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4 Natural Light Outdoor Portrait Setups Using Reflectors

8/02/2023 Matt 0 Comments

In the world of portrait photography, lighting is one of the most crucial aspects that can make or break a shot. While using professional lighting equipment and strobes can yield fantastic results, not everyone has access to such resources. However, there is a magical modifier that is extremely cheap, easy to use, and can create beautiful natural light portraits outdoors – the 5-in-1 reflector.

Why a Reflector is a Great Modifier?

Reflectors are incredible tools for outdoor portrait photography. They are inexpensive and come in various sizes, from 30 inches to larger ones up to 50 inches, all at affordable prices. Unlike strobes, reflectors let you see exactly how they affect the light on your subject, making them easy to use.

 Moreover, they allow you to modify sunlight effectively, keeping the light intensity consistent and enabling you to create stunning rim lights and balanced portraits.

What Kind of Reflector to Buy?

When it comes to choosing a reflector, a 5-in-1 reflector is highly recommended. This versatile option provides you with five different surfaces to work with: translucent, hard white, gold, silver, and black.

The translucent surface allows light to pass through, essentially turning the sun into a softbox, perfect for working in direct sunlight. The hard white surface efficiently reflects light, while the gold and silver surfaces add warmth or brightness, respectively. The black surface can be used to subtract light and create more contrast and shadows.

How to use it? Reflector Setups

In a captivating video tutorial by Jay P. Morgan, portrait photographer and educator, he unveils the power of reflectors in natural light outdoor portrait photography. With his expertise, he showcases 4 brilliant reflector setups that can transform the way you capture stunning portraits on location. 

Find the Shadow Edge

Start by positioning your subject in a spot where they are standing at the transition between shadow and direct sunlight. Place the reflector on the side where the sun is and bounce the light onto your subject's face to create beautiful, soft light. Adjust the angle and distance of the reflector to achieve the desired effect and look for interesting bokeh in the background.

1. Create a Clamshell Lighting Look

Create a Clamshell Lighting Look reflector portrait

For a clamshell lighting look, position your subject in a way that the reflector is below their face, acting as fill light, and another reflector is above and slightly in front of them, acting as the main light. This setup creates flattering light with highlights in the eyes and a soft, fashion-style look.

2. Shooting in Direct Sun

Shooting in Direct Sun reflector portrait

Working directly in the sunlight can be challenging, but with a translucent reflector, you can soften the sunlight and turn it into a beautiful softbox-like light source. Simply position the reflector between the sun and your subject, and let the translucent surface diffuse the light onto your subject's face. This setup allows you to shoot in various directions, utilizing the soft, balanced light.

3. Shooting in Shade with Gold Reflector

Shooting in Shade with Gold Reflector

When shooting in deep shade, a gold reflector can be used to bounce warm light onto your subject's face. Position the reflector just outside the shade to bring in the desired amount of light. Remember to feather the reflector to achieve the right balance and avoid harsh lighting.

4. Backlight with Rim Light

Backlight with Rim Light

For a unique and dramatic effect, use the reflector as a backlight to create a beautiful rim light around your subject. Position your subject with the sun behind them, creating a backlight. Then, hold the reflector on the side opposite to the sun, and angle it towards your subject's face. The reflector will bounce sunlight back onto their face, separating them from the background and adding a stunning glow. This setup works exceptionally well during golden hour when the sun is low and the light is soft and warm.


Reflectors are the perfect tools for natural light outdoor portrait setups. They are affordable, easy to use, and versatile. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced photographer, reflectors offer countless options to enhance your portrait photography. So next time you head out for a portrait session, grab a reflector and explore the wonders of natural light photography!

About Jay P. Morgan:

Photo Mentor photographerWith more than two decades of experience, Jay P. Morgan brings to his commercial studio two special qualities: a keen appreciation of the bizarre and a knack for flawlessly executing elaborate shots. New giveaways every month!

 Connect with Jay P. on his  Website