A.I.R – The Portable Affordable Reflector

A.I.R - The Portable Affordable ReflectorThe “A.I.R” = Affordable Inflatable Reflector

There are already a lot of DIY reflector designs out there, which are built of PVC tubes and are definitely great: cheap, easy to build, effective and often collapsible. But there is a drawback: the length of the tubes limits the minimal size of the disassembled reflector.

Tobi Troendle created the A.I.R reflector. Aside from having a cool name it also folds to nothing.

This is of course no problem, if you are working in the studio or transport your equipment in the trunk of your car, but I wanted a small reflector, that I can carry around in my camera bag or even the pockets of my pants, if I need to. After some heavy thinking, the “A.I.R” came to my mind, inspired by those foldable round reflectors you can get everywhere, but without the need to find that glass-fibre-something frame material and work with it. And here is how to build it:


Affordable Inflatable Photography Reflector

  • A bicycle tube of the desired size. Use a “Dunlop” type valve, if you want to inflate it by mouth.
  • An emergency blanket or some reflective cloth (probably more stable…)
  • Some tape (gaffer’s and double sided)
  • Scissors
  • Threat and needle, if working with cloth

Total cost: 0 – 10$, depending on what you already have at home

The building process

Inflate the tube, using the power of your lungs or a pump.

Cut out a rectangular piece of the blanket and crumple it. If you don’t do this, you will probably get strange patterns of reflected light on your subject, causes by the creases in the blanket!

Spread the blanket out and attach it to the floor/table with some tape at its corners. This will keep it flat right where you want it to be.

Affordable Inflatable Photography Reflector

Carefully align the tube on the blanket and fix it with small pieces of double sided tape.

Cut the blanket to a round shape, which is big enough to allow wrapping of the exceeding material around the tube.

Affordable Inflatable Photography Reflector

Wrap the blanket around the tube and glue it to itself with some tape. Gluing on the rubber probably won’t work, because the rubber will stretch and move too much.

Affordable Inflatable Photography Reflector

Affordable Inflatable Photography Reflector

Test drive

After deflating the tube, you can now fold the reflector down to about the size of a big hand.

Affordable Inflatable Photography Reflector

To use it, just unfold, inflate it and reflect the light!

This image was taken with available window light

Affordable Inflatable Photography Reflector

And this one was taken with A.I.R on the left side, reflecting with the silver side of A.I.R.

Affordable Inflatable Photography Reflector

First impressions

The reflector is surprisingly stable, because the blanket works similar to the spokes on a wheel. Using a pump to inflate it, will probably give extra strength to the design, although I still would avoid heavy winds…

A rubber tube will not break like glass fibre or plastic does, so don’t worry about dropping or warping it.

You could use the “A.I.R” as a life raft for your camera, in case your plane crashes or boat sinks! (Just kidding…?)

The silver side seems to add a slight bluish tone to the reflected light, but that totally depends on the material you are using.

The shape of the tube has a nice size for easy handhold operation.

Possible improvements

Adding some slings, in order to attach it some kind of reflector holder (light stand, clamp, tree, whatever)

Using some cloth, thread and needle instead of foil and tape will definitely kick up the design to a more professional appearance and functionality.

You can design “A.I.R”s in all sizes, by using small tubes from bikes for children or huge tubes cut from old inflatable boats.