Reflections : Natural Reflectors

appy Wednesday, y'all! I decided to revisit a post from last week and create a Reflections entry about it because it was one of the toughest shoots I had in regard to lighting. This time of year can present tricky lighting situations and when I shot this photo session a couple weeks ago, it was no exception. I usually arrange the a session about an hour and a half before sunset if I'm shooting along the coast. I can usually find open shade to shoot the couple in until the sun has fallen and created a nice, orangey glow around sunset. However, when you're shooting on a boat dock, you're not given that luxury as open shade isn't readily available.

I arrived early to scope out the location and realized there was, literally, no where else to shoot besides the dock. And it was blazing. That's when I went into red-DELAY-THIS-SHOOT-alert, but kept my demeanor calm on the outside. I needed to buy some time before getting the boat on the water because it was far too bright to shoot, so I assessed my options and here's a photo of what they were:

You can see from the photo above the light was scattered in between each boat, but I made mental notes of where the natural reflectors were and where I could place my subjects on open shade. Now, the photo below didn't make the final edit because I felt the natural reflector was far too distracting, but I'm showing it here to put into context how I positioned the bride and groom in relation to the reflector, which was about 3-4 feet from them.

Whenever I'm using natural reflectors, I try to omit them from the frame so I don't reveal the light source, as it's usually blown out and distracting in a photo. In the photo below, the natural reflector is just left to the frame and is bouncing light back onto their faces. If the reflector wasn't there, their faces would be far too shadowed since the sun was so harsh.

In the following photo, I had about four feet of shade to work with...which is less than ideal, I know...but you have to take what you have and make it work. I grabbed a stool and asked the couple to share it. The main natural reflector for this shot is about two feet in front of them on the pavement, which bounced light back onto their faces.

I hope this helps put into context how I shoot using only available light. Yes, it's sometimes difficult, but I prefer natural, life-like imagery and using artificial reflectors or fill-flash takes that away from me. If this explanation was confusing...forgive's all I have and maybe I'll try again in the near future to explain my approach and thought process! :)
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MJGillespie - Love this.   05.09.14 - 11:05am
April - Your explanation was perfect. The words on the pictures helped me understand even better. Thanks Jasmine.   04.10.13 - 7:31pm
Sherri - I have just been reading all your posts about light and I feel so blessed that you are willing to share your talents and be a resource to all of us out here who want to better our talents and grow our businesses. God has blessed you with a gift. Thank you for sharing it.  04.10.13 - 8:08am
Tim May - Really helpful. Since reading this i have been a lot more aware of natural reflectors. I still struggle sometimes balancing the couple in the shade with the rest of the scene being so bright. Sometimes its difficult to get the balance just right when using AV as the camera gets a little tricked by either the reltatively dark or light elements of the photo. Great stuff though. Thanks  03.21.11 - 4:25am
Craig Ford - Wow, this has got to be one of the best posts I've EVER seen. Love it, thanks very much for sharing.  03.10.11 - 10:30am
Chanelle - Thanks for this. After seeing you explain this on creative live it has really made a difference to my own shooting and looking for these reflectors. Love how you have shown them off here. Thanks  03.01.11 - 2:03am
NAdya - this is perfect love it, thanks for taking time to explain. sometimes i freak out at lcoations so i need to relax and look at my options lol! These would be great to see more of when you ahve a tough situation   02.28.11 - 8:16am
