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Tips On Photographing Reflections On Water

Tips On Photographing Reflections On Water - Here are a few tips on photographing water reflections.

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Landscape and Travel

When you think of reflections the first thing that will probably spring to mind is the classic shot of a lake with a mirror-like reflection of its surroundings in it. Even though these shots look superb they can be tricky to capture so don't overlook shooting a few ripples of movement dancing across the water's surface.

Boat reflection
Above shot: Taken with the Nikon D300 and Tamron 18-270mm VC PZD superzoom at 110mm, ISO200, f/11, 1/500 sec and VC on. 

The shot below is a wider view of the same scene shown above. Again, taken with a Nikon D300 and Tamron 18-270mm VC PZD superzoom at 18mm, ISO200, f/11, 1/125 sec and VC on. 


If you are intending to shoot a scene with a mirror-like reflection you need to work on a very still day in a location that's sheltered from any wind that may decide to blow through later in the day. Remember, winds are often lighter and lakes calmer early morning, so early alarms might give you a head start.

As photographer John Gravett explained in a previous article, you should consider packing an ND Grad filter to balance the shot: "The "mirror-like" reflections the eye sees doesn't always translate into as successful a picture, the reason being that reflections off water are usually between 1½ and 2 stops darker that what is being reflected in it. I usually use a Lee filters 0.45 or 0.6 hard-edged grad on the top of my picture – pulled down to the far shore. The 0.45 typically keeps the "reality" still slightly lighter than the reflection, but balances up the brightness to what we perceive to be right; the human eye has a much greater contrast range than the digital sensor (or film), so we "see" reflections as perfect."


A little movement in the water, as shown in the above shot taken by David Pritchard as part of his 365-day photo challenge, can work and this becomes even more apparent when we turn our attention to abstract shots. When you focus just on the reflection you need to look for interesting shapes and shoot plenty of images as ripples change constantly. For a more slightly surreal shot, try rotating your reflection through 180 degrees.

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