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How to Make a High Fashion Specular Reflector

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How to Make a High Fashion Specular Reflector - $15 and about 15 minutes. 

-RICH MEADE
 
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Step 1: What you’ll need

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I’ve got a fun little DIY light modifier for you today. I call it the  High Fashion Specular Reflector  or “shiny board” for short. In my travels, I have to carry a LOT of gear.  Especially when the trip is on my own dime and I don’t have a budget to rent the cool toys I want to have. I came up with the idea for this reflector through experimentation and just obnoxious luck. I wanted to create a very hard light (in addition to the sun) to use on my model while on location. That’s not too hard to accomplish with strobes, but remember, I get lazy. I first started messing around with mirrors, but they didn’t really do what I wanted, not to mention they are heavy and dangerous if broken. Then I thought about Mylar!  Well now rolls of Mylar aren’t super hard to find, but also aren’t readily available in a lot of locations. There is however a cheap and readily available solution, and that is a camping emergency blanket! So combining the Mylar blanket with a couple of other items I was able to create a remarkable source of light, that is cheap, and versatile. Here is how.

What you’ll need :

- 24×36″ Poster Frame ($10) These come in all sizes, but you need the ones with plexiglass fronts, easily found at any        superstore

- Duct Tape ($1.50) Also found at the superstore. You know the saying, if you can’t Duck it…

- Scissors ($1.50- $400) Supersharp hair styling shears are preferred, but you can use a $1.50 pair too.

- Emergency Camping Blanket ($4) The key ingredient, found at pretty much any store that has a camping section.



Step 2:

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First thing you want to do is take the poster apart and separate its pieces.

Don’t throw anything away (except the shrink wrap that came on the frame).
thecapper6 months ago
Rich Meade, I think I want your life. Thanks for the cool 'ible, by the way.

brilliant!
confesschrist6 months ago
Cool ideas here! I've used a foldable sun shield for this as well(the kind that you put in your cars front window to keep the interior cool). The one I have is silver on one side, and it has the added bonus of folding away for travelling. Not sure how much they go for though, as I found mine laying around in the garage.
I like how you are experimenting. I made some replies to some other comments that you might find useful.

One thing that you should change is to use your own photos using this technique. I understand that you have permission, etc, to use another person's photos. That's fine, I'm not criticizing! I just would prefer to see YOUR work! Don't be shy! :)
crazypj6 months ago
Pretty cool, could you crunch it up into a ball to get more 'wrinkles'?
Would a gold Mylar film give 'softer' results?
I'm pretty sure I've seen those emergency 'blankets' in blue and green somewhere? (maybe Christmas wrapping?)
great idea to experiment with, cheaper than some of the filters I've bought in the past
Gold would give you a warmer reflection. This has a variety of applications, especially if you are shooting people with darker skin.
baecker036 months ago
there is a you tube video of a guy making a parabolic mirror out of a trash can lid and the same material... much more precise lighting. by the way, the hairspray idea is good, as the point is to have even lighting for even light level/exposure.
A focused bounce certainly could have an application, if someone wanted to bounce sunlight as a kicker or hair light.

However, I must disagree with you about even lighting for even light levels being the point. That makes for boring flat photography. The point is to control the lighting, staying within the dynamic range of your camera (or film, if anyone still uses film), so that you have highlights, shadows, and all the tones in between. Depending on the subject matter and your goals, you can create a contrasty image with hard lighting or a low contrast image with softer lighting.
barbsdesk6 months ago
Thanks Rich! (I've been using aluminum foil taped to a large sheet of cardboard). Now if only someone would teach me how to make a good camera . .
Have you tried crinkling the foil then uncrinkling for a softer effect? Also, foil has a soft matte side and a hard shiny side!
jkorn6 months ago
Another option is to go to your local hardware store and buy foam insulation board. Many already have a silver Mylar side, in addition to the white foam side (for a softer reflection). You can get a 4x8 sheet for $15. Huge reflector. Easy to cut to size. Lightweight. And you get two different reflective surfaces.
Here's what grips do. They take a sheet of the styrofoam (we call it beadboard) 4x8, and cut it half. Take a 4x8 sheet of foam core and cut it in half. With gaffers tape (preferably white, but go with what you have) tape the two pieces together, back to back. The tape should be along the edges, making a frame. Now you have a hard side (the foam core) and a soft side (the bead board). Repeat with your remaining pieces of foam core and beadboard. Also, having the two layers stiffens the bounce board, which means you have more control of the reflected light.

If you get black foam core, you can make one with a black side for negative fill. Ooooh! Negative fill! Now you're sculpting with light! Of course you can use these techniques on full 4x8 pieces, but that can get unwieldy. If you find yourself using your bounce boards a lot, consider investing in a c-stand and a bead board clamp (and a sandbag for the c-stand, of course).
Is it hard on the model's eyes?
lepercan6 months ago
Try using a large embrodery hoop. Really smooth mirror and goes together in about 30 seconds.
sarawelder6 months ago
fantastic.. easy and useful. well explained. thanks!
mkatherine216 months ago
There is actually a cheaper way to make this! Besides taking the poster frame why not use a white piece of foam core and you can since you can take the the emergency blanket and evenly take it leaving enough white on the back! And it's about 14-15 dollars cheaper considering you can get a piece of foam core for a dollar at the dollar tree! I've used this Idea as a bounce in doing short videos and just a white foam core as a bounce in my photography but Had not thought of the blanket for the other side! Thanks for that tip though!
CircleS (author)  Ranie-K6 months ago
Rich Meade give me personally a permission =)
As a photographer too, i know the importance of copyright and things of that nature :)
Datawolf6 months ago
Awoooooo !
If you spray the reflector surface with a light coat of hair spray it will difuse the light giving you the softer look of the "Pro" reflector. GREAT IDEA THOUGH !!!
This way you can control the "sharpness" of the reflection.
CircleS (author)  Lectric Wizard6 months ago
Thanks for this tricks, but the idea is for, that randomness of the light :)
But thanks i appreciate
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