Reflections are another way to play with light within photography, and there are so many ways to get creative when capturing them on camera. We’ll be looking at ways you can use reflections - both natural and man-made - in your photography.
1. Find Reflective Props
Crystal Glass Balls We’ll start off with a prop that creates a refraction rather than a reflection: a crystal glass ball. You’re likely to have seen this sort of photography before, where the photographer sets up a glass ball in the foreground, and allows the glass to invert the scene through the glass, capturing it in focus as an upside down image.
Refraction occurs when light is shone through a material such as glass, causing the light to bend and distort. Your camera lens operates much in this same way to create the image that is captured. Think of the glass ball as an extension to your lens, and move it around to create different effects.
You’ll need to place the ball in line with the scene that you’ll be capturing in the background, so sometimes you’ll need to elevate it on a stand, or prop it up a little. You’ll also need to get quite close to the ball with your lens, as otherwise the refracted image will appear very small in your photo.
Did you know that you can also achieve this effect by using a wine glass full of water too? Not the easiest thing to pack in your camera bag, granted, but a great way to get started and experiment.
Mirrored Glasses Any shiny surface can produce a reflection, so keep an eye out when you’re next exploring with your camera. A good example is a pair of sunglasses, especially the mirrored lens ones, as these can show a clear reflection of what the glasses-wearer is looking at.
This is a great way of taking a photo of one subject, but then cleverly incorporating another scene or subject that would otherwise be out of shot; adding another level or dimension to the photo.
2. Use Water
Water is probably one of the first things you think of when considering how to capture reflections, and there are a few ways that water can reflect a subject.
Wet Sand When the tide goes out at the beach, the wet sand that is left behind can act as a giant, natural mirror across the shoreline. This works particularly well if the sun is just rising or just setting, so that it appears low on the horizon and highlights the wet sand.
Try placing someone on the sand to capture their reflection, or you can use it to reflect the sky and clouds above.
Bridges over Water
Lakes or large bodies of water that are still or slow moving can be amazing for creating surreal photos of reflections. Try using symmetry to really emphasise the reflection effect, such as trees on either side of the image. It helps to also position the bridge in the centre of the photo, so that the water below and the sky above have the same amount of space in the composition.
Don’t be put off going out with your camera if it’s raining outside as there are so many interesting photo opportunities just waiting to be captured!
Photographing puddles when it’s dark can result in some really cool photos using other available light, such as car headlights or traffic lights - which can inject some colour into the image.
3. Capture a Scene Using a Reflection
Think about your composition when using reflections, and how you can get clever by showing two scenes or subjects in one image, when usually you’d only be able to fit one into your frame.
Shop windows Windows can be used to create some interesting ‘people-watching’ style shots, and you could incorporate this into your street photography. Think about photographing people sat in cafe windows as they stare out to the world whilst deep in thought, with their view reflected for the camera on the window they are looking out of.
Shop windows can often have intricate or colourful displays of products that you could use as part of a reflection, and to get creative with. Perhaps you could photograph a reflection of someone peering into a shop with the shop’s contents as the main focus.
Car Windows and Mirrors You can capture both the outdoors plus something/someone indoors looking out to the world as it whizzes by.
You’ve almost definitely seen the common example of when someone is sat in the front seat of a car, and captures the surrounding scenery in the wing mirror.
4. Explore New Perspectives With a Mirror
Now for the most obvious example of creating a reflection: using a mirror!
Taking a small handheld mirror out with you and your camera means that you can use it to get experimental with perspective and composition.
You can add new depths and a feeling of another dimension to an image by placing a mirror somewhere in your frame (getting up close to the mirror with your lens works better than having a small mirror in the distance) and capturing two scenes at once. Think about how you can use juxtaposition and contrast with your chosen subjects and the mirror.
Try using the mirror to take some interesting self-portraits in different locations.
5. Get Abstract
Now it’s time to get abstract! How can you turn all of the ideas above on their head to create something unusual?
Use ripples in water to distort the scene
Earlier we mentioned that still or slow-moving water is ideal for using to capture reflections, but think about how moving or rippled water can produce interesting distortions in an image. The trick is to make sure that the subject is distorted, but not too distorted that it becomes unclear as to what it is.
Uneven reflective surfaces
Glass or windows on a building that are all on a slightly different angle or level can produce an abstract effect that is almost like rippled water. It’s best to seek out these reflections when it’s sunny, or at midday when the light is being bounced off in all different directions.
Flip and rotate your image
Flipping your photo vertically can make it appear as though the reflection is the ‘real’ view, and can make the viewer do a double take. This is particularly effective when using symmetry in shots such as of lakes and bridges that we mentioned earlier.
Don’t be afraid to really experiment, whether in camera or in post-production!
Share your reflection photos with us on the Photoh Facebook page and let us know how you got on with the theme.