As photographers, there’s nothing more fun than visual play – a well-placed shadow, distorted perspective, a filter over your lens, or even something as simple as a reflection. Reflections appear in the most delightfully surprising places and combined with your creative eye can bring you stunning results.
Here are our best tips for photographing reflections – where to find them and techniques for getting the best image on your smartphone and beyond. Test your creative palate and get some amazing photos while you’re at it.
1. Find a Reflective Surface
The first step is easy – find a reflective surface! Once you train your eye for it, you’ll realize that reflective surfaces are literally all around us. Some of the most beautiful reflections are found on the surface of water. Any bodies of water including tiny puddles are perfect for reflection photography.
In addition to water, you can find great reflections on any glass surfaces, shiny cars, a wet tarmac, on ice or even your own sunglasses.
2. Find a Unique Subject
People are amazing subjects for reflection photography, especially if you combine reflections with silhouettes. Of course, you could also use animals, buildings or other inanimate subjects. In fact, you can use pretty much anything as the subject, as long as it stands out and creates an interesting photo.
3. Mix Reality and Reflection
When you start taking reflection photos, it can be tempting to focus on nothing but the reflection. However, your reflection photos should always show a healthy mix of reflection and reality.
Your reflections don’t necessarily have to be huge. Even a relatively small reflection can be an interesting addition to your composition.
4. Eliminate Distractions
The best way to simplify reflection photos is to remove any distractions from the frame so that only the important parts of the image – namely the subject and the reflection – are left.
There is something pure and magical about eliminating everything but your subject and its reflection from the frame. This is more easily done on the beach or next to large bodies of water, so keep that in mind on your next trip to the beach.
5. Get Close to the Surface
One of the best things that you can do to really make your reflection photos stand out – and something that often cannot be done with a DSLR – is getting really close to the reflective surface. Many of the photos I take are taken less than an inch from the surface of water.
This allows you to position your subject with nothing but the sky in the background, put emphasis on the reflection and create a symmetrical photo where the reflection extends towards the horizon.
6. Use Waves for Distortions
Your reflections don’t need to be perfect like a mirror. In fact, reflections become so much more interesting when they are unpredictably distorted by waves.
If there are no waves, then create the waves yourself. If putting your hands in a puddle doesn’t sound like a good idea, you can also create waves with your feet or by throwing a small pebble into the water.
7. Photograph Imperfect Surfaces
While there’s a time and place for beautiful mirror-like reflections, distortions and imperfections in the reflected image can often be just as interesting. In addition to waves, use uneven surfaces to add a unique character to your photos. These add a new dimension to the photo so that it’s interesting not only in the background, but also in the foreground.
8. Emphasize Symmetry
Symmetry is one of the most powerful tools in reflection photography. After all, most reflection photos show some degree of symmetry, and you can easily emphasize it to create a visually dramatic effect.
9. Take Long Exposure Photos
When there is movement in the water but your reflection subjects are not moving, you can take amazing long exposure photos. For that you need a tripod and an app called Slow Shutter Cam, which you should set to Motion Blur mode. From there you can experiment with the other settings.
Long exposure photography allows you to create blurred and dreamy reflections as long as there is some movement in the water.
10. Take Hundreds of Photos
Taking many photos is the one thing that can make a huge difference in your reflection photography. I’m not talking about five or ten photos – I’m talking about hundreds. Let go of your desire to control the scene and take as many photos as you can, occasionally your subjects will align themselves just right for that once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity.