Before & After #32 / Backlighting & Reflectors

First things first - I love both of these pictures. Mom and dad are gorgeous and the little one is adorable! Just look at his expression in the first one! These two images from the same session (5 minutes apart) are both backlit yet one look was achieved in photoshop, the other by using a reflector from the start. Can you guess which one is which? I bet you can ;) Click read more or scroll down to see the before and after for each photo. And be sure to let me know if you guessed correctly from the get-go!

Here's the straight out of camera photo for each one. So if you guessed that the reflector was used on photo #2 - you're right!
(It wasn't really that hard, now was it?)

Sure, the end results are both quite pretty - but which photo above would you rather have started with? Let's see what each photo looked like step by step...

Both photos taken with the 5D MkII & 50mm f/1.2L

Above - ISO 400, f/2.8, 1/4000 sec

Below - ISO 400, f/2.8, 1/2500 sec

You'll notice they have different shutter speeds. Could i have slowed image #1 to 1/2500 instead of 1/4000? Sure. And I did for the 2 shots right after this one. Did it improve much? Nope. They were still underexposed and the background was still far too much brighter than they were. I could've also made the shutter speed slower than that, therefore blowing out the background entirely and having the subject exposed correctly. Doing that doesn't typically bother me, because I'd rather my subjects be exposed right, and I know I can find a balance in post processing... but why go through the extra work if you don't have to?

Enter reflector.

Justin happened to be with me this day, so I had him grab the reflector, silver side facing the family. I probably wouldn't mind showing my clients the straight out of camera of this one, and I'm pretty sure I did show them the back of the camera at this point. But I like a little bit of punch and pizazz and don't know how to leave well enough alone.

The larger photos of the final edits are below. Notice the difference in color of Mom's jacket between the two. Even with the reflector tho - I think the kiddo's expression trumps all in photo #1, and sometimes, well, that's just all that matters. Would love to hear your thoughts!

If you enjoy these posts - please let me know via comment or email below. They're still new to me, so I hope you learn something! If you have any requests or ideas for future posts, I'd also love to hear.

Will blog this whole session soon! He had a blast with his cake smash!


  1. I love this tutorial. One question- where did you put the reflector?

  2. Thanks Candice! The reflector was about 30 degrees to camera left.