chelo savolini - That's incredible Jasmine! how you can always hear my question before I say... I was just thinking about this when I saw these photos the last week. You are Great and I always thank you to share with us your talent!  02.27.11 - 12:39pm
Christy Cropper - This really was SO helpful! Lighting for me has been such a struggle. Thank you for breaking it down! Now time to go PRACTICE! :) xoxo  02.27.11 - 12:09pm
Lisa Redfern - I love shooting in the shade, and thank you for posting this -- very helpful for people to think about positioning and using reflectors out of what is already there.  02.26.11 - 11:03pm
Matthew Evans - Love your work! Great tips mate.  02.26.11 - 9:27pm
Juli L. - Thank you for this...very helpful to see how to get the light. I always struggle with this and getting that good shade is tough, but seeing your pics helps tons.j  02.26.11 - 3:38pm
Shannon Gray - Love this...Great tips!!   02.26.11 - 11:35am
Amy Clifton - Genius! So simple, yet so smart! Thanks for the tips and the visuals. Would love to see more posts like this, showing the "behind the scenes" tricks. :-)  02.26.11 - 11:17am
Jessica Sweeney - Extremely helpful, thank you. I've used this advice from you before, and it hasn't steered me wrong yet.   02.26.11 - 9:54am
Jonni - Beautiful job Jasmine and thank you for the great explanation.   02.26.11 - 8:17am
Sarah Rominger - Um, yeah... BRILLIANT! So glad somebody finally put this information out there and added a few visuals along with it :)   02.26.11 - 1:11am
kelsey - Fabulous tips thank you!  02.25.11 - 6:00pm
Erica Velasco - Awesome post!  02.25.11 - 3:05pm
Erin - Kansas City Wedding Photographers - This is sweet. I thought that I knew what I was looking for and you totally confirmed it with you examples. thank you  02.25.11 - 10:59am
Marie Photographie - So helpful, Jasmine! Thank you!  02.25.11 - 10:26am
HANAFEE ZIN - Thanks Jasmine for the brilliant tips. I always experience similar situation when shooting outdoor. Your tips somehow answered my unsolved questions in regard of lighting issue.  02.25.11 - 12:27am
Nina Grace - Thank you Jasmine for sharing  02.24.11 - 8:07pm
Christa - What a GREAT post!!  02.24.11 - 7:15pm
Sarah Danaher - awesome tips, Jas. thanks.   02.24.11 - 6:17pm
amanda thiessen - thank you for the help!  02.24.11 - 10:31am
Judy Richards - Thanks so much Jasmine... the next time I'm out shooting I'm going to make a real effort to look for natural reflectors. You know you could make big money off the knowledge you have yet you share freely. Thank you!  02.24.11 - 10:14am
Amber Steel - Great post Jasmine! I shoot on docks or boats nearly everyday and its a constant battle to not blow out all that glossy white paint. Gotta love the endless options of natural reflectors on the water when they are working with you!!   02.24.11 - 3:08am
Carrie McCluskey - Love the poses!  02.23.11 - 11:13pm
feuza - ahh so helpful just wish I can remember all of these things and process naturally while I am on the shoot  02.23.11 - 10:39pm
Brice Lin - Hey Jasmine, You have no idea how helpful this post was to me. I would never have thought to use certain things as natural reflectors. This is such a great idea, thanks for sharing! Brice  02.23.11 - 10:25pm
Gingersnap Godness - Dear Jazzie pants, what do you do when the people themselves are a natural reflector?   02.23.11 - 8:27pm
Brian Kraft - Thanks for the tips. I love trying to work in my surroundings in these smart ways. I try get better at it all the time. This is a good reminder to make the best out of what's around you.  02.23.11 - 8:27pm
Denise Prichett - Jasmine, This is the best tip ever. I really hope that you write a photography book soon. Thanks for teaching! Best wishes!  02.23.11 - 7:42pm
Dave Keys - I'm loving it! Natural reflectors are my favorite photography settings. Sometimes they're harder to find, especially indoors, but I always try, even then, to tweak down the effect of the flash and use any light and reflected light I can get.  02.23.11 - 6:55pm
Brent Pennington - Not confusing at all - in fact, this was a very well explained, very helpful post, and I'm thrilled that you shared it with us all! As a Strobist style photographer, I'm very interested in learning to use natural light better and this was exactly the explanation I'd been hoping for for a while now. It was one of those "d'oh" moments, such a straightforward technique that you used, I'm almost embarrassed that I didn't figure it out on my own. Thank you for all the great info you share!  02.23.11 - 6:09pm
