Investing in one of the best reflectors is one of the cheapest ways of adding a light source to your photos. Regardless of whether you're shooting just with natural light or using an artificial light source, reflectors can be used to bounce light, changing the tone, color and brightness of an image. Reflectors usually pack down small, are lightweight and easy to carry.
When natural light isn't quite cutting it and you don't have a light shaping tool to soften a flash head, the perfect solution is to use a reflector. Every photographer should own one, just in case you need to balance light or remove dark shadows. Reflectors are lightweight, come in a range of shapes, sizes and colors and can be packed down and easily transported (though you might have to practice collapsing them).
To help you decide which reflector you'll need, we've popped a guide below explaining how different colored reflectors will affect your photos. As you'll see, some reflectors are sold as a 5-in-1 meaning you can unzip and switch around the color of the reflective panel depending on what you're shooting. These are great as you don't have to take multiple reflectors with you and it's really quick to change colors.
Five types of reflector…
- White: A white reflector gives a soft natural look and is one of the most popular choices for reflecting light.
- Silver: Silver reflectors are great when shooting in dull, grey conditions as it reflects more light. In bright sunlight however it'll be too harsh.
- Gold: Go for gold when shooting at sunset to maintain a warm look. Use sparingly, as it’s easy to make your model look too bronzed.
- Black: A black ‘reflector’ doesn’t reflect at all - it simply shields (or flags) light from your sitter to create a more dramatic, contrasty feel.
- Diffuser: A multi-surface reflector will usually be based around a translucent diffuser panel - this is great for softening direct light. This diffuser can then converted into a reflector by adding a zip-on cover, with various surface colors available.
Best reflectors for photography
Collapsible reflectors are so simple that, for occasional hobbyist use, it’s difficult to justify splashing out on a premium product over a budget model. Phottix’s keenly-priced EasyHold isn’t even completely lacking in frills, as it sports a pair of handles for easier positioning, and though these are far less chunky and ergonomic than those on the Lastolite and Profoto reflectors, they do the job.
The panel itself is a diffuser to soften direct lighting. A double-sided, reversible cover then gives you a traditional selection of gold, silver, white and black colour options. We’ve gone for the 107cm diameter panel as it gives maximum versatility without being too hard to handle, and still packs down to a convenient 36cm diameter. There’s also a 120cm EasyHold option if you’ll be working with groups, or the 80cm panel would work well at a closer range.
If you can do without the more subtle colors in the Lastolite 8-in-1 TriFlip kit, this Phottix is great value.
Lastolite is credited with developing the very first pop-up circular reflector, and the TriFlip is a refinement of the original design. Large-diameter round panels can be unwieldy to handle, but this panel’s triangular shape makes it more manageable, while still maintaining plenty of surface area. A single handle is all it takes to maintain a good grip, and the handle is nice and chunky.
This particular 8-in-1 kit is available in 45cm and 75cm sizes, with the latter being a more versatile size for portraiture. A larger 120cm Trigrip version is also available and is a better bet for full-length shots, but only comes in 2-in-1 variants.
With eight surface options, the TriFlip is ready to create almost any lighting look. The bare panel is a 2-stop diffuser, but two reversible covers give a total of seven surface options, including: White, Silver, Softsilver (whiter silver), Gold, Sunlite (silvery gold), Sunfire (darker gold) and Black surfaces.
The Godox reflectors might not have handles like the Phottid reflectors or Lastolite's handy triangular shape but they'll still do the job and they're the cheapest on our list. The Godox 5-in-1 reflector disc includes a gold, silver, black, white and translucent option or if you prefer, you can opt for a version with a softer gold side.
Like all collapsible reflectors, it springs out with ease and can be packed away into a carry case. It has a steel frame which makes it very sturdy and when packed down its just a third of its maximum size making it perfect for traveling with. The lack of a handle shouldn't be too much of a concern - if anything it just makes it less bulky to take on location.
Where a standard pop-up reflector usually collapses down to around one third its open diameter, the HaloCompact packs into a carry case just 27 x 6.5 x 6.5cm and weighs a mere 335g, yet opens up to a very versatile 82cm diameter. The detachable fabric is available with silver/white reflector surfaces, or there’s a 2-stop diffuser version; these can be bought separately, so you only need buy one frame.
The remarkable space-saving design is thanks to Lastolite’s RapidExoframe collapsible lightweight aluminium frame that quickly slots together like a tent pole. The fabric then simply clips to the frame. The collapsible frame features a handle that incorporates a ¼” thread to attach the panel to a tripod head.
In reality, the 12 clips can be a little fiddly and stiff to attach, especially when tensioning the fabric with the last couple of clips. It gets easier with practice, but will never be as effortless as a conventional pop-up design. That said, most people will only open and collapse a reflector once during a shoot, so the extra set-up time is negligible.
Profoto has become synonymous with professional, high-end lighting and while it's pretty difficult to make a reflector stand out, Profoto has done its bit. The collapsible reflector comes in two sizes: either a large, 120cm version best for small groups or a medium, 80cm version which is best for singular portraits. Often smaller reflectors are easier to manage - especially if you're shooting with no assistance on location as they're lighter to hold and the wind won't catch them as easily.
Although several color options are available you can only buy them as double-sided, 2-in-1 reflectors which means you'll have to buy multiple if you want to achieve different effects. Your options are Silver/White, Sunsilver (light gold)/White, Gold/White, Black/White, and a translucent diffuser. If you only buy one, we’d go for the Sunsilver/White option, as the pale gold side adds some warmth to your sitter without producing an unflatteringly yellow reflection, as can happen with a conventional gold surface.
If you need something not too demanding, that'll pack down well and get to your location without causing too much stress, the Interfit 5-in-1 fits the bill. It's a pretty no-fuss, no-frills reflector, but the Interfit name means you know you're getting a solid, well-made product. You have five options for the quality of its generous surface area, allowing you to take control of your light in a number of different ways, and for the photographer who just needs a reliable reflector that works, this is a solid choice.
The Interfit 5-in-1 comes as a kit, so for the money you also get a stand and a useful carrying case, making it that much easier to transport the reflector to your shooting location, and set it up once you get there. If you plan on getting out of the studio and want to be able to control the light quickly and effectively when you're on location, the Interfit 5-in-1 will do you just fine.