We often try to avoid reflections in our photos. That’s why we use polarization filters. But reflections can also make your photos more interesting. In this article, I have some advice on how to find and use amazing reflections for your photo.
There are two kinds of reflection: the one we don’t want and the one we are fond of. The former is often just a reflection of light, nothing more. We remove this with the use of a polarization filter. The latter are often reflections of the subject itself, mostly in a lake or pond. It can turn something like a landscape photo into something special.
The use of reflections is not limited to landscapes, of course. It’s something that can be used for any type of photography. So, if you’re not a landscape photographer, this article is also for you.
The Benefits of Using Reflections and Where to Find Them
A reflection in a photo can be used to make a better composition. It can also make a less interesting part of the frame more interesting. Sometimes, it helps in balancing the overall distribution of luminosity in a photo. Or it is just great to have, which can be enough reason to add a reflection in the shot.
It’s easy to find a reflection in a large body of water. There are many examples of this kind of reflection, especially in landscapes and portrait or wedding photos. Such a reflective surface is not always available, but it might surprise you how often we oversee the other possibilities. I have seven places where you might find a suitable reflection. Some may be obvious, others may be easily overseen.
1. Using a Rather Insignificant Amount of Water
Although a large water surface makes it easy to get a complete reflection of something like a landscape, you’re not limited to that. Even a small and shallow pool of water can be enough for a nice reflection.
I have captured such a reflection as an example in a small pool just after a rain shower. The amount of water was small and the depth less than a centimeter or so. But it can be enough to get a great reflection. The only thing to do is to get close to the water.
For this example I placed my camera on the ground, almost in the pool itself. With a wide angle lens, it became possible to transform this small amount of water into a large water surface. I used an 18mm focal length on an APS-C camera. But you can experiment with the focal length to find the best field of view.
2. Using a Simple Mirror
A mirror is probably one of the more obvious places to find a reflection. In fact, it’s so obvious that it’s often overlooked. A lot of photographers even hate mirrors because they reflect themselves too. But a mirror can be used to your advantage if you let it play a part in your composition.
I use mirrors a lot in my wedding photography. It not only gives a reflection, but it can also hide an uninteresting part of the room you’re in or it can hide a lot of clutter. Just try to get the camera close to the mirror, and it may give an unexpected result. At the same time, you avoid getting in the frame yourself.
3. Using a Shop Window
You may think a shop window is not suitable to reflect the subject. After all, you can see products showcased through it. But it can be quite effective, nevertheless. Combine looking through the shop window with the reflection of a subject, and it may give a great result.
But if you place your camera very close to the shop window itself, it will start to act as a normal mirror. Just keep an eye out for lights inside the shop window, because they will shine through this self-created mirror. Try out different angles for the desired effect.
4. Using a Normal Glass Pane
Just like a shop window, a glass pane works in the same way. You can find these in a lot of locations. Modern buildings have a lot of glass, even balustrades. Again, get close, and it will act like a mirror. Create a bit of distance, and it will become translucent, allowing a lot of creativity.
If you have a chrome surface available, you can use it as a mirror. Even polished metal may work, although the reflection can be a bit on the dull side. You can find the chrome reflections in wheel caps, car bumpers, door handles, and exhaust pipes. Even the paint on cars can work as a mirror.
The only thing to be careful for is your own reflection. Because chrome parts are almost never a flat surface, you can end up appearing in the reflection. A longer focal length may reduce that risk, since you will turn into a small insignificant dot at the distance.
With this kind of reflection there is a risk of distortion, changing your subject into strange forms and shapes. Always look careful how the subject is transformed, especially when those subjects are people.
6. Using a Perspex Plate
Perspex plates are also wonderful mirrors. In contrast to glass or glass mirrors, the material is relatively lightweight and easy to take with you on location. Again, the secret is to get a low angle relative to the Perspex plate. This can also hide imperfections and scratches in the Perspex.
I have used it for portraits and product photography. A small Perspex plate can also be used on location. It doesn’t weigh that much, and, in contrast to glass or a mirror, there is almost no risk of breaking. You can use it for photographing mushrooms or flowers, for instance. For this, you only need a small piece, as long as you keep it close to your lens.
7. Using a Smartphone or Tablet
One reflective surface we all carry with us all the time is the screen of our smartphone. It’s often highly reflective, and it works great for macro photography. I use it for shooting wedding rings together with the bridal bouquet.
If the screen of a smartphone is too small, try to use a tablet. The surface is bigger, thus giving more room for a composition. No matter what you use, a black surface often works best. Or be creative and use another color as a background. Fill your gallery with some images of colors and show them on screen for a background.
Can You Think More Ways to Get a Reflection?
Although these seven ways of finding amazing reflections in your photo are based on the same principle, I believe some of these are often overlooked. Perhaps there are more ways of getting a nice reflection in a photo. If I have overlooked one, please let me know in the comments below. I also invite you to share your most striking photo with a reflection.