Sarah - I thought this post was fantastic! The only thing I'm not entirely clear on is the last photo. What was the natural reflector there? The pavement in front of them? Thanks again :)  02.23.11 - 6:07pm
ErikaM - Top five of my favorite posts by you. :) Thank you for sharing this great tip!!  02.23.11 - 5:41pm
Emily Heizer Photography - This was great Jazz! I love how you spelled it out and the draw-ins are VERY helpful, we appreciate it! It was great meeting you at the panel the other night- I was the one who told you we had the same law school story. PS: I think it's time for a Polo update when you get back home! We miss him! :O)  02.23.11 - 5:16pm
Dawn & Michael Mitchell - You have done it again, thanks for helping us and inspiring us!  02.23.11 - 5:14pm
christina {simply modern} - this just shows what a hard job you photographers have...that's why i think you are artists!!   02.23.11 - 4:43pm
Sharon Manning - Thanks for the follow up post and it's so refreshing that you share your knowledge with us all. Much appreciated.  02.23.11 - 2:52pm
Dayna Mager - Hey Jasmine, what were you shooting at? I had a similar issue with a session last week, and it seems like you have the background/ambient light perfect and the light on the couple as well, is this in camera or post-process?  02.23.11 - 2:34pm
Jordan - Thanks for sharing! NOT confusing, but helpful! I appreciate the tips :)  02.23.11 - 2:26pm
Taryn - Jasmine, I am always amazed how well you work in situations like this. You really think outside the box and that pushes me to do the same!  02.23.11 - 2:13pm
Lisa Cour - This is SOOO great! Really. You talk about natural reflectors often but to see it so practically like this is so incredibly helpful. Thank you.  02.23.11 - 2:11pm
Andrea Lucero - Jasmine...thank you for taking the time to write this post. It's encouraging and educational. Love it when seasoned photographers share the LOVE.  02.23.11 - 1:44pm
amanda west - i agree with doug. this information is priceless to us who are starting out. your generousity is beautiful and much appreciated!  02.23.11 - 1:22pm
Rudi - Absolutely not confusing. Thanks again for sharing!  02.23.11 - 1:21pm
Jamie Solorio - Such a great tutorial! Thank you so much for sharing and the photos that actually showed/labeled the natural reflectors. I agree 100% with not using fill flash and artificial reflectors...I just don't like em! :) Thanks again!   02.23.11 - 12:59pm
Rosa - I dont get it. What do you mean by natural reflector? The pavement they are sitting on? Was the big white blob a boat? Is that what you are referring to?  02.23.11 - 12:58pm
sarah - i always want to thank you especially for these posts, jasmine. thank you, thank you, thank you for helping the rest of us!!!  02.23.11 - 12:35pm
anita matejka - Thanks for sharing your tips on how to look for natural reflectors ... it was a great explanation and amazing how you worked with so many barriers to overcome! <3 it!  02.23.11 - 12:29pm
Jen Rice - Fabulous! But..... what about the ones ON the boat where the sun is directly behind them poking through...? ;) So excited to see this post since I had actually asked you about it on one of the boat images. THANKS a ton Jasmine!!!!  02.23.11 - 12:28pm
Michael Wachel - What a wonderful post on using natural reflectors! I was recently in the same situation....just completely different! ;) Mine was bright and sunny with snow everywhere and no shade. Luckily there was a snowy hill that was a HUGE reflector. Photos are located in my blog. Again, great post and I will be even more aware of my surroundings!  02.23.11 - 12:15pm
Amy Arrington - Awesome as always!  02.23.11 - 11:41am
A Story in Time - Jasmine, you can't possibly imagine how grateful I am for someone in the industry like you. I saw you explain this on Creative Live but these images and explanations help sooo much. You are awesome! (May it continue to come back to you ten fold.)   02.23.11 - 11:37am
