Portraitists have it easy. With dozens of reflector systems to choose from, they can throw a lighting setup together in a snap.
Still-life shooters? Not so much. Reflectors for tabletop product photography are few and far between. Most photographers make their own by wrapping aluminum foil around bricks -- or worse, propping aluminum foil or white foamcore against anything handy.
Such improvised and crude "systems" rarely offer the precision, flexibility, and repeatability required for fine lighting of small objects, and are usually more frustrating than they are fruitful.
That's why I got excited when I saw the LightRight Professional Reflector system. Sold in kit form (11 reflectors for $70, direct; www.lightrightreflector.com), LightRight folding cardboard reflecting panels each provide two surfaces (silver and white) that can be resized and reshaped to help you aim their output with unusual precision.
You can also customize the intensity and shape of the reflected light to match the surface you're illuminating.
Other things to like:The clever keystone design, with a narrower base and larger top reflector, lets you position the device close to your subject without its base appearing in your shot.Sliding magnet system for precisely adjusting the panel's angle of reflection is pretty cool.Reflectors can be trimmed to fit in small or awkward spaces.
Of course, they're not perfect. The smaller reflectors are awfully light and easy to knock over or bump out of position. (I use small dabs of putty to hold them in place.) And they're not sold individually.
In my studio, I nest the 11 LightRight reflectors on a shelf by my shooting table, in order from smallest to largest. When I need to use one, I just reach up and grab the closest in size and shape for the job.