PetaPixel

Make Your Own Aluminum Foil Reflector

If you want a reflector to play with lighting, but don’t want to shell out money for a real one, you might want to try making an aluminum foil reflector. They’re cheap, easy to make, and decent at providing fill light for harsh shadows.

How to Make It

What you’ll need:

  • A large, flat board (i.e. cardboard box, display board/foamcore)
  • Adhesive (i.e. tape or spray-on adhesive)
  • Aluminum foil

img_1415

The process of actually making the reflector is very intuitive. Simply modify your board to the size and shape you want, and attach aluminum foil to the surface. One thing to note is that aluminum foil usually has two different surfaces:

img_1416

One is more reflective than the other, so it’s up to you to choose which you’d like to use. Instead of choosing, I covered both sides of my cardboard with aluminum foil, with a different surface on each side. This allows me to choose how much light I’d like to reflect.

Also, some people choose to crumple up their aluminum foil before attaching it to the board, since this provides a softer and less directional light. You can also spray paint the foil to change the color and quality of the light you reflect.

Here is how my personal reflector turned out:

img_1418

I chose to use a cardboard box since it was cheaper than a foamcore and could be folded up and tucked away, while having enough surface area to provide a significant amount of light.

How to Use It

These reflectors can help you add fill-light to an outdoor shot where harsh lighting would otherwise cast unflattering shadows on your subject. Take the following “portrait” for example:

img_1428

You can use the reflector in this situation to fill in the shadows:

img_1430

Here’s the portrait that results. Hover your mouse over it to compare it to the original:

img_1427

As you can see, the reflector can help you overcome undesirable lighting conditions and can add a glint to your subject’s eyes that brings any portrait to life.


 
Get the hottest photo stories delivered to your inbox.
Get a daily digest of the latest headlines:
  • http://davidpark.wordpress.com davidypark

    Awesome! I’m definitely going to make one of these… soon.

  • http://twitter.com/prashantkarkera Prashant Karkera

    I wanted to create one such reflector for myself… Thanks a lot for the post….This is helpful

  • Anonymous

    Its a big difference using a reflector and so easy to make, really have to make one too….

  • kalika

    This is the information I have been seeking, simple yet effective. I love the idea that the reflector can also become part of color therapy.

  • Lawknee

    Could you use those windshield “heat” deflectors too? The type that have that aluminum like finish. Already crumpled, lightweight, folds away…decent size. I don't know, just a random thought that popped in my head when I saw this design of yours.

  • http://www.petapixel.com Michael Zhang

    Yeah, I think some people actually do use those :-)

    Not sure how well it works, since I haven't tried, but if you have one be sure to let us know!

  • Lawknee

    Could you use those windshield “heat” deflectors too? The type that have that aluminum like finish. Already crumpled, lightweight, folds away…decent size. I don't know, just a random thought that popped in my head when I saw this design of yours.

  • http://www.petapixel.com Michael Zhang

    Yeah, I think some people actually do use those :-)

    Not sure how well it works, since I haven't tried, but if you have one be sure to let us know!

  • http://twitter.com/HappyTinfoilCat Happy Tinfoil Cat

    I tried them, but they just didn't work for me. The fold-up ones are impossible to direct. The springy-loop kind didn't reflect enough.

  • Pingback: Use Car Sun Shades as Cheap Reflectors

  • Pingback: How to Shoot in Harsh Midday Sunlight Using a Reflector

  • Besso34

    i try it before ;)

    thnQ for remiding me again :)

  • http://www.topseoproviders.com/ Nimitz Batioco

    Very Helpful, will consider making my first aluminum foil reflector :)

  • momma

    yes! I tried and it works!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ronald-Ferreira/1199611272 Ronald Ferreira

    great job i have a long pepsi box and was going to tape aluminum foil at the end to help light upjects