tricia - thank you for this, i love that you're forthcoming about everything. others want to tear you (me) down for anything and it's nice to see someone so positive. Also, if you want a meatloaf recipe hit me up ;)  02.23.11 - 11:27am
Columbus GA Photographer - Very helpful and easy to follow. Thanks for taking the time to break down one of your shoots and giving us an idea of where your head was at =)  02.23.11 - 10:51am
Danielle Daigle - Thank you for this post!! This made total sense and is definitely going to help me with my natural light photography.   02.23.11 - 10:46am
Kathleen - Thank you once again for sharing your tips with us all! I'm so happy to know I'm not the only one who goes into "red alert" when the lighting is less than ideal.  02.23.11 - 10:39am
Nicole - Thanks for this. I had a tough shoot with similar light not long ago and chose to change my position with regards to the bright sun. Your method would have saved a lot of the photos that didn't turn out.  02.23.11 - 10:36am
Jenelle Sewell - Love the explanation for only using available light. Very helpful. Thanks!   02.23.11 - 10:17am
Adriana Morett - Thanks a lot for sharing this valuable information J*, you are really something special =) I love your photography style and though of course it's not my intention to copy it, it's more like I'm learning from the experts and then I will apply it in my own way/style. Please keep being this fab.  02.23.11 - 10:17am
Kristi Chappell - Totally get it! Makes sense, used this advice in my last several session. Your awesome girl! I'm hosting a camera workshop this weekend. Sharing my knowledge as well. Spreading the photography love:)  02.23.11 - 10:15am
Jayme - Thank you for sharing!  02.23.11 - 10:10am
Brian - This is great Jasmine! Thanks so much for sharing your expertise. I learn so much from you.  02.23.11 - 10:07am
JC Ruiz - I never thought of using natural reflectors the way you have demonstrated here. Another thing for me to keep in mind. Thanks for the tips!  02.23.11 - 9:57am
Mona Alicia - When I first saw this shoot I was impressed with how you managed the light so thank you for explaining it in more detail. You rock as a natural light photographer!   02.23.11 - 9:54am
Doug - Jasmine, this is the most awesome post ever! Thank you for showing us how you work! This type of information is invaluable for us just starting out.  02.23.11 - 9:51am
Melissa - Thank you Jasmine!! Loved this shoot so much! I was wondering if you could explain a "sunset" shoot!? Settings and lighting preferably - my subjects are always underexposed and're such an inspiration!!   02.23.11 - 9:37am
Lydia - Thanks for the reminder, Jasmine! I have a shoot coming up and need to remember to look for the light!  02.23.11 - 9:36am
Cathy - Thank you so much for taking the time to show things like this. I consider myself more edumacated because you are so generous.  02.23.11 - 9:33am
Apple - wow! this post just proves how much effort you put in making your photos seem effortless!;)  02.23.11 - 9:33am
ashley barnett - So helpful! This is one of my biggest challenges when a client picks a location that has near non-existent shade and the only time of day is not ideal. Looking for natural reflectors more and using them to my advantage is definitely one of my biggest goals for 2011. Thank you!  02.23.11 - 9:29am
Randy - I love this post and it makes a lot of sense however just wondering if you would be so kind as list the specific iso, shutter, and aperture settings in each of this pictures seeing as how each of these pictures are in different lighting conditions, without a fill flash. I understand that the setting wouldn’t be a “rule” but a rule of thumb but I was just curious. Love your work keep up the amazing work.  02.23.11 - 9:29am
Rebecca Sehn - Really useful - thanks Jasmine!  02.23.11 - 9:28am
Jess - Is that Whitney and Drew? I never get tired of looking at photos of that adorable couple!  02.23.11 - 9:28am
Crystal Heft - I like your picture demonstrations. I don't think I've attempted this is dappled light like on the pier. Something to tuck into my brain! Thank you!  02.23.11 - 9:25am
LEOLAK - This made perfect sense! Thanks! To see the challenges you faced and how fantastic these images came!   02.23.11 - 9:21am
