There are four main types of light reflectors when it comes to photography. Types not in the size or shape but the overall reflective surface or lack of. These four types are;

  • Silver
  • Gold
  • White
  • Black

Typically, the translucent portion of a reflector doesn’t reflect much light hence it’s not really a reflector so I will not discuss it in this article.

Types vs shapes

Wanting to know the types of light reflectors is very different from the various shapes of reflectors. The types in this article does not correspond to one particular name brand but instead a general overview of the different surfaces on a light reflector.

Light reflectors can come in various configurations such as one reflective side while the other side is just the back of the reflective surface. Another may be where the reflector has two different surfaces on either side of the accessory and lastly and most commonly. The 5 in 1 reflector which has the four basic types and a translucent material.

Silver Light Reflector

The silver light reflector is great for intense light redirection. It is virtually a tin foil or a mirror bouncing the light onto your subject. This strong light can be advantageous if your shooting style has lots of shadows in them but if you want a softer look on your image then this may not be the best fit.


The silver however does a great job of picking up the light indoors more than the white reflector. Its ability to dial in on a specific portion of your subject is great once you learn how to use the reflector properly and bend the light in the right direction.

Another good reason to use the silver side of the reflector is that it doesn’t change the color temperature of the light. This is important when color is important especially for wedding dresses and other items that requires the camera to see its original color in natural light.


A downfall of the silver however is that it can almost be as annoying as having the sun directly in your eyes. Hence it should be used wisely.

Gold Light Reflector

The gold side of a light reflector is rarely used, mainly because many photographers don’t know how to take advantage of its beautiful light.


Of course, it makes no sense to use the gold side during bright midday sun or indoors as the gold will… taint your light color. In other words, the gold reflector will cast a yellowish light color onto your subject no matter what the original main light color was.

The trick to the Gold light reflector is to know its downfalls and make them its best quality.

Sunset photo shoots are the best time to use the gold reflector. Sometimes you want that warm golden color on your subject, especially if it’s a beach sunset however the weather doesn’t always work with you.

No matter the gold reflector will that bland sunset light and make your subject seem as if they were being bathed in pure golden sunset rays.

White Light Reflector

The white reflector is probably the most used type of reflector. It does not reflect a ton of light like the silver, but it does offer a softer less ‘contrasty’ light on your subject. This is often the most preferred type of light to be used in portraits especially head shots because the color temperature of the main source of light is not altered only lessened by the reflection.

It is good to note however, that the white reflective surface does reduce your main light by usually a stop and a half of light. This is not a problem since it is often used to reduce the shadows of your subject and not match your main light intensity.

To benefit from this reflector its best to have it as close as possible to your subject to gain maximum effect. The larger the reflector the softer the light will be to reduce the darkness of the shadows.

Black Light Reflector?

Okay I know black doesn’t reflect light and you are correct. The question has been asked many times why have a black reflector or should you even call it a reflector?

All good questions. Technically it’s not a reflector but a sub-tractor of light. That’s right the black portion of the reflector is used to remove light or rather absorb much of the light that may be hitting your subject.

It is also used as a go between or a ‘gobo’ This go between, literally sits between your light source and you subject to block any light from hitting it, you may have seen the behind the scenes of a commercial with this black rectangular foam sheets near the light or close to the subject. Well they are gobo’s and the black part of the photography light reflector can be used in the same way. Read more about the Black gobo HERE.

Translucent Light Reflector?

The translucent portion of a typical 5 in 1 reflector is usually the base of the reflector. It holds the overall shape and structure of the reflector. This is where the various shapes such as circular, oval, rectangle or triangle will come in to play.

Although, like the black surface the translucent portion does not reflect much light nor does it absorb light, but it does help to create shade. No not shade as in a disrespect shade as in a covering to create a uniform soft light on your subject.

To do this the translucent portion is placed between you main light and your subject, this reduces the overall direction and harshness of the light on your subject.

This translucent portion is actually known as a scrim. Read more about this portion HERE.


Knowing what each surface or type of reflector does will allow you to produce better images through the control of light on your subject. Portrait photographer, product and many other genres of photographers use reflectors in various ways.

They help reduce the shadows of a ‘contrasty’ image, add a bit of color, make a spot light image for a bit of punch to your image and can subtract light or diffuse light. Its good to note that if you do purchase a 5 in 1 reflector, that of the 5 only 3 offer reflective capabilities. The Silver, Gold and White. The other two, Black and Translucent have other purposes