Bounce cards, bounce disks and reflectors are extremely useful but often neglected tools for shooting video or photos. They may not be sexy or high tech but they can make a huge difference in the quality of your image by adding additional fill light. Plus because they’re not electric they don’t take up a power outlet or make the room any hotter when they’re in use (unlike some film and video lights). Because reflectors are not battery powered they’re also easy to use outdoors to add some extra fill light to a person’s face (and they tend to be light to carry as well!). Some reflectors are also collapsible so they’re easy to travel with. In this article we’re going to take a look at some of the most popular professional reflectors for video as well as bounce disks for portraiture photography and bounce cards for video.
The best bounce cards & lighting reflectors for video and photography
First up is a standard round reflector for photo or video use. This is a normal size (approximately 1 meter wide, or
3.5 feet) collapsible disk reflector. It folds into a compact 15 inch wide (35cm wide) round carrying bag which is included. This bounce disc is translucent, meaning it allows a small amount of light to get through to be used as diffusion but it also comes with reversible covers that can make it pure white, pure black (for light absorbtion/light blocking), gold or silver colored. These covers attach with a zipper. If you don’t have a standard bounce reflector in your lighting kit, this is a basic model to start with. It may not have any specialty flair but nearly every professional cinematographer or photographer has something simple like this in their lighting kit to add fill light to a subject’s face.
Note: if you plan to use this reflector on a set (as opposed to outdoors), you’ll probably want a lighting stand with a reflector holder too.
Here’s a kit that contains a 5 in one reflector (with diffusion, white, silver, black and gold surfaces), plus a lighting stand and a reflector holder arm to position the bounce disk with. The reflector disk that it comes with also features two hand grips which is, well, handy for when someone needs to hold the reflector by hand (large reflectors can often be a struggle to control when there’s any wind so the hand grips on either side are a welcome feature). This reflector for film and video is 43 inches wide (110 cm), so that’s about three feet seven inches wide when it’s expanded. When you collapse the disc so it fits into the included carrying case it’s only 15 inches wide.
Note: It’s a good idea to get a film sandbag for the legs of the lighting stand to weigh it down so it doesn’t tip over or accidentally get knocked over.
If you need a full body length reflector, here’s a good option. This flat panel rectangular reflector measures about four and a half feet tall (140cm) by more than 3 feet wide (100cm) and can provide ample bounce lighting for a standing person. It comes with white reflector fabric, black light absorbant fabric, plus silver and gold fabric which you can swap out. This reflector kit for photo/video use also comes with a lighting stand and mounting gear. You may want to get a film sandbag for the legs of the stand to weigh it down so it doesn’t tip over or accidentally get knocked over.
The Wescott Scrim Jim is an ingenuis reflector product that folds up into a compact carrying case (included). It can serve as a large full body sized reflector or as a difussion panel to soften the impact of light, depending on what type of fabric you have attached to it. The frame is made of ulra-lightweight, ultra-strong aircraft aluminum and it snaps together quickly and easily. This kit comes with both a 3/4 stop difussion fabric panel and a reversible white/silver fabric panel. You can also get a set of c-stands with possibly a set of two double clamps to hold the scrim in place. This Scrim Jim is 42 inches x 72 inches (3.5 feet x 6 feet or 106cm x 182cm), although Scrim Jims are available in different sizes too.
Note: It’s a good idea to get a film sandbag for the legs of the c-stand to weigh it down so it doesn’t tip over or accidentally get knocked over.
Umbrellas can be used as light diffusers particularly in photography with flash bulbs, but also less commonly in video setups sometimes. Typically a light is positioned away from the subject and towards the umbrella, as seen in this umbrella reflector kit, which then bounces the light towards the subject. The result is a nice diffused, bounced light that evenly covers your subject.
Frequently asked questions about bounce discs and reflectors
How do you suspend a bounce disc and position it in a lighting setup without holding it? The best solution is to use a lighting stand with a reflector holder to do this task so a person doesn’t have to continuously hold a bounce panel by hand. This combination is made up of a lighting stand or a heavy duty c-stand, plus a boom arm of some kind which holds the reflector disc and allows you to position it at the right angle to light your subject. Clamps can also be used, depending on your setup. We recommend always using film sandbags for the legs of the lighting stand so it doesn’t either tip over in the wind (if you’re outdoors) or get knocked over by a person tripping on a leg.
Is there a difference between reflectors for photography and bounce discs for video? Not really. Reflectors come in all shapes and sizes and pretty much any reflector or diffuser can be used for either film or video or photography regardless of how it’s marketed. These days most lighting equipment manufacturers will market to both still photographers as well as filmmakers because reflectors are equally applicable to both forms of image capture.
Can you recommend some lights to use with these reflectors? We have several articles about lighting. Here are some that may interest you: Cheap LED Video Lights & LED Lighting Kits, Best Interview Lighting Kits for Documentary Filmmakers, Best Small & Compact Portable Video Lighting Kits.