A Photographer’s Best Friend: The Scrim


A scrim was used in this shot to cut down the harshness of direct sunlight. Nikon D750 Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART @ f/2 1/800s ISO 180

It’s a nice sunny day and you want to get some portraits with your friends, but you just end up with harsh shadows across everyone’s face with squinting eyes from the glaring sun. What’s a photographer to do? Get a scrim!

What is a scrim?

A scrim in photography is a piece of fabric or fine wire mesh that is used to reduce the harshness and intensity of light. They are typically used by placing the scrim in between the subject and the light source. The most common scrim is the one found in a 5-in-1 reflector. They are a cheap and great way to get into light modification.

How do I use it?

This is easiest with an extra set of hands, but basically you just have to place your subject in the shadow of the scrim. You can change the softness of the light by moving the scrim closer or further from the subject.

Check out the example below with Mady and Arika. Arika is standing in direct sunlight in the first shot. Notice the harsh shadows across her face. In the second shot I’ve had Mady hold a scrim just out of frame of the camera, between Arika and the Sun.

Instead of crisp shadows, the light bends across her face gradually.

If you don’t have an extra person to hold your scrim you can always use a light stand or tripod and some spring clamps(you can find them at home depot for about a dollar).

Items used in this article

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CowboyStudio's 40x60 inch oval 5-in-1 reflector.

Fotodiox 32 inch disc 5-in-1 reflector

Nikon D750

Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART