Mirrors or windows, ponds or lakes, it really doesn’t matter where you find them, reflections are eye-catching. In this tutorial, I’ll give you some ideas and inspiration on how to use reflections more creatively for stunning photography.
We’re fascinated by reflections ever since we discover ourselves in a mirror, it’s no wonder we remain captivated by them. If you want to know about the technical aspect of reflections check out Rick Ohnsman’s article Understand Light and Color to Improve your Photography. Here, I’ll tell you nine ways to use them in your photographs.
1. Avoid a dull sky
The first tip to use reflections more creatively is to photograph them during bad weather. After the rain we usually find the sky to be grey and dull. Luckily the rain creates puddles, and water is a great reflector. Next time you find yourself shooting during a rainy day try looking down to the ground instead of up to the sky.
If you want to take this idea to the next level, you can add a flash to your photo-shoot. To learn how to do it check this article: Using Rain Puddles to Create Unique Reflection Photos.
2. Fill empty spaces
Similar to the dull sky problem, you can have an area that lacks detail or any visual interest. If it’s made of a reflective material the answer is easy, just find the right angle to capture it. What may have been a boring object, is suddenly filled with details that complement your composition.
3. Create texture
Reflections don’t necessarily have to be mirrored images of reality. The texture of the material or surface will distort the image and you can use that to capture color and shapes. For example, the ripples of water reflecting buildings.
Remember that you can also zoom-in and photograph the reflection as a texture to use later in other images.
4. Abstract photography
Speaking of photographing a texture alone, this can give you some inspiration for doing abstract photography. There are many different angles to approach this subject and reflections are definitely a good one. Here’s an example, but if you feel interested in going deeper into it, check out some Abstract Photos to Inspire You.
5. Change perspective
Shooting common places or subjects that are not interesting enough is always a challenge. Photographing its reflection can be a great alternative to capture it creatively. This forces you to move, crouch, and generally change your point of view. Also, you’ll be looking at the subject backward, and sometimes just a little shift can make the difference.
6. Creates symmetric shapes
Symmetry is beautiful and pleasing. On a subconscious level, it gives us a soothing feeling. I don’t mean just placing your subject in the center and make it identical on both sides. Of course, this is an option, but it’s not the only way. Reflections can create symmetric shapes that can help the overall image become more interesting.
7. Frame your subject
You can also use reflections as a way to direct the viewer’s attention to your subject. For example, placing your subject as a reflection in a mirror or a window literