Reflectors and Flags

Reflectors are often overlooked as lighting accessories, but you shouldn’t underestimate the power of them when it comes to your photography. They come in a variety of colors and sizes, making them a versatile tool suited to studio and location work.

In this photography class, Karl guides you through a number of different reflectors, from the standard pop-open reflectors to some of his home-made ones, and provides visual examples of where and how they can be used.

In this class:

  • Using reflectors to add light to an image
  • Using flags to create shadow
  • How and when to use negative fill
  • The most useful reflectors for different genres of photography
  • Visual examples of how reflectors and flags can be used

Questions? Please post them in the comments section below.


  1. hi must do a business portrait and i have only a white wall (not so smooth). Is it good? eventually i have a black cotton material (not ironed) for the bedroom ( to understand).. or i must buy the circular flexible panel with the 5 colors? and for this panel do you think that the translucent and the white are the only that we use the most time? i think that gold, silver and black is not so useful if you don t think so much at the colors (in the moment at the beginning period of photography, not as a pro) or not?

    1. Hi, if you must do a business portrait but you don’t feel confident enough then you should do a few tests on a friend as practise to discover if the white wall etc and your specific location are suitable. Unfortunately I’m unable to answer your questions directly as there are too many variables but all of the guidelines for shooting excellent business portraits are covered in several of our portrait section classes.

  2. Hi Karl,

    Can you please explain different terminology?

    1. Key light
    2. Fill light
    3. Catch light
    4. Ring light
    5. If there are any more forms of light, I need to know.


    1. Hi Jyothi,
      You will learn lots more about light as you progress through our classes, when you have finished this section I can recommend these two classes:

      In answer to your question 1. The main light 2. The light used to fill in the shadow side of your subject 3. The highlight usually seen in the eye but could refer to other things. 4. I think you meant ‘Rim Light’ which describes lighting the edge of your subject with lighting from behind your subject. Cheers Karl.

  3. Hello Karl and his team!!! I am so happy and grateful with all the information you share, the clarity that you have to explain things is amazing!!!!
    I am starting with the lighting module, so I am not sure if you have covered this in other videos…
    I would like to shoot some jewelry with white background … this is usually highly reflective and small… so I find if I use black flags they will show in the reflections, even the lens and the camera some times is very hard to find the angle so it does not show…. would you share some tips about the best way to light and flag some fashion jewelry!!!

    Thank you very much,

    Ana Maria

    1. Hello, hope this is not a stupid question.. for what concerns white, what is the difference in reflection between a totally mat surface and a less mat surface( I dont mean acrylic or really shiny reflectors) and how the material affects the reflections. For example, the material for those collapsible lastolites you showed in the refector video and a foam board /polyboard?

      Thank you

      1. Hi Alessandra, not a huge amount of difference. The more ‘matt’ a material is then the more diffused the reflected light will be (it spreads about more and is more even) Solid white like polystyrene, foam board etc is good. Some of the lastolites are good too but some fabric reflectors don’t reflect as much light as some light goes through them.

  4. Happy holidays Karl, I’m a long time watcher of your YouTube channel and recent subscriber here. Absolutely loving the specific breakdowns of information you provide in your videos and looking forward to learning and growing from this. Thank you!

    I’m curious about the C stand that you have on the table as it appears a bit shorter than the ones I have been able to find online. Those types of heavy duty C stand are generally about 5 or 6 feet high with lack of flexibility for being able to lower it to a few feet. Is there a particular brand that sells this? Or am I just terrible at searching for things online? Haha.

    1. Hi Joe, Thanks for signing up and we look forward to you enjoying our content and remember to join us on the live shows too! The shorter ones are ‘Avenger’ by Manfrotto which you should find on their website. You’ll find out more about them in the next chapter after this one.

        1. Hello, hope this is not a stupid question.. for what concerns white, what is the difference in reflection between a totally mat surface and a less mat surface( I dont mean acrylic or really shiny reflectors) and how the material affects the reflections. For example, the material for those collapsible lastolites you showed in the refector video and a foam board /polyboard?

          Thank you

  5. Hi Karl, sorry for the (stupid) question but for the poly board stands, I presume steel is best for this? Do you need to get it coated in anything to stop stray light bouncing off the stand? By the look of it the dimensions would be around 40cm x 20cm base and around 30cm high with the metal thickness around 5mm, would that be about right? Don’t want to go to the effort and expense of having several of these made and then the poly board topple over 🙂

    1. Hi Cameron, my metal shop sprayed mine. I can get the measurements but also take a look at bike wheel stands as I know photographers who use these.

  6. Hi Karl I have a Nikon D750 what size in mm would i have to cut a hole for the lens flare sheild

    1. Hi Wayne, the ratio of your sensor is 36mm x 24mm – so you can have any size you like that is larger than that but retains the same ratio. For example if you multiply by 5 you would end up with 180mm x 120mm. I make window masks in a variety of sizes maintaining the same ratio.

  7. Karl looks like he would have a short fuse but I must say he does really well when explaining basic things he would have learned long ago. Everyone is on a different path and I think he realises that which is why there’s never any ego or frustration behind him explaining things which would frankly bore him at this stage. That’s what I like about his teaching style. He still somehow puts energy and excitement into basic principles. Plus I think he just loves what he does. I’m sure he gets bored with it but Thankyou Karl. These things are invaluable to people just starting out.

    1. Hi Tod, thank you for your kind words and I would say you were correct on all counts in your comment, I really love photography, have done for 30 years, but I also love imparting knowledge even if for me it is quite basic. I think it’s also very important to impart it in a certain way so that it can be easily absorbed.

  8. Ok, I’ll stop watching your videos. After every video, I end up buying something more to my studio 🙂

    Jokes aside, the I didn’t even know about the foam board yet it’s pretty convenient to use for a lightweight v-flat. So many great tips, thanks!!

  9. Hi Karl,
    I have some spare cardboard sheets at home, and I wonder if I could use those instead of foam board as an alternative? Or would it not be as effective?

    1. Hi Maha, iof they are white then they will work as reflectors, the thing I like about foamboard is it is stiff and light weight.

  10. What sort of locations can you find that polished metal sheeting? I cant seem to find it in common hardware stores here in Canada. I rather like the look of it for a stage floor on product photos. Great video and I really enjoy seeing what other photographers create for custom lighting setups and workflows.

    1. Hi Jason, if you can’t find it at your hardware store, check with your local metal workshops or signmakers. Cheers Karl.

    2. Hi Jason, one thing I did (here in Canada as well) to get sort of a polished metal sheeting was to go to Home Depot and pick up a stainless steel metal sheet. It was not polished up, but there is a Youtube video I found about how to polish steel so that it has a mirrored finish. I particularly enjoyed the process and it didn’t require very many tools. I believe it is what they do in prisons to avoid the use of glass mirrors.

      If it’s alright, I’ll share the link here. If not, apologies, just looking to help.

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