How to Create Amazing Reflection Photos using Puddles

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People are captivated by reflections, and photographers eagerly seek out still bodies of water in order to capture stunning reflection shots. But a perfect reflection may be closer than you think, especially if it has just been raining.

puddle, reflection, symmetry, how to

Puddle reflection

Photographing puddle reflections

Puddles are an incredibly useful if perhaps surprising source for reflections. Puddles are generally shallow and found in protected areas or depressions, which means that they are likely to hold smooth, still water. They can also be found in many different locations, providing a variety of options for subjects and compositions. Finally, puddles are so mundane and small that they are often overlooked, so you can create unique and surprising images that others likely missed.

The trick with capturing amazing reflection photos using puddles, is to get down low. You want your camera to get as close to the surface of the puddle as possible. This will make even a small puddle appear expansive in your final image. I recommend putting your hand or a finger under your camera to steady it and keep it out of direct contact with the water. It is also useful to have a small bubble level attached to your camera to judge whether your composition is level.

puddle, reflection, symmetry, how to

This puddle reflection technique works equally well whether you have a DSLR camera or a point-and-shoot. I often use my point-and-shoot for these types of shot, as it is much easier to simply lean down and hold it near, or over, the puddle when shooting, and I am much less worried about it getting wet. When shooting puddles with my DSLR, I am much more likely to squat down to better support the camera with both hands and keep it out of the water or mud.

puddle, reflection, symmetry, how to, sunset

puddle

Puddle used for the reflection above

Puddles do not need to be very large for such photographs, but an ideal puddle would be at least a foot or more, long and wide. Puddles that have formed naturally on roads, or on the ground, provide a better transition from subject to reflection than puddles that are surrounded by a set boundary like a curb or a bank. You can also think beyond traditional puddles and try the same technique with wet roadways or stone pillars, which often become highly reflective when wet.

An example: puddle versus puddle reflection

Grand Teton National Park, Tetons, Mormon Row, mountains, landscape, barn

Above is one of the classic scenes from the Grand Tetons: the abandoned houses of Mormon Row. It had rained the previous day, and much of the night, and in the lower right-hand section of the photograph, you will notice a fairly unassuming puddle remaining in the mud.

Grand Teton National Park, Tetons, Mormon Row, mountains, landscape, barn, reflection, puddle

Getting down low and holding my camera just above the surface of that puddle allowed me to capture this shot. Despite the slight breeze and rippling of the water, this reflection clearly highlights both the abandoned building and the incredible mountain view behind it. Merging three different compositions provided the panoramic view below.

McEnaney-Tetons-panorama-final

Seek out puddle reflections

Next time you find yourself in a wet situation, make the most of the puddles around you. Get down low, and you may be surprised at what your camera captures compared to what the scene looks like to you standing up higher. Do not limit yourself to taking the same shots as everyone else – try something new!

puddle, reflection, how to, carnival, night, street photography

The weekly photography challenge a little while ago was reflections. If you’re still working on that one try these tips out. Want to see more reflections – try this collection.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Katie McEnaney is an educator and photographer from Madison, Wisconsin. Read more tips on her blog, Boost Your Photography. Her first eBook, Boost Your Photography: Learn Your DSLR, is now available for Kindle on Amazon.

  • Russian church in Nice (French Riviera) reflected in a puddle after rain:

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/jpmiss/5120598873/

  • Michael Owens

    Thanks for the article, I do enjoy searching for a nice reflection shot in a puddle! Glad I am not alone! Small puddle can be made or look like a calm lake and accentuate the most mundane of shots!

  • Michael Owens

    Very nice JPM.

  • Hugh J

    Just had some rain.

  • Katie McEnaney

    Cute! Did you try getting your camera down low and seeing how the reflection expanded?

  • Katie McEnaney

    Agreed! I love their potential to create a different shot than you could ever get on a different day.

  • Katie McEnaney

    This would have been a perfect puddle to get down low to – great smooth, mirror surface.

  • Hugh J

    No, still learning. I have a M4/3 with a fully articulating LCD and have begun to notice the advantages of this for shooting from very low positions. I didn’t have it with me for this pic but next rain will try to put to use some of the thoughts found here.

  • Thinkeye
  • Elizabeth Seaver

    sunset with the clouds and a barn

  • Karen Quist

    Lately, every time I see a shot that catches my eye on this site it seems to be one of yours, Jean-Paul. i really like your work 🙂

  • William Ng

    Here’s a recent puddle shot I did at Angkor Wat, Cambodia

  • RadioKWMQ

    Just thought I’d share this one – I recently attended an engine run of this awesome old Avro Shackleton maritime patrol aircraft at the South African Airforce Museum in Cape Town and took advantage of the wet hardstanding after the customary hose-down by the fire tenders.

