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Reflectors Shine New Light on Fishing Photos

Reflectors Shine New Light on Fishing Photos

Portable, collapsible reflectors are inexpensive tools that can greatly improve your fishing photos. (Photo by Keith Sutton)

Want to dramatically improve your fishing photos? Use a collapsible reflector to create spectacular effects in pictures taken at your favorite fishing hole.

Available from photography equipment retailers, reflectors allow you to “bounce” partially diffused bright light onto your subject. These inexpensive tools provide a quick, simple means of lighting a subject’s shadow side, creating attractive back-lighting or illuminating an angler or fish when the light source is behind it.

Reflectors are available in different shapes (round, oval, rectangular) and different sizes (20 to 52 inches or more). A flexible, spring-steel rim allows each to be folded into a circular package one-third its working size for easy transportation and compact storage in a zippered pouch. The twist-and-overlap design allows opening with a just a flick of the wrist.

Reflectors perform the same basic tasks as the built-in flash (fill flash) on my cameras, but offer several advantages.

First, sunlight bounced on the subject using a reflector has a softer, more natural appearance than flash fill. This creates an image less likely to have harsh “burn-out” or overexposure if you pay close attention to your camera settings.

A reflector also can be easily repositioned to accommodate different lighting angles and to vary the intensity of the fill light. One person holds the reflector, positioning it so sunlight is “bounced” onto the subject, and when the lighting is right, the photographer snaps the shot. You can incorporate different positions to discover the effect that most pleases you.

Using a reflector can enhance your photos in the field or on the water.

Reflectors are available in different colors that serve different purposes.

  • Gold warms the scene, producing a metallic sheen on scaled fish such as largemouth bass and adding tones in “hold-up” shots that mimic beautiful early-morning or late-afternoon light.
  • Soft gold combines silver and gold in a zig-zag pattern, resulting in a warm feel that’s a touch softer than the solid gold.
  • White produces a natural, true-to-life effect great for filling in shadows and brightening up the subject.
  • White/translucent is used to diffuse light, producing a broad source and a soft effect. It works great for outdoor portraits and any situation where softer light is desired.
  • Silver increases specular highlights and yields a high-contrast image. It allows redirecting light from several feet away, something you can’t do well with other colors.
  • Combination models, with a different color on each side, are most versatile. I find a silver/gold combination reflector especially useful for fishing photography.


I use a 24-inch reflector when photographing fish and other small subjects, and a 42-inch model for shots including larger subjects such as anglers displaying their catch. Other sizes, from very small to gigantic, also are available to suit different needs.

Some manufacturers make a telescoping arm that grips opposite edges of a reflector, keeping it stiff and permitting one-handed holding. But in most cases, you’ll probably need an assistant to hold the reflector in the proper place and at the right angle to bounce the correct amount of sunlight onto your subject.

You can see the reflector’s effect on your subject, judge its suitability and change the reflector’s position and orientation until you get the effect you want.

Keep the reflector stationary and move around your subject to obtain different camera angles. This can produce many interesting photo variations.

For example, you can position your camera to catch the sun’s reflection off your subject’s hair, either on top or off to one side.

You also can frame your subject so the sun is positioned directly behind his or her head to provide rim lighting.

A combination of fill flash and reflector back-lighting can make the fins of a fish glow like gold while still showing detail in the side of the fish closest to the camera.

Experiment. Have fun. See how reflectors can improve your fishing photography. These simple, inexpensive tools can definitely help you take better photos for memories that last forever.

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