The Use of Reflections in Your Photography

The Use of Reflections in Your Photography

I love using reflections for my landscape photography. A nice sunrise or sunset with a reflection of the colored sky in a pond or lake is very rewarding. But you can find reflections everywhere. I tell you about it in this article.

I think every landscape photographer has captured a nice sunset or sunrise together with its reflection at least once. The results are rewarding, especially when there are wonderful colors in the sky. Sometimes, the lake or pond works almost as a perfect mirror, making it possible to flip the image without anyone noticing it.

A reflection is always a bit darker compared to the sky. After all, it is reflecting the existing light, and some of that light gets lost in the way. This might not be the scientific explanation, but that’s not important. We often tend to reduce the brightness of the sky to match the tone of the reflection or vice versa, for that matter. As long as it is aesthetically pleasing, that's okay. You just have to be careful not to make the reflection much brighter than the source of the light. At that point, it gets unrealistic.

Reflections are not limited to a lake or other large surface of water. You can find reflections in a lot of situations. Besides water, I have found reflections in glass, metal, windows, wet surfaces, and mirrors, of course. Sometimes, reflections can be found in the most unexpected places.

That is why I decided to write this article for your inspiration, I hope. Perhaps you will be inspired to use reflections even when you didn’t expect one to be present. Some of these may sound logical or familiar, but I hope I have listed at least one that you never looked at.

This is the obvious one, and I already mentioned this at the start of this article. A calm water surface works best, reflecting the world above it almost perfectly. If the water gets ripples, the reflection will be distorted. More movement means a less recognizable reflection until the point is reached when it is only reflecting light and color. You probably have seen this at sea during sunset, when there is no clear reflection of the sun itself, only a distorted light column.

Just find a reasonably calm water surface and try out different heights for the best possible result. I have found a very low position above the water works very well.

A mirror is also obvious. We use a mirror to look at ourselves, and that is one of the moments you can use to photograph people in a creative way. I use it a lot during wedding, and I find it very rewarding. Just be careful not to capture the reflection of yourself. It happens very easily, and you will only notice it afterwards when you are culling through the results.

A window is used to look through. But you may have noticed how you can see yourself in the window when the other side is much darker. It works like a mirror. This way, a window can reflect your subject if you shoot from a flat angle. It is possible to eliminate the ability to see through it. The steeper the angle becomes, the easier it is to see objects shining through the window. 

Although a window is also made of glass, a glass surface doesn’t have to be a window. I always keep an eye out for glass balustrades or wall coverings when photographing people. I love how these can add to the overall feeling of the image. Glass is very reflective, especially from a flat angle, as I was mentioning before. But again, just be careful not to capture yourself in the frame when shooting almost straight at such a surface.

Metal comes in many different forms, as does plastic. Both can be used to reflect your subject. Laminated cardboard works well also. If you think what kind of metal or plastic surfaces can be used, just think of reflections in cars. When photographing cars, these reflections are often reduced as much as possible. Just remember these reflections can also be used to your benefit. 

When it's a rainy day, just look at the streets and see the rain puddles form. These can act like little mirrors that you can use in many creative ways. Small and isolated puddles can used as windows on the pavement that show the world above it. But a larger puddle can also act like a small pond. After or during rainfall, it is possible to find reflections in the most unexpected places. These reflections will also work very well at night. Just try it out.

I’ve had situations where a puddle of one square meter looked like a enormous water surface, which surprised the bridal couple. They saw me lying down next to that small puddle, but never could have guessed it would look like a lake. That's how a puddle can be transformed just by shooting from a very low angle.

If you don’t have a rain puddle available, you can make your own. Just bring your own bottle of water with you. Pour it down on a flat surface, and you can create your own puddle for a reflection.

Do you have a smartphone? I bet you do. Just remove any fingerprints from its surface and make sure it is showing a blank screen. Better still, turn it off for a moment. This way you can use it as a black mirror. I sometimes use it for shooting wedding rings. The workable surface becomes even larger if you have an iPad to your disposal.

Have you ever thought of showing a picture on the smartphone or IPad while using it as a mirror? It can be fun to do so — not every time, but once in a while. But that counts for everything, doesn’t it?

If you hate reflections or if they work against you, just try to get rid of them. Look out for another composition without the reflection. Or you can use a polarizing filter to reduce the reflection. The amount of reduction depends on the angle of the light that is reflected. If the angle is correct, the reflection will be removed completely.

Just remember, using reflections is fun to do. Don’t use them every single time. After a while, it becomes just another trick that loses its attraction. But then again, there are so many ways of using reflections, it may never get boring.

Do you use reflections in your photography? Please share your thoughts and perhaps even examples in the comments below. I am looking forward to reading your ideas about it.

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