DIY Ways to Reflect, Bounce, and Absorb Light

Uploaded by playgallery on 03.11.2010

There are some times when you’re photographing a subject that you find that the direct light
or the light that’s in a situation already is not exactly what you want and you want
to be able to reflect light back to the subject.
Today we’re going to talk about how you can do that using white foam core. White foam
core is a simple foam material that you can find at Michaels or a fabric store or some
art supply stores. It’s relatively lightweight, so it’s easy to hold and to position in
different locations in order to, again, reflect light back to the subject. You could use the
foam core as a straight piece like this or you could actually take it and make cuts in
it called scores that would allow you to curve the foam core and reflect light in a more
specific way.
So for example, what we did with this one is we actually made cuts on the backside of
the foam core that don’t actually go all the way through the foam core, but allow you
to then curve it and then reflect light in this manner.
Here we have a white foam core sheet that’s flat and we’re going to use it to fill light
into the scene on the side of the subject. Without it, we have a main light here and
a subject, and the light is shining directly in this direction and you can see that there’s
a dark area on the side of our bust. In this case, we might decide that we want to have
some fill light here, so we can use our foam core reflector. And you might do a little
bit of experimentation to see where the best location of it is in terms of trying to bounce
light back. Also keep in mind as you’re doing this, not to get this in the frame,
[Laughs] because it’s an easy thing to do when you’re paying too much attention to
the subject and the other light.
So you’d work to try to fill that light in.
The next thing we can do with the flat white piece of foam core is.
We can use it to reflect light back towards the subject without shining a light directly
on the subject. This is important in situations where the subject is pretty reflective, so
you might want to actually, I’ll show you what we want to do. We want to have the light
shining towards the white piece of foam core and then bounce back towards the subject.
And again, you’re going to experiment a bit to see where you get the best light bounce.
And also pay attention to this foam core not being in the frame as well.
Okay now I’m going to show you how to actually make the scores and cuts in your foam core.
To do this, what you need is a cutting mat. You can purchase one or you can actually use
cardboard or even foam core for that matter. You’re going to need a straightedge, such
as a ruler, an X-ACTO blade, and a pencil. It’s nice to use an X-ACTO blade that is
really sharp and actually you’ll find that if you’re making lots of cuts, you’ll
end up going through these really quickly. As you’re doing these kind of cuts, it is
really important that they’re sharp because otherwise you’ll have little frayed edges
that will show up.
So what you want to do is place your foam core on the cutting mat and then, for this
one, I actually made cuts at about three inches. The closer that you make them, the more bowed
this will be, so it depends on the kind of curvature that you want, but I made this with
three inches each between them. And then what you’ll do is you’ll take your straightedge
and you’ll measure. You’ll measure from that end to the three inch mark, and make
a couple measurements so I would take my ruler and measure three inches. Make a mark there.
Go here. Measure three inches, and make another mark. And then take your straightedge and
line it up with those marks, and then draw a line here.
You can see I’ve already made some of the lines. After you draw the lines, what you
want to do is use your X-ACTO blade to make a first cut. And this first cut should be
kind of very on the surface level, so you want to make a little tiny cut at the top
and then just make a surface level cut. What this does is it will place the X-ACTO knife
in the foam and it makes a cut that goes to the first level of the foam core. Then you
want to make a second cut and this one, you kind of get used to it, it’s trial by error,
but you don’t actually cut all the way through the foam core. What you’re wanting to do
is, is do a second cut that goes maybe halfway and you’ll kind of feel it. If you feel
a second kind of, I guess it’s a, you feel it go all the way through, it makes a noise
actually, then you know you’ve cut too far. You want to actually make sure that you only
cut through the first layer and then through the center of the foam core.
So you’ll do that. And then I’ll go to my next line.
So make my first cut here. This is the one that’s on the surface, and then the second
one, it doesn’t go all the way down, but cuts it enough so that now I should be able
to take these two that I just made and open them. And you can see that I haven’t cut
all the way through. So this one, it looks like it’s ready to go.
So then you continue on with the rest of the foam core and then you’ve created a curvature
out of your foam core. And I’m going to show you how to use this in a scene.
Here we have a scored piece of foam core. You can see that it’s scored on the back,
so that we have a cup-shape towards the subject. You can hold it to bounce light back in and
make a fill light. It’s a little bit more directed than a flat piece of foam core.
The alternative to this would be to score it on the front and then back alternating,
so you go front, back, front, back. This would create an accordion-shaped bounce and that
would have a more diffuse reflection than this one, which has a more direct reflection.
To cover the board with aluminum, you should consider using heavy-duty aluminum foil. It’s
much more durable and thus when you crinkle it, it won’t have as much tendency to tear.
You could choose to use your aluminum as is, if you don’t want as diffuse of a reflection,
but we’re going to crumple it, because that will have a more soft reflection.
[Crumpling noise]
So you want to crinkle it and then uncrinkle it.
Next, you have to attach it to the foam core. Make sure that you attach it on the inner
side of the curve, so your cuts are on the outside.
I’ll show you that. The cuts are on the outside. This is where we’re going to attach
the foam or the, sorry, aluminum foil. We’re going to use a hot glue gun for that.
We want to get it.
Alright. And you’re going to want to actually bend it around the edges.
So we’ll start on one side.
To figure out where you’re going to glue the other side, make the curve so you’ll
know where to attach it on this end.
You can actually fold it so you can find your crease later.
Hold it down until it dries. And once it’s dried, you can finish off your edges so that
it’s a bit cleaner. You can fold this over. So in the end, you’ll have a curved reflector.
And now I’m going to show you how to use this in a scene.
Here we have our aluminum cover foam core. It’s actually curved and scored on the back.
This can be used to reflect light back to the subject and it will provide more reflection
than the foam core alone. So you can move it around and try to get the right location
of fill. Again, it will be a little bit of trial and error.
A note about this scene, we have one main subject here, a main light that’s focused
directly onto the subject, and then when we bring in this, we have a reflector bouncing
light back. However, we haven’t yet talked about the back subject, which is getting a
little bit of light from this front light, but there are sometimes when you actually
want to focus just on lighting that back subject independently of how you light the front subject.
In that case, you might want to absorb the light that’s coming from this main light
so that it doesn’t hit the back subject. So you can see right now there’s a bit of
light hitting the back subject. If I take a piece of black foam core and I block the
light from hitting that back subject, you can see that my front subject still has all
of the light that we need on it, but my back subject is dark. We could choose to leave
the back subject dark or we could actually, add in a light that’s specific to that subject.
Here’s before. And then after.