When Reflections Work.

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Working with reflections so that they add to the photo is a difficult thing to do.  There are a whole series of ways that reflections do not work.  For example when you take a reflection of someone and in the reflection you can see up the persons nose….like some senior pictures that I’ve seen…like one at my parents house…of me.  Or when you take a photo not realizing that there is a reflection and when you have it printed you see that you’ve decapitated the reflection of your favorite person.  And that’s just a couple of examples.  

I thank so many of you for joining our Flickr Group and thus giving me some awesome examples to include in this post (please note that photo credits are provided for each photo and I encourage you to check out the rest of these fine photographers works).  So lets dive into great reflection photographs:

1. The reflection used AS the focal point of the image by GrindCrank.  I really enjoy this shot.  I like that I don’t see the subject directly and that I only have a sense of what they can see – it’s mysterious.
Vexierbild 1

2. Persons reaction to the reflection makes the photo by Audra.  There is little in this world cuter then a child dancing with the person in the mirror. The full body shot here is key – imagine what this shot would be like if you didn’t see the reflection of this cute little ones face.  The grin makes the shot.

dancing with myself

3. Or this one of a building and its reflection in the water by Pshorten.  It really adds to the scope of this space and the composition is great where the photographer captured the entire reflection of the building and followed the rule of thirds by keeping the focus in the top 1/3 of the picture.
Jefferson Memorial & Tidal Basin

4. To capture your viewpoint in almost a complete sense as seen in this HDR (which is another post) by jayRaz.  When you take a reflection under a bridge you really get a sense for the space.  And the lighting coming in through the bridge form is spectacular.  

A Different World

5. Reflections on unconventional spaces like this one on a very clean, very shiny table top by Patrick or Kate (I’m not sure which one).

The focus in this shot is great, the catchlights in the eyes are perfection and the reflection is great.  You’ll notice in shots like this that having a nearly straight foundation line (the space where your subject and the reflection of the subject meet) is important.  If you had taken this shot at more of an angle or from a higher perspective you’d likely chop off part of the reflection, distorted the reflection and it would have degraded the symmetry that makes this photo spot on.
Mirror Image

6. Now this image I love and I’m going to try to replicate it myself in the coming weeks – I will never scrape an image so you’ll have to jump over to Flickr to check it out but you should because I think it’s stunning.  The reflection puts such a great perspective on this photo and the color mapping that was done really makes this shot jump for me.  

7. The self portrait (see again above about scraping) is another topic that deserves it’s own post but I love this one.  Technically it’s not perfection – the noise could have been reduced with a higher ISO but I love it.  Using the hand the diffuse the flash and thus making it glow is striking and the black and white is great.  The only thing I’d change is where she is looking.  For a self portrait you need to look at the reflection of the lens in the mirror.  

So the highlights on how to shoot a reflection-

  • Capture equal parts subject and reflection of subject.
  • Attempt to hit the reflection head on – being far to the left or right of the subject will result in a lot of distortion in water – although that is a creative effect you could use.
  • Make sure that limbs of your subject (ie arms and feet) are present in the reflection if they are present in the “real” subject.
  • Play with light – reflection is all about light so seeing the reflection of the light source in your photo can be a great thing if the subject is lit naturally.  But if you’re lighting with a spot light you want to make sure it isn’t in the reflection of your shot.  You’d be surprised how many magazines have seen this on their pages.  
  • Watch for the unintentional reflection.  I’m always well aware of the mirrors in a space that I’m shooting.  One of my favorite shots of my daughter on the first day we’re home from the hospital has my reflection in a huge mirror in our living room.  Lets just say that I wasn’t in photo ready condition.
  • Try turning your subject so that their back is to the light source – this is something I struggle with as our tendency is to have people face the light but it works with reflections particularly well.  The lower the natural light source the better.  So shooting a reflection of the trees in a lake is done at dawn and dusk.  Full sunlight  at 2pm won’t produce the reflection you’re looking for.

Now if you’re shooting in a studio you can buy a Flexi Mirror 32 like this one on Amazon to fake the mirror image effects.

Any tips you’d like to share on shooting with reflections?

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