  • rengesh

    Here is the picture of Mt. Rainier (WA) that I took couple of years ago behind a pond

  • This was a puddle on the bike path after some afternoon rain; easy to overlook, but great when you get on your hands and knees

  • Guest

    This was a puddle on the bike path after an afternoon storm; easy to overlook, but great when you get on your hands and knees.

  • Puddle on the bike path

  • Katie McEnaney

    Great choice to flip the reflection as well!

  • Katie McEnaney

    Lovely, expansive reflection!

  • Katie McEnaney

    Neat shot!

  • Cheryl Garrity

    Katie,
    I was excited to read your article on puddle photography. I especially like your barn
    reflection! The colors are so rich. I have just been debating on whether to include a not-so-prefect photo of a lighthouse on my website. I didn’t have much color to work with, but I loved the idea of the mirror image. I took it 3 or 4 years ago and just decided to resurrect it finally adding it to my nighttime gallery. You can see it at http://www.throughcherylseyesphotography.com/nighttime.html
    I call it “In Reflection”.
    Any input appreciated.
    Thanks,
    Cheryl

  • Erik C

    Not quite a puddle, but it’s still a nice reflection.

  • Erik C

    Not quite a puddle, but it’s still a nice reflection.

  • Robert Hanson

    The first is Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park and the second is Great Northern with the reflection on Stanton Lake. Maybe I’ll make my next project to work on Reflections.

  • Katie McEnaney

    Lovely lakes! If you do work on reflections, but sure to watch the puddles and you’ll expand your opportunities.

  • Katie McEnaney

    The bigger the puddle the easier the photograph! Great mirror-like surface.

  • Katie McEnaney

    Lovely blue colors and tones with your lighthouse, Cheryl. The black vignette seems a bit heavy to me, but that’s a matter of personal taste.

  • Robin Nations

    My favorite reflection shot…

  • Cheryl Garrity

    Katie,

    You are right on with the vignette observation! I would never purposely choose to create a vignette that dark and exaggerated. Well, actually I did choose it, but there was a reason. Part of the vignette was produced in camera when I made the photograph. I went with what I captured and tried to even it our a bit.

    I was so pleased to have captured an image that I don’t ever
    expect to replicate that I tried really hard to make it work. I was on Hatteras Island on the Outer Banks of NC and it rained so hard that the road off the island was flooded. We had to stay an extra night. When I went out to see what I could capture, I was very surprised to see standing water in the grassy area surrounding the
    lighthouse. I made several photographs, but lost the file of photos I had downloaded. I had my local camera store try to recover the photos from that trip from my camera memory card. Only a few were saved and this is one of them. It just seems that destiny wanted me to have that photo.
    Any suggestions on an alternate treatment or should I just give up?

    Thanks,
    Cheryl

  • Tom Potter

    Great article! For those of you who might find this helpful, I carry a rolled up, very lightweight, foam-rubber mat when I am out shooting. It comes in handy for exactly the puddle shooting described in this article. You can lay on it, completely flat on your tummy, getting WAY down low, and keeping yourself clean.

  • Guest

    Strret Photography in Sri Lanka

  • Guest

    just a random puddle in the backyard

  • Ralloh

    Reflection of trees and sky in a thin layer of water in the rusted lid of a 55 gallon steel drum.

  • Katie McEnaney

    Very cool effect, thanks for sharing!

  • Katie McEnaney

    Handy!

  • Zee

    Here’s something I shot in Dresden a couple of days ago!

  • Katie McEnaney

    Great puddle! Did you try getting down all the way and getting the full view of the reflection?

  • Zee

    Thanks! Yeah I did, but the other photo only has slightly more of the reflection. Guess I couldn’t get a perfect angle. It was quite interesting to try to shoot this way, though!

  • William Ng

    Thks Katie

  • William Ng

    Here’s another flipped image.

  • Luiz Forster

    Viareggio, Italy. By LForster

  • Katie McEnaney

    Very cool lines with the path and the trees and the reflections. Did you try any where you got down low to make the puddles even more expansive?

  • Luiz Forster

    I didn’t, unfortunately, but will take your suggestion on board and try it next time! Thank you for your comment.

  • Katie McEnaney

    No worries. It just gives you a different look.

  • Mark Andersen

    very nice article, Thank you for re-opening my eyes

  • Katie McEnaney

    Thanks, Mark! It is always amazing to me, the wonders that you can find if you just know where to look.

  • Love this

  • here is one I shot. Not as close to the puddle though
    http://www.minimalistphotos.com/2016/07/reflection-of-street-lamp-in-water.html

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