Gaby Fuentes Photography - Looks like it belongs to a Ralph Lauren add.  02.23.11 - 9:18am
JenW - These post are so helpful! Every time I see a photo I love I try to analyze how it was done. That's awesome of you to share it with us!  02.23.11 - 9:12am
anouschka - awesome post Jasmine! Very, very usefull info!  02.23.11 - 9:06am
Bárbara - I think you did a great job of explaining! The visual aids (photos and drawn in explanations with arrows) really helped drive the point home as well.  02.23.11 - 9:00am
Raquel - Love seeing how you make it work so beautifully!  02.23.11 - 8:59am
Salwa - Love this post, and the diagrams were very helpful! When you first started, did you ever make someone (ahem, JD) stand in various spots before shooting, to confirm that the natural reflectors were where you thought they were? I suppose that comes with experience, knowing the outcome of the lighting before trying it out...  02.23.11 - 8:56am
Anna - This was SO helpful! Thank you for posting wasn't confusing at all and made perfect sense. And your pictures are lovely and wonderful. :o)  02.23.11 - 8:55am
Joanie - So helpful. I love natural light also. And I admit that I'm not using them to their max benefit. When you are out on a shoot what size reflectors do you find most useful? I am challenged when I travel to try to pack light and I find myself sacrificing wardrobe and other necessities for equipment. LOL.  02.23.11 - 8:54am
Kare - Makes total sense now.  02.23.11 - 8:49am
Daniele - Wonderful, Jasmine!! Really interesting and inspiring, thank you soooo much!! ^_^  02.23.11 - 8:47am
Luis Cappa - Love your look and your manner of driving the couple. I am a Brazilian and an admirer of his work. I have a special request is that I know of many Brazilians also: Bring your workshop for our country. We'd love to. God continue to bless you and big hug.( Grande abraço)  02.23.11 - 8:46am
Laura Fiore - Thanks so much for sharing your expertise with us...always looking for ways to make my photos better and I really appreciate that you help me think on the fly!  02.23.11 - 8:45am
brianne howard - I love reading all your posts, thanks so much!  02.23.11 - 8:41am
rusty Tripod - Thanks, I was trying to remember just how you addressed this issue in Seattle. It is great to reconnect with the process.  02.23.11 - 8:41am
lmend - thank you for this explanation! the photos from this shoot are gorgeous; if everyone hasn't seen them, they should peek back at the blog. truly awesome work, and it really helps to know that you were a little nervous about it as well. thanks again!  02.23.11 - 8:41am
Naomi Chokr - fabulous entry!!! you always mention natural reflectors... and i had a good idea about it. But this really illustrated how you use it. light in florida is crazy and no matter what i do i get hot spots. i will make sure to use this advice and hopefully get better results.   02.23.11 - 8:40am
flaii - Jasmine! :D I've come to love and understand light better with each and every of your HOW-TO posts :) Your photos look always awesome, even if the sun is playing tricks on you! Loved the shoot and thanks so much for sharing!  02.23.11 - 8:37am
Through the Lens of Kimberly Gauthier - This is fantastic! I've never thought about using natural reflectors in my shoots. I can't wait to connect with a model in the spring!  02.23.11 - 8:37am
adita - Excellent tutorial! No confusion here :) Thank you Jasmine!  02.23.11 - 8:36am
Karisa - I learned so much about how you use natural reflectors when watching you at creativelive. It has been SO useful to me. LOVE. Thanks J. :)  02.23.11 - 8:35am
Angela Davis - Jasmine, this is AMAZING information! I so prefer to shoot with available/natural light vs. flash/lighting--my partner-husband doesn't share my philosophy on that. HA! But any tips I can get on how to utilize ambient light is crucial for me. I'd love to hear/see your thoughts about it in an urban/downtownish setting , as well, if you ever do a blog on that. And thanks!!  02.23.11 - 8:30am
Jessi D - Love these posts Jasmine! Thank You!!  02.23.11 - 8:30am
Izzy Hudgins - You definitely make sense! And thanks for always sharing your technique. Its refreshing to have someone be so open and willing to help! You set a very good example for all of us! Rock on.  02.23.11 - 8:28am
