Have you ever wondered whether you could utilize a mirror to light your scenes on set? Actually, it could be your best ally on a variety of outdoor situations, especially when you’re working on a shoestring budget. Not only that, but you can also build multiple lighting setups and take advantage of the ultimate and most powerful source of light – the sun. As these reflect almost 100% of the emitted light, you could even use them on an entirely overcast day. Jordy Vandeput of Cinecom.net covers five different lighting techniques with mirrors in another excellent and extremely helpful video tutorial.
The simplest way to utilize the sunlight is by bouncing it with a mirror from a distance to create a natural backlight source that will eventually separate your talent from the background, thus making your shot look more appealing. On those occasions, you shouldn’t worry too much about the actual distance between the mirror and your subject as odds are the light would be bright enough to do the trick.
You can also use a simple diffuser to soften the harsh sunlight and utilize it as a key and then bounce it on the opposite side of your talent with a mirror as a backlight. That way, you will eliminate the flat looking image produced by the direct sunlight and lessen the harsh contrast between light and shadow areas on your talent.
The third trick can mainly be used on overcast days. A standard reflector probably won’t be able to create enough illumination, so it would be much more efficient to bounce the environmental light with a mirror instead. This setup would be perfect for a key light to create a more dynamic shot.
The fourth technique covered in the video shows how you can easily emulate water reflections on your talent’s face. This time, you should use aluminum foil paper as a reflector. Hold the wrinkled piece of foil underneath your actor’s face and bounce the sunlight to mimic that flickering reflection. Typically, the two different sides of that material would produce different effects, so try both and see which type of reflections would work better for your scene.
Lastly, you can use a mirror as a cooky. Those are usually used to cast shadows or silhouettes to produce patterned illumination and block some portions of the light in multiple shapes. To get the effect with a mirror, you can simply stick different shapes of gaffer tape to its surface and then point a source of light into the mirror itself. The reflected light should produce a very similar effect.
I’m sure you can recall other similar techniques with mirrors to control the light on set from your personal experience. Feel free to share those below in the comments.