Not Your Everyday Banana

by Bart Arondson

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I'm familiar with using white / silver / gold reflectors to add fill light to a photo. When would you use a black "reflector"?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 14 down vote accepted

To remove light.

If you're shooting outside, or in a place where there's lots of background light being bounced around, it might not be enough to place an item to create a shadow onto your object, since light reflected off of that item might still give you tints or light you don't want.

A black "reflector" creates shadow and doesn't reflect light (or as much light, depending on the quality) onto your object, which might help you darken it.

For instance, if you're trying to take a portrait outside, and the face gets a bit too much light on one side, a black reflector might help you reduce that by both creating a "shadow" by blocking light, and not reflecting any light onto that side of the face.

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Is this why photographers tend to wear black, to avoid adding stray light to the scene? –  Jared Updike Jul 26 '10 at 23:13
    
It absorbs light significantly (not sure if this should be phrased as absorbs all light), so light doesn't get reflected back. Compared to a white reflector it is inefficient at 'reflecting'. –  Peng Tuck Kwok Nov 26 '12 at 3:14
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Basically, it's to subtract light. It can reduce bounced light or provide isolation of your subject to make it stand out more. I do this all the time with things like smoke photography because it eliminates stray light and provides a clean, dark, background for the smoke to stand out. For example:

alt text

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Stunning picture. :) –  Mike Feb 24 '12 at 13:02
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+1 from me just for this excellent picture –  Clara Onager Jul 18 '12 at 14:20
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Black is a "dark reflector". Think of it as of "anti fill light". It really works that way, just like the white reflector, but subtly adding shadow instead of fill light. It takes time to learn how to use it, as the concept of "dark light" is unnatural and non-intuitive, but after all it's just a tool like all others.

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Imagine your subject in a very small room, and the walls are painted in red.

A large window is giving you some very lovely soft light on the subject's face. You have decided there is no need for fill light (either because the light is soft enough, or you are happy with the contrast/shadow).

But wait, since the room is so small, the sunshine is hitting on the red wall, and it is bouncing an awfully red tint on your subject's face.

You want the interior of the room as background, but the strong red tint in the model's face is just awful.

Well, using a black reflector, positioned closely to the shadow side of your subject's face, you will remove the red cast without adding fill light, so you can keep the mood you want with natural light.

Sometimes when taking photos of shinny objects, you want to be able to block reflections of unwanted lights. Say you are shooting a stainless steel watch next to a Christmas tree (just a crazy example, I doubt if anyone would do that in a real world setting), you may not want the reflections the rainbow of lights of the Christmas tree on the watch. You can use a black reflector to cut it out.

Having a black surrounding also makes the sparkles that you do want to keep stands out more.

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