JulieV - I always look forward to your posts Jasmine! Thanks again for making me think outside of what I normally do! Great tips!  02.23.11 - 8:20am
Jen - Love this post Jasmine! Thanks for always sharing your helpful tips.   02.23.11 - 8:18am
Wesley - Love your behind the scene, so that we can eat a little bit of your photo brain :)(that sounded better in my head :P) You've showed on CL that you have a reflection screen in your bag, maybe it was a sign of god to try something with that screen ;) And you know you're awesome right?  02.23.11 - 8:17am
kelli taylor - Thank you so much for sharing this! It's nice to know that you have moments of panic about lighting too since your end results are always so awesome!  02.23.11 - 8:04am
plain_jo - Thank you so much for taking the time to explain your method of natural lighting. I never understood it before because I wasn't seeing the reflector in the image and no one pointed the them out to me. I'm so new at this!  02.23.11 - 7:52am
Kathleen Frank - This is so helpful! Honestly, I would have been even more helpful a week ago ;) I just had a shoot, and I struggled with this so much. Thank you for explaining your process!  02.23.11 - 7:38am
Anne Elisabeth - There is no one who is as good in teaching about natural reflectors as you are. I loved it when you taught it at CreativeLIVE. It helps so much! Keep on going, bless!  02.23.11 - 7:31am
Lida Mathews - Jasmine, you always help - THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!  02.23.11 - 7:28am
Tara Liebeck - Thank you Jasmine! food for thought   02.23.11 - 7:27am
Kristen - Thanks for this post - I found this really helpful!  02.23.11 - 7:16am
Life with Kaishon - Thank you for sharing!  02.23.11 - 7:09am
Amber - Jasmine, your advice on natural reflectors is so-so-so helpful. I learned so much from the CreativeLive course and this was one of my biggest takeaways - it has totally changed my portraiture. THANK YOU  02.23.11 - 7:08am
Karine Ardault - thanks Jasmine. I am shooting my first wedding of the year this saturday. I live near the equator where there is harsh light and my couple is color mixed. It is always a challenge to make sure everybody is flattered by light. My program: lots of nice shade and light reflection and some fill-in flash! thanks for the catch-up lesson :)  02.23.11 - 7:07am
Emma Godfrey - Really, really helpful - thank you! I've been trying to play with natural reflectors since watching your CreativeLive course but it wasn't working. I think my biggest problem was the time of day and having too much dark shade with too much bright sun. Do you always prefer to shoot in the late afternoon? xxx  02.23.11 - 7:07am
Jennifer - Thank you for sharing! Your informational posts are always so helpful! :)  02.23.11 - 6:52am
analy - Jasmine, this was SO VERY helpful! You're awesome! :)  02.23.11 - 6:50am
Ernie E - Very clever way to use those natural reflections to your advantage instead of them becoming a hindrance. I have to consider that next time I'm dealing with situations like that.  02.23.11 - 6:48am
Chie Sipin-Bjarenas - Fantastic post, as always! This was quite informative. Thank you for sharing!  02.23.11 - 6:42am
Justine Ray - This totally makes sense. Thank you for sharing! I definitely need to venture out and test this out for myself so that I can become familiar with it:) Thanks again. You rock!  02.23.11 - 6:39am
Lorele - Ho Jasmine, I love when you share your thoughts with us! Sometimes I don't understand everything (I am not yet bilingual) but reading you makes me really smile!!   02.23.11 - 6:39am
quicoto - Very well explainned Jasmine! I like this kind of post, helps our photography :) And it makes me realize I need to start paying more attention to the natural reflectors :P Thank you.  02.23.11 - 6:23am
Rachel Leigh Greene - That was really helpful! Thanks! :D  02.23.11 - 6:20am
Kristin Nicole - Very helpful, and good to know that I am not the only one that encounters situations like this where the lighting is a hot mess.   02.23.11 - 6:12am
Aisha - Jasmine, thanks for this post! You have no idea how much this has helped. Thanks again.  02.23.11 - 6:10am