How to Use a 5 in 1 Reflector for Filmmaking – Best Low Budget Way For Lighting

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Light Reflector – When you are shooting a low-budget film, odds are that you will be shooting with minimal equipment and crew. In my experience with ultra-low-budget productions, lighting is the one part of filmmaking that tends to get ignored. 

Why? Because the costs of using professional lighting kits are just too high for some small budget productions. I can always tell how much a budget is on a film I am working on by the number of lights that are on a film set. 

Why does lighting cost so much for film production? Because there are more expenses involved than just the lighting kit. Expenses like the adding extra crew to move, set up, and operate the lighting equipment, costs of vehicles to transport the lights to the set, and the cost of renting the lighting gear for the whole shoot can blow a budget on any film if you are not careful.

While there are small portable lights that can be found on Amazon and B&H Photo/Video that can help out in a pinch, but then you could be adding more to your filmmaking kit than you want. I love using portable lights in interior shots because they offer reasonable lighting at a price anyone can afford, but what if you are shooting outdoors?

If you are thinking about shooting outdoors and using natural light as your main light source, you might want to add a 5 in 1 Reflector to your filmmaking gear to help you get the best light possible under the shooting conditions you are in.

In this article, I will break down why lighting is important for any film project, what a 5 in 1 reflector is, and what each color in the reflector kit does for lighting your films.

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Why Is Lighting Important To Filmmaking?

Lighting sets the look and feel of a film. The key focus for a cinematographer when lighting a scene, the key is to make sure the actors’ faces are lit in a particular way to establish the mood of the scene. 

In terms of lighting buildings, rooms, interiors, landscapes, city streets, backgrounds, and so on, using the available lighting around is pretty much all your need for lighting those types of scenes. But when it comes to filming an actors’ face, things get more complicated.

When we watch a film or television program, our eyes are focused on the faces of other people. That’s why actors’ expressions are integral to the story being told.

That’s why lighting an actors’ face is so important when shooting a scene, because just like bad audio in a film, if the lighting is bad, it will cause the audience to lose their attention to the screen. Bad audio and bad lighting are the two things that can never happen in a film because we rely on those two senses for communication.

Plus, just like in photography, bad lighting can be unflattering for the subject as well as concealing their performance.

If you are worried about not having enough lighting gear for your filmmaking kit, one simple, lightweight and inexpensive piece of lighting kit like a reflector can make a huge difference in lighting a scene.

Reflector can come in different sizes and with different types of reflective surfaces. Many can coil up into a small zip-up carry case for easy transport from set to set.

The 5 in 1 diffuser provides 5 different surfaces, each of which has a different purpose in photography lighting. They can be mounted on a stand, propped against walls, tables, and other objects, or held at the desired angle by a crew member.

Below is a breakdown of what each surface does to lighting a scene in the film.

Want more filmmaking content? Then check out or guides to the best skills needed to excel in the film industry, tips to become a better director, or smartphone filmmaking 101.

Diffuser

As you can tell from the video above, the diffuser surface can be used to place in front of a light to diffuse the light. This will soften the light source so that the shadows on the subject’s face are less harsh.

An example of this is if you have an overhead light, but the bright light is washing everything out, the diffuser will soften it. Or if you are using the natural light from a window, and the light is too bright, placing the diffusing reflector between the window and the actors can help soften the look.

Also, the diffuser can be used to reflect light. If the white reflector side is too harsh, use the diffuser side to reflect a softer light.

White reflector

The white side of the reflector is usually used to reflect your main light source to create a fill light. If your main light source is so strong that the actor’s face is cast into deep shadow, placing a white reflector in front of the actors’ face helps to bounce some of that light back into the shadows.

The key to using the reflector to bounce light, is to move the reflector around to find the best angle to either boost the light or reduce the light

Also, when you use the white reflector in different angles it helps create different effects too. How much fill light do you want? If you remove all the shadows completely, it can look very unnatural.

But always remember when it comes to lighting that consistency is essential. If the actors are lit one way in one shot, maintain the light for other shots to keep the consistency for editing purposes. 

If the lighting is off it can be very uneven to the audience. Try as much as possible to use a similar amount of lighting for each take, especially for close-up talking scenes where you cut between actors.

Silver reflector

The silver reflector works the same way as the white reflector but it’s more reflective. The light coming from the silver reflector is stronger, so it might be beneficial in situations where there is very low light. Or if the shot is wide and you can’t get the white reflector close enough without getting it into the shot.

Gold reflector

The gold reflector surface works the same way as the white and silver reflectors but it creates a warm, golden light. If you want your actor’s face to have a warm fill light, then use the gold surface. For example, during sunset, it might be more suitable than white light.

Black surface

The black surface does the reverse of the above surfaces, absorbing or blocking light. If you are in a location where there is too much light coming from every direction, then the black surface can be used as a kind of “anti-fill” light. The black surface removes light from one side of the face to add more shadow.

What type of lighting do you want for the scene?

When it comes to filmmaking, you want to be creative in your lighting to give you something that will help create a look for your characters as well as something pleasing for the audience to look at. 

But how you light your scene is completely up to you in your storytelling decision.

Have a look at your favorite films, and study why the director and cinematographer of the films chose how to light the films on whether it enhanced or detracted your experience of the film.

When it comes to 5-in-1 Collapsible Reflectors I would suggest the Neewer 43 Inch 5-in-1 Collapsible Reflector. They come in various sizes to suit your needs. 

The great thing about reflectors is they are not too expensive when compared to other lighting kits and they are very versatile.

Throw one in your filmmaking kit today, and you will not have to worry about poor lighting situations again.

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