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Photographing reflections

Photographing reflections - Reflections are every where so why not make the most of them?

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Image by Nick Jenkins: Water droplets (rain) on a CD that was outdoors after a rain shower. Shot using a polariser to show the colours to best effect. The reflections in each small water droplet are identical.  
Reflections are all around us. From the sun's glow paving a path across a still lake to the picture of a busy street in a shop window there's a reflection for almost every type of photographer to capture. The most obvious place to start would be with a landscape photographer. Shots of trees reflected in a lake are a popular choice, something which landscape photographer Nick Jenkins is quite used to capturing: “The key to photographing reflections is making the reflection obvious. The picture has to be about the reflection as you don't want people searching for it. They have to look at the image and say I get why you shot it it's a tree reflected in a pond.
Early mornings are the best times for capturing reflections as there's less wind and the water is clearer although if you want to capture a sun setting over a lake then obviously early morning isn't an option. The best time to do this is when the sun is low in the sky as you get the golden path guiding you into the picture, across the water into the sun. This photograph always has great impact, it works even better if you turn your camera round to portrait as this way your eyes travel from front to back, straight to the sun rather than side to side.
Although early mornings are recommended for photographing reflections, the time of year you should take them in is a little less specific. You can shoot reflections at any point during the year though Nick favours the light colours of spring or the reds and auburns of autumn: “They look great reflected especially if there's a bright, blue sky. The green trees of summer don't seem to have the same impact as ones in spring. Having said that you don't have to photograph reflections with blue skies, in fact it would be nice to get away from that. It can be distracting and if you wanted to be mysterious you could just show a hint of the bridge or tree and not have any sky in at all. Just remember it has to be about the reflection not the sky.”
Photo by Nick Jenkins: Taken on a Nikon D2X, using a tripod, polariser and Gitzo tripod. Lens was a Sigma f2.8 70-200mm. Location is Llyn Elsi - excellent for reflections - near Betws y Coed, Snowdonia.
When it comes to technique it isn't as easy as just snapping a picture and walking away, you need to put some thought into what you're doing. Nick sees it like baking a cake, you may have all the right ingredients but if you don't know how to use them or don't use them correctly the cake wont turn out that great. “You should crop in close, crop out what doesn't belong and if you don't want a breeze make sure it isn't there when you take the picture. It's not hard but it's not straight forward either.
Polarisers are something which aren't that straight forward either as they can enhance or completely kill a reflection. It can remove a reflection completely but if tweaked only slightly it can work.
Sometimes you can use reflections in moving water. Marines or by quays can make interesting locations for reflective photography.
When photographing reflections in nature you're creating a faithful recording whereas the other form gives you a chance to be more creative, people see it as an art - It's a great way to experiment and play.”
Places where modern apartments are reflected into water make interesting pictures you could also just show the reflection and ignore the building or object that is creating it, the possibilities are almost endless.
To create this arty effect you need a fast shutter speed and don't forget to take the polariser off too.
I want to capture the movement, it doesn't need blurring any more. For nature shots I use a medium aperture and and a quick shutter speed that way if I do get a breeze it doesn't change the picture. I take my photographs on a Nikon D300 at the moment. Lens wise I have a 24-70 f2/.8 zoom, a 70-200 f/2.8 zoom and a 17-35 f/2.8 zoom which I don't use so much for reflections as I tend to stay away from wide angles. I also use a tripod, this is a must as your reflections must be sharp and have clarity. If you're reflections aren't sharp you're wasting your time.
As well as landscapes, why not think out of the box a little and use reflections in your wedding photography.  

The classic use of a reflection in wedding photography is to position the bride facing a full length mirror, so when you shoot, you get both the back and front of the dress,” said wedding photographer Chris Hanley.

More clichéd are the reflections of the couple in the chrome of a vintage cars, or the wing mirrors of a Rolls Royce.  But one reflection from a car which will always get the “ahh” factor is one of the flower girls reflected in the car window as the bride pulls up for the ceremony.  

Reflections can also be used to give you a different perspective on the slightly clichéd shots. Instead of photographing the couple signing the register straight on, shoot it through a mirror to get a unique shot out of something so commonly used.
I'm always on the look out for striking reflective surfaces to create eye catching bridal portraits too,” said Chris.

Don't over-look reflective items such as the piano in the image above either as these can create classy but unique portraits.  

Reflections don't have to be just used with the bride either.  A groom can look striking against a black, reflective surface as the images show.

High reflective surfaces also work well for shots of items belonging to the couple.  Wedding rings and even shots of shoes look great reflected.

Just use your surroundings for inspiration, try to avoid clichés and be original and inventive.”

Car photography is another place reflections can either help or hinder.

"In essence you are only ever capturing one subject, and that is light. Without it, you wouldn't have an image. Using reflections in photography is complex, but the way I use reflections is in the process of creating an image, not the actual subject itself," said Ben Lowden. "When photographing cars, you tend to avoid reflections in an image rather than capturing them, and this is normally in the bodywork. The last thing you want is to see an image of yourself with a camera in a door panel! Most cars photographed in a studio will be done with constant tungsten lighting, with a mix or direct and indirect methods. Indirect lighting is used by lighting the cove of a studio, which then reflects into the car to create the desired effect. A photographer would always stand with the camera and direct assistants to move the lights until the light fell perfectly as desired. It is always a constant battle to get the right position for a light and using poly boards to ensure that equipment is not seen reflected in the bodywork."

To find out more about Nick Jenkins, Chris Hanley and Ben Lowden vist their websites.
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