Shooting Reflections


Reflections are often seen in photographs, whether as the main subject or to support the point of interest.  There is something about reflections that draw the viewer’s eye to look more closely. Objects or scenes that are reflected can be subtly different from the real thing and this slight distortion can make us do a double take. They can also doubly enhance the beauty of a subject, such as with nature where the mountains and trees are reflected in the lakes or seas. You can even use them as a tool to capture creative self-portraits.

There are many kinds of reflective surfaces which you can make full use of to spice up your shot:

Mirrors – these are fun to play with when you want to do some experimenting with your composition.  Certain angles of the mirror can make the subject appear different as well. Try using more than one mirror in your setup and see where it will take you. They say that mirrors do not lie but I believe they can. Some mirrors are not perfectly flat and the reflections they capture will look stretched out or askew in some portions. These are the kind you see in fun houses, carnivals or horror movies.  Shots showing these reflections can really spark interest since they offer such a distorted view of reality.  Just be aware of the angle of your lens since your camera or you might inadvertently be reflected in the mirror and captured in the shot.

Metal – chrome bumpers, spoons, toasters, Christmas balls, anything shiny and metallic can be very reflective. Those that have imperfections such as tarnish or dirt and grime can add mood and interest to the reflection.

Water – probably the most used reflective surface in photography, water is so versatile that it can come in different forms. Here are just a few:

  •  Droplets – images of water droplets with reflections caught in them seem to be the rage these days. Have you seen those images of dew drops lined in a row on a leaf with the reflection of a tiny flower in each one? The droplets themselves can already appear pretty, and then to add interesting reflections is double the visual pleasure. 
  •  Puddles – these can show the surroundings in an imaginative and uncommon way. After the rain, puddles usually accumulate on city streets and sidewalks. Buildings, crowds, or light posts can become reflected in these puddles and images of tall structures in a puddle on the ground can provide one a fresh sense of perspective.
  •  Large bodies of water – only nature can provide a reflective surface worthy of the grandeur it can present to us humble humans. Seas, oceans, or lakes can reflect snowcapped mountains, the setting sun, or towering trees.  They can also mirror those that float on them such as ships, ducks or fallen leaves. These bodies of water offer a sense of balance and symmetry to the image since they provide a horizon line which bisects the frame.

Uncommon surfaces – there are quite a lot of other surfaces that are less used in photographs because they are hardly noticed. Reflections caught in someone’s eyes, doorknobs, shiny buttons, bubbles, and the like can present stunning images. You just need to be observant of the ordinary things around you that can show reflections. The less predictable they are, the more creative your shot will be.

Reflections can be fascinating in themselves but you can also mix and match them with other styles you might already be familiar with, such as silhouettes or abstraction. Also, partially reflected subjects can give the impression of mystery while double reflections, such as with two mirrors facing each other, can add a sense of surrealism and quirkiness. The more you practice shooting reflections, the more tricks and effects you will discover.


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