Photography Tutorial: How to Create a Low-Budget Reflector or Diffusor

In this tutorial you will learn how to make a collapsable disc reflector or diffuser out of a vehicle sun shade for about $10. You may even find them at a resale store for $0.99 like I did!

End result:
How to Create a Low-Budget Reflector or Diffusor Final Image

avatar k5683

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Practice tutorial


Step 1

First, go to your local resale stores like Goodwill or Salvation Army to see if you can find any vehicle sun shades. I found 4 packages, brand new for 99 cents each. If you don't feel like searching for any on sale, you can find them for around $8-$10 in Meijer, Walmart or a local store of your choice.

Step 2

As you'll notice in the picture, there are two discs in the single shade. With a pair of scissors, cut down the middle of the two discs to separate them.

Step 3

Now, with a pair of scissors, cut closely around the edge of the disc, removing the excess fabric. For photographing purposes, the scissors are balanced on the table, not held by an invisible person :)

Step 4

Be careful not to cut through the seams that hold the collapsable frame.

Step 5

With a clamp, you can attach the reflector to something to hold it in place and direct your light toward the disc reflector so the light bounces off of it. You can also have someone hold the disc reflector to reflect the sun onto your subject if you are shooting outdoors.
The silver disc pictured here has a mint colored backside. The black disc pictured here has a silver backside.
I used the silver and mint as a diffuser by placing a lamp directly behind the disc because the fabric was a bit more see-through than the black and silver disc. You will see this in action in the next couple of steps.

Step 6

In this photo, I did not use the disc to diffuse the light; the light is shining directly onto the subject. As you'll notice, the strong light produces harder shadows and more reflections on the subject.

Step 7

In this photo, I place the disc between the subject and a lamp shining toward the subject. As you will notice, the disc diffuses the light to soften the shadows and spread the light out more evenly.
There are many types of vehicle sun shades, so depending on what type you find will depend on what it can be used for. There are some sun shades that are made from very reflective silver foil like material that would be great for making your lights more powerful.

Thank you for looking at my tutorial.

Step 8

I taped a piece of plastic onto the edge of the reflector and poked a hole through it, so that I could put wire (from a hanger) through it. I did this on the opposite side also. For steadiness, you can add two more on each side.

Step 9

Squeeze the wire in the middle and you can put this through your umbrella/light holder. You can adjust the wire anyway so that you can curve the reflector more or less.

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avatar jelguoce
jelguoce says:

I'll try this one.. thanks for this tip...

(5 years and 1343 days ago)
avatar RaihanMazumder


(5 years and 994 days ago)

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