Complete Guide | How to Embrace the Beauty of Reflections By Photography

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It’s the first breath of dawn. The shy light is peeking over the snow-dusted mountain and softly spilling out over the still glass of a silent lake. Any photographer worthy of the name would be hungry to immortalize this sight reflection, whether from bodies of water or sheets of glass and of magnificent landscapes photography or gritty urban streets, gift us with a wealth of creative opportunities. And if the magic of an enchanting vista is out of your reach, modest windows and mirrors are always close to hand.

In this camera skills guide, we’ve compiled three diverse but accessible projects. Venture into the city to create symmetrical abstracts, or point your camera to the ground to capture the worlds hidden inside puddles. Unique images are guaranteed with this enthralling technique, so pick up your camera and begin your search for the perfect reflection.

Capture Pure Symmetry by Getting Creative With Windows

Want to transform a perfectly average city street into a surreal abstraction of everyday life? These arresting photographs are not only quirky and fun, but they’re also surprisingly easy to create. Venturing onto the busy urban streets with your camera and tripod may seem intimidating at first, but you’ll soon fall in love with this great technique.

Capture Pure Symmetry by Getting Creative With Windows
Capture Pure Symmetry by Getting Creative With Windows

Position Your Camera

One of the most important things to remember is that you’ll need to shoot as close to the window as possible. The further away you are, the less of the scene the glass will reflect into your camera. Sunset or sunrise are great times to try this technique, as you’ll want a low sun that’s illuminating your reflected subject but doesn’t hit the window you’re shooting. If you have light coming from above, which would be the case if you’re shooting at midday, then the glass will be see-through and the image won’t work.

Fill The Frame

When choosing what should go in your photo it’s always worth looking at it from your audience’s point of view. What are they going to respond to? What will excite them? Landmarks may seem over-shot to you, but will be automatically familiar to your audience and can make them instantly connect to your image, especially if you’re photographing them in a new and exciting way.

To create a really dynamic photo try including some motion blur. This will both add a sense of movement and give your viewers an obvious focal point. Use a tripod so that your background is pin-sharp while the moving vehicle is slightly blurred. Set your shutter speed to 1/40sec for the best results. The red London bus in the above image drives into itself as it turns into the junction. That is what gives this photo its surreal edge, but if no motion blur had been used then the sense of movement would have been lost and the image wouldn’t have been so successful.

Choose Your Settings

As with the majority of landscapes photography and cityscapes, a narrow aperture is key. Not only will the building you’re next to be in focus, but the reflection and background will be as well. If you want motion blur then you’re limited by a shutter speed of around 1/40sec, even though you’ll be using a tripod. If you’re shooting at sunrise or sunset then the light won’t be at its strongest, so you may need to increase your ISO to around 600 so that you can capture the perfect exposure.

Learn to take Mirror Dramatic Scenes to Capture Attention
Mirror Dramatic Scenes

Learn to Take Mirror Dramatic Scenes to Capture Attention

Still bodies of water are nature’s mirror, able to reflect incredible sights and create mesmerizing kaleidoscopic scenes that will enthrall your viewer. Lakes, ponds, and rivers often play the starring role in landscape photography, but there’s a difference between capturing the dynamic beauty of water and shooting a perfect reflection. To get the latter technique just right, you’ll need a fortuitous combination of certain conditions all at the same time.

Shoot at Dawn or Dusk

The rising and setting of the sun tend to produce the stillest waters of the day. This is because waves are caused by wind blowing over the water. During the daytime, the sunlight warms up the land at an inconsistent rate to the lake. This difference in temperature causes wind. When the land and water are away from the sun they become the same temperature and the wind dies down. Shooting during the stillest parts of the day will not only give you a beautiful reflection, it also means that you’ll get to shoot an amazing sunrise or sunset. Use an app like PhotoPills to predict the movements of the sun and aim to get to your location half an hour before the sun moves above or below the horizon, as this will give you plenty of time to get set up. Ensure that you’re also checking the weather forecast. The maximum wind speed you can get away with will really only be a couple of miles an hour. If you can feel anything more than a light breeze in the air, then it’s not going to be your day!

Break the Rule of Thirds

Reflections work best when you lean into their symmetrical nature. The standard rule-of-thirds is typically a great device for landscape photography, but why not try a horizon that sits in the middle of the photo for even better reflections.

How to Discover a New World Inside an Urban Puddle

Discover a New World Inside an Urban Photography
New World Inside an Urban Puddle

The gritty nature of urban tarmac might not initially seem like the most photogenic subject, but once you add a little water there’s no limit to what you can create. The beauty of this technique is that it takes the viewer a moment to really ‘get’ what’s going on in the photo. Your eye is first drawn to the towering structure reflected in the puddle, and then you notice the cracked and weather-beaten tarmac around it. Luckily, while this technique creates incredible mind-bending photos, it’s relatively simple to do.

Find The Right Reflection for Photography

Unfortunately, not all puddles are created equal. There are a specific set of environmental necessities that you’ll need before being able to shoot your image. The most important part of your photo will be what’s inside the puddle’s reflection, so finding an amazing focal point should be your first point of order. Look for towering structures that loom powerfully into view, like skyscrapers or famous landmarks. Alternatively, if you’re shooting in a more rural environment, why not try contrasting the rough texture of the ground with the more natural sight of a lone tree against a cloudy sky? For the best results with this technique, you must make sure that the water you’re shooting is completely still. If there are any ripples, from the wind, rain or someone stepping in the puddle, then your photo will become distorted and it won’t work.  The last thing you’ll need to keep in mind is that for the most vivid images, the Choose your aperture

For this technique, remember that whatever is being reflected back to you is on a different focal plane than the rest of the image – even if you’re photographing a flat surface like the ground. So if you wanted to get every single part of your shot in focus, you’d need a narrow aperture like f/16. However, while you might initially think that a large depth-of-field would introduce interesting context to your image, this technique works best when using a wider aperture like f/5.6. This ensures that the viewer’s eye is drawn immediately to the reflection inside the puddle, rather than getting distracted by the small cracks and details in the pavement or tarmac.