, mirrors*, or tinfoil*. The important thing to know is the effects of different colours/textures. Whether making a reflector at home or purchasing one from the store these are the common colours:

White – bounces back a very soft light to fill in shadows

Silver – bounces back more light than white but also can give very hard light or specular highlights (think of the bright spots you see on the wall or ceiling from sunshine reflecting off of a mirror or something metallic in your home)

Black – cuts any light bouncing (say for a dramatic portrait or to stop the light from reflecting off a shiny or light coloured floor/wall and making the image to bright)

Gold – Similar to silver in effect and specularity however the gold gives more warmth in the colour of light reflected and is generally only used in outdoor images

Soft Gold – uses a lighter gold with a soft silver/white woven in and isn’t as shiny of a surface as the gold or silver giving a more soft and natural effect

Translucent White - often referred to as a ‘scrim’ this translucent material can be used to bounce light back onto your subject or be placed between the light source and the subject to soften the light avoiding dark shadows and over exposure. This is especially useful for outdoor photos in mid-day hours.

I hope this helps answer this common question. Still got questions? Put it in the comments section below and I’d be happy to help you out!