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Mirror Image: Master Reflections in Photography

composition creative technique tips May 29, 2024

Reflections offer unique opportunities for creativity in photography, transforming ordinary scenes into extraordinary compositions. Whether you're capturing the mirrored surfaces of buildings, serene reflections in water, or abstract images caused by reflective surfaces, mastering reflections is a great way to create fantastic photographs . This guide will explore various techniques and settings to help you make the most of reflective surfaces in your work.


Reflections in Buildings

Cityscapes provide a plethora of opportunities for capturing reflections, particularly in glass buildings. These structures often reflect the sky, other buildings, and bustling streets, adding layers of complexity and interest to your photographs. Look for reflections of old buildings in new, or vice versa.


Technical Tips:

Angle and Perspective: Experiment with different angles to find the most striking reflections. Position yourself so that the reflection complements the main subject. Remember, the angle of incidence is equal to the angle of reflection. This means the angle at which light hits the reflective surface will be the same as the angle at which it bounces off, helping you to predict and control the reflections.


Time of Day:

Shooting during the golden hour or blue hour can add a warm or cool tint to your reflections, enhancing the overall mood of the photograph.


Reflections in Water

Water is one of the most common and versatile reflective surfaces. From lakes and rivers to puddles after a rainstorm, water reflections can create stunning symmetrical compositions and add a sense of tranquillity to your images.


Technical Tips:

Still Water: Look for calm, undisturbed water to achieve the clearest reflections. Early mornings are often best as the wind is typically minimal.

Long Exposure: Use a long exposure to smooth out any ripples in the water, enhancing the mirror-like quality of the reflection. This technique is particularly effective in low light conditions such as early evening.

Focus and Depth of Field: Ensure both the reflection and the subject are in focus. Use a small aperture (high f-stop number) to achieve a greater depth of field.


Abstract Reflections

Abstract photography allows for creativity and experimentation. Reflections can distort and alter reality, creating intriguing and sometimes surreal images.


Technical Tips:

Close-ups and Details: Focus on small sections of reflective surfaces to create abstract compositions. Look for patterns, textures, and colours, then fill the frame with them.

Movement: Incorporate movement, such as ripples in water or passing vehicles reflected in windows, to add a dynamic element to your photographs.

Multiple Reflections: Use multiple reflective surfaces to create complex, layered images. This can be done with mirrors, glass, or water.


Mirror Finish Subjects

Objects with a mirror finish, such as polished metal sculptures or glossy surfaces, can reflect their surroundings, creating unique compositions. This technique is often used in product photography to highlight the subject in a visually appealing way.


Technical Tips:

Cleanliness: Ensure the reflective surface is spotless to avoid distracting smudges or fingerprints.

Lighting: Use controlled lighting to highlight the reflective quality of the surface without causing harsh reflections or glare.

Background and Environment: Pay attention to what is being reflected. A cluttered background can detract from the subject. Consider using a plain or complementary background to enhance the reflection.


Reflections of Sky in Windows

Windows can often appear dull and uninspiring in photographs. However, capturing the reflection of the sky in a window can add depth and interest to your images.


Technical Tips:

Angle: Shoot from an angle where the sky is reflected in the window. This technique works particularly well with interesting cloud formations or during sunset.

Exposure: Balance the exposure between the window reflection and the rest of the scene to ensure neither is overexposed or underexposed.

Composition: Use the reflection to add an element of symmetry to your composition.


Reflective Backgrounds in Studio Photography

In studio photography, using reflective backgrounds can add a professional and polished look to still life or product photography. Reflective surfaces such as acrylic sheets, glass, or even metallic foils can create striking reflections.


Technical Tips:

Background Choice: Choose a reflective background that complements your subject. Black acrylic can create a dramatic reflection, while white acrylic can provide a clean, minimalist look.

Lighting: Position your lights to control the reflections. Use diffused lighting to soften the reflections and avoid harsh glare.

Positioning: Shooting angle is critical to ensure you aren’t photographing a reflection of the studio rather than the subject.


Reflections offer endless possibilities for creative expression in photography. By mastering the use of reflective surfaces, you can add depth, interest, and a unique perspective to your images. Experiment with different techniques, angles, and lighting to find what works best for your style. Remember, practice is key, so keep experimenting and refining your skills. Unlock your photographic potential by embracing the beauty of reflections.


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