It can’t be denied. There’s something special about reflections that makes them a unique aspect of photography. Maybe it’s because a reflection just like a photograph is a gateway to another world, parallel but restricted. Also just like photography, reflections are a simplification of our world; they turn a 3D reality into a 2D representation.
In a way, photography can make ”reality” and reflections more equal, by cramming the former into 2D while retaining the natural, 2D state of the latter.
Before we get into the exciting art of photographing reflections, let’s think a bit more about why they’re so attractive, and how we can find new ways to photograph them. Since you’re definitely going to have your own ideas about this mystery, I’d love it if you shared them in the comments below at the end of the article.
Why photograph reflections?
Reflections have always had an immediate attraction to me, and I don’t think I’m the only one. They’re like visual illusions dropped into everyday life. They turn the world upside down, add a hint of confusion to a scene, and show us things we can’t immediately see the source of.
For you as a photographer, reflections offer a way to create a certain atmosphere. It can be mystery and confusion, but also vastness, such as sky reflected in a lake, or calmness, as a reflection requires a relatively still surface.
Thanks to their mirroring effect and the interaction with the (unreflected) surroundings, reflections are useful tools if you’re trying to tell a story with your photograph — as you always should!
Where to find reflections
What is your first thought when you think about reflections? Is it a mirror, perhaps, or a beautiful lake on a wind still evening?
One great aspect about photographing reflections is that they can be found in so many places and created by a variety of surfaces. Whether you’re into photographing landscapes, portraits, products, flowers, or street scenes, you can utilize reflections to add something special to your photos.
The most obvious place to find photogenic reflections in nature is in connection with water. And wherever there is life, there is water, so the opportunities are basically endless. It can be anything from large bodies of water and wet sand on a beach to a raindrop on a frog’s head.
For more urban photographers, water is of course still an option (puddles are sometimes great for other things than jumping into), but buildings provide another world of options. Start with shop windows and glass buildings, and go on from there. Reflections are fun and beautiful, and we don’t hesitate to incorporate them into our cityscapes.
If you don’t feel like leaving the house or find yourself at a party, do not despair, you can still exercise your photography skills. Mirrors are the obvious surface to use to add another dimension or an interesting twist to your photograph. But windows and polished tables or counters are also great. And don’t forget the opportunities of a well-placed wine glass!
How to capture reflections
Photographing reflections is pretty easy, but there are a few things to think about before and while you’re doing it. These are just a few tips:
- Unless intended, make sure you don’t show up in the reflection. Change your angle and move around to find the best place from which to take your photograph so you don’t appear in the image.
- Framing is essential! Use the elements of the space you’re in to create an interesting composition and experiment to discover what creates the greatest effect.
- Lighting might be a bit tricky. For instance, in a picture of a natural scene reflected in a lake, the reflection is often quite a lot darker than the reflected scene. Use that to create an effect in your image or use filters to even out the lighting difference. It’s up to you!
Those are some of the basics of one of my favorite types of photography. Do you like photographing reflections, and if so, why? What is it about them you find attractive?
If you have photographs to show or tips to share, I’d love to see them in the comments below!