Improvised Light Modifiers

By Mark

I was shooting some portraits today at the office for a proposal and had found a nice corner with good soft light.  I set up my Wescott softbox with my SB900 flash as my main light.  I had a second flash set up on the floor to provide an even background light.  This was especially critical as the EXIT sign was throwing a nice red line against the wall.  Since I was using my pocket wizard remotes to control the set up, it was pretty easy to adjust the flash ratio between the two.  From my preliminary test shots, I had set the background light power way down at -2 stops.  The main flash was set at +1/3 and the first sets of pictures were fine.  As the afternoon progressed, it got cloudier and darker and I started getting bad shadows on the far side of my subjects. 

Elesia, my saintly and patient receptionist

Elesia, my saintly and patient receptionist

Even though I had my light stands and full lens bag with me, I had neglected to bring a reflector.  That would have solved my problem instantly.  I was forced to actually think…gasp, on how I could solve my challenge.   We have been printing large fold outs and so I grabbed 2 11 x 17 pieces of bright white paper and taped them together and then to the blinds.  Voila! 


The paper gave a great bounce of light from the main flash and the far side of my victim; I mean subjects face caught the light again.  Because of the darkening skies, I also had bumped the main light up to +2/3.  I tried a little more and it was too much. A tiny bit of retouching and a nice finished product. 


There are often useful things just hanging around which can both block light when it is falling where it should not.  I always have small clamps, a little bigger and stronger than chip clips to hold up a folder to shape the light.  A 3x5 card and a rubber band around the head of your flash actually can establish a nice catch light for your model.   It is always better to have the right equipment handy, but that is not excuse for not getting the shot when you have imagination.