Reflectors – A cheap second light source

I wanted a second flash and soft box for the photo in this post, which is costly. Luckily, there is a cheap alternative for fill up light: a reflector! I decided to buy one in a Chinese web-shop and see if it worked out. Honestly, I was quite surprised! I needed to wait for two and a half weeks for delivery (shipment from Hong Kong to The Netherlands), but the price was half the price of the cheapest web-shop in The Netherlands and quality is great!

Aberlour a'Bunadh - Batch 44

Aberlour a’Bunadh – Batch 44. Photographed with a speedlight flash in a soft box on the left side, and white reflector on the right side.

How to use a reflector

While a flash is much more powerful than a reflector, the latter is much cheaper and easier to work with. A reflector is used as a second light source to brighten shadows in your photo. However, since it is not as powerful as a flash, you need to hold it close to your subject. It is one of the most powerful tools if you work with natural light, but works great with flash too. Like any light source, the closer it is to your subject, the brighter it is, thus regulating distance is key in using a reflector.

Reflector versus mirror

In order to understand how a reflector works I’ll compare it with a mirror. While they both bounce incoming light, there is a big difference how they do that. A mirror bounces light in the opposite direction it came from, while a reflector redirects light back in the direction it came from. The reason is the surface. A mirror is nicely smooth, but a reflector is wrinkled. Due to the uneven surface, light bounces back in the same angle as it came from and mixes with the light coming from the source, creating a stronger effect. The image below shows the difference.

Mirror vs Reflector

A microscopic sketch of a small part of the surface of a mirror and reflector. While a mirror bounces light in the opposite direction it came from, a reflector bounces light back at its source.


Reflectors come in different sizes. The one used for the photos in this article is 60 CM wide and 90 CM long (23 inch x 35 inch). The bigger the reflector, the larger the area of reflection is, but also the softer the light will be. Simply stated: the size of the reflector should be approximately the size of your subject.

A small reflector (30 CM, or 1 foot diagonal) is fine for photographing faces. But for a portrait of the torso and face of a person, a larger reflector with a diameter of approximately 90 CM, or 3 feet, works best.


Reflectors also come in different shapes: circle, oval, square, or even triangle. You should choose a shape that you can handle well. The reflector used for the photos in this article is a rectangle with rounded edges. This is great for leaning it on a flat surface.

Some reflectors also have handles, this adds to the ease of handling it.


The most common colours of a reflector are: white, silver, gold and black. The colours influence the temperature of light, but also the harshness of light (see next paragraph). White is used as a soft fill-up light, and is less stronger than silver or gold. Because a white reflector is translucent, there is a great second use of it: as a diffuser! This is great for photography on sunny days (for example macro photography in the bright sun), and used a lot for model shoots by fashion photographers (they use large ones of 3 meters high!). You simply hold the reflector between the sun and your subject, like an umbrella.

Silver reflectors produce a brighter reflection, and a little more harsh. This is great for emphasizing the wrinkles of elderly people, or the muscles of a person. Gold has the same effect as silver, but is much warmer. Black is useful to block light, like a curtain. This is very useful if there are certain parts of the photo that should be dark.

Aberlour a'Bunadh - Batch 44

Here a silver reflector is used on the right side. As you can see, the effect is much stronger than the photo in the introduction (where a white reflector is used). The box of the bottle is much brighter in this photo.

Aberlour a'Bunadh - Batch 44

Just like the silver reflector, the gold reflector is stronger than the white one used in the first photo. The big difference is the temperature. This photo is much warmer (more gold colours) than the photos above.


The difference between the white reflector, and the silver or gold reflector, is the surface. The white reflector is a translucent smooth synthetic surface, while the surface of the silver and gold reflectors are much rougher. The result is visible in the bottle, just before the neck of the bottle on the right side.

Harsh light of a gold reflector.

Harsh light of a gold reflector.

All these elements determine the results of using this wonderful tool. There are all sorts of reflectors for sale. Some come with interchangeable covers, so you have all the available colours in one reflector, leaving you only to choose shape and size. The prices range from 10 euro and up. For those interested, I bought this one (click here). Delivery is slow (two or three weeks), but price and quality are great!

The lightning setup for these photos can be found below. Check out this great site for creating diagrams!

Lightning diagram - Aberlour a'Bunadh - Batch 44

The setup for the photos in this article. I used a speedlight flash in a soft box on the left side, and a reflector on the right side.

Kind regards,


The Aberlour A’Bunadh is one of my favourite whiskies. The outspoken tones of the Oloroso sherry cask make this whisky one of the greatest of the Speyside. I own Batch 44, and have tasted batches 42, 43, and 45 too.

The story of this whisky adds to the experience of drinking it. The name A’Bunadh is Gaelic for “Origin” and is inherited from its story: It’s been said that the Aberlour distillery was renovated in the 70’ties. While breaking a wall, the people found an old whisky bottle, wrapped in a newspaper dated somewhere in 1898! They decided to taste the bottle, and enjoyed it that much, that Aberlour wanted to recreate this whisky, the result is the Aberlour A’Bunadh. This story is probably just a myth, but the whisky is a tribute to the early years of this wonderful drink!

It seems like the lads from Whisky Waffle haven’t reviewed this one yet! But I would say, 5 stars!


  1. Good one mate .. product photography is fun and challenging .. and yes if you have a bit of good Whisky why not 😉

    • Thank you! Yes it is 🙂 Those bottle just ask to be photographed (and be drunk 😉 ).

      Have a great weekend!


  2. Rekha

    All this is beyond my comprehension but liked the picture. Have wonderful time.

  3. Fabulous photograph, man. And a great bottle! I’m not sure I’d jump straight in with 5 stars, but it’s certainly up there. Keep up the good work!
    Keep on waffling,

    • Thank you very much 🙂 The bottle is great, but I’ve learned for this whisky, that different batches tast really different. I am not sure how many stars, but it’s a great one (at least batch 44 is).


      • Yeah, I’ve heard this. I guess that’s what you get with single barrel releases. However, they won’t vary in how great they look in your photos!

        • Wow, thank you very much! To much honour! But yeah, that’s what you get with single barrels 😉


    • Thanks Diogo! I like the light Rembrandt used in his paintings. They show great contrast!

      Well.. I just bought four new bottles to add to my collection.. 😉


      • Yes, it’s also very mysterious, he rarely painted light sources! 😀 History of Art is one of my favorite subjects lol
        Don’t drink them all at once! :-p

        • I won’t drink them all at once 😉 Too expensive, and too nice to waste 😉

          Rembrandt definitely was a master. Recently, my girlfriend and I visited the “Rijksmuseum” in Amsterdam. All the big Dutch painters are represented there. Wonderful!

          Have a great weekend ahead!

  4. Pingback: A cheap Chinese ND Filter | Luvo

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