Flower Photography with Diffusers and Reflectors

 

Reflectors and diffusers are invaluable tools when photographing all sorts of subjects, but especially flowers. Diffusers (white translucent fabric) are used to reduce contrast by softening the light. I like to call a diffuser a “cloudy day in a bag” because when you hold a diffuser over your subject it’s like the clouds rolled in. By placing the diffuser between the sun and your subject you’ll have soft light with minimal or no shadows. This┬ámakes diffusers particularly useful if you’re photographing in the middle of┬áthe day when the quality of light is not great. But don’t dismiss the diffuser just because you’ve got good light; that nice warm light can still be high contrast which may not be the look you want. Pull out the diffuser anytime you’re looking to minimize shadows and reduce contrast. For best results hold the diffuser as close to the flower as possible (of course without getting it in the photo). I prefer using a large diffuser (~40″ diameter) because it makes it easier to diffuse the light on the subject and the background.

direct sunlight

Direct sunlight, no diffuser.

 

diffuser used

Adding a diffuser creates a more attractive image by minimizing the shadows and softening the light on the flowers and the background.

 

 

Reflectors on the other hand are used to bounce light onto your subject. They are frequently used to lighten shadows, but can also create lighting effects by throwing strong directional light onto the subject. In the next two photos you can see the benefit of a reflector. A gold reflector was used to bounce light underneath the lotus. This is a common problem with flower photography (no matter whether the flowers are big or small): the underside and/or stem of the flower is too dark, often because the petals block the light from illuminating the base of the flower. The lotus photos were taken on a sunny day, but I’ve also had this shadow problem on cloudy days.

Lotus, no reflector

No reflector - underside of the lotus is shaded by the petals.

 

Lotus, with reflector

Gold reflector used to bounce light up under the lotus, lightening the underside of the petals and the stem. Reducing the darker tones helps give the image a light, airy feeling.

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