It’s About Using the Right Tool. While many will describe my photographic style as warm, and some will even state that I often rely on warming gels and white-balance, I for one will tell you I only use these more warming techniques when I practice photographing women whether it’s fashion, glamour, beauty or fine art photography, but rarely other genres.

glamour model beauty photo

This photo of Halie, captured at one of my photography workshops, carries my signature photography style, a little warmth.

The Rosco gels and white-balance techniques I use serve a purpose when I’m working with flash or continuous light as it’s about the right tool for the right job. However, I do my best to avoid artificial light when I can as I prefer reflected light over direct light sources. My favorite tools are my SUNBOUNCE PRO and MINI photography reflectors with my fabric choices either SPARKLING SUN or ZEBRA and on some occasions the SILVER and obviously the WHITE too.

While there was a time where I’d use a gold reflector, gold is gone. Like most photographers early in my career, I’m probably sure I misused gold because I lacked knowledge on why it really was created back in the day — to warm skin tones when photographing people in the colder light quality of open shade.

model photography reflector photo

Here, model Halie is illuminated with reflected light from a SUNBOUNCE PRO fitted with a ZEBRA fabric screen.

Let’s think about that for a moment. Since most photographers rarely carry color temperature meters, how do we know what is cool or cold light? Well the easiest way to remember is to pretend you’re in Texas on a hot summer day and you’re outside cutting the lawn. You then decide to stop and take a break as sweat pours down your face and the hot sun blazes down your neck. Margarita time, right? No, the first thing you do is shut the mower down, then head for a shaded area, usually under a live oak tree.

Why? You head for shade like a thirsty animal because it’s always cooler under shade. A simple lighting fundamental, if you’re outdoors, any area cooler than open areas is illuminated by cool light or light of a high Kelvin color temperature, usually in the range of 6000 to 7500 Kelvin. This is what photographers call open shade and because of this colder color temperature, and most photographers don’t take siestas since we have our bills to pay, we’d grab a gold reflector to cancel out the coolness of the light quality.

The gold reflector was designed to add the opposite colors of cold light to properly expose color negative film before the days of digital photography and white-balance for still cameras even existed. Photographer’s assistants would pump-in this more golden, yellow-red light from the gold reflector, thus allowing the subject being photographed to appear closer to normal and not ice-cold blue or cyan. The idea was to make your subjects appear full of life, not dead.

Sure, digital cameras today have “AWB,” or auto white balance modes, but if you rely on this, then your foreground or background that are not in shade, become much warmer than reality as the camera is adjusting the white balance the same over the entire image frame, not just on your subject standing under a tree. The best solution, use either the SUNBOUNCE SPARKLING SUN or ZEBRA reflectors as their color temperature is not as gold, as gold, and leaves your subject looking more normal and often with just of kiss of pleasant warmth.

Unfortunately, many photographers misuse gold reflectors everywhere, especially in non-open-shade areas, thus you often see an overuse of gold in images. Gold is gone, the “sparkling sun” is in and “zebra” will save you too. While my photographic style when it comes to photographing women leans to the warmer side of light, with my SUNBOUNCE SPARKLING SUN or ZEBRA fabric screens on my SUNBOUNCE PRO or MINI photography reflector frames, my subjects have a flattering skin tone, not one that belongs in a display case of a jewelry store.

Disclaimer: SUNBOUNCE has provided me products over the years for my use, but I contacted SUNBOUNCE for this support, they did not contact me, as I personally believe in and personally use their products. If their products did not meet my standards, I would never use them, even if they gave them to me.

Rolando Gomez is a professional photographer and author of five photography books that has traveled to 45 countries for assignments. The former soldier and U.S. Army combat photographer has taught hundreds of photography workshops for almost two decades. A 2016, 2017 and 2018 Top Writer for Quora, his partial credits include Newsweek, Parade, Playboy, Rangefinder, Maxim, Rangefinder, New York Times, Stars & Stripes, and various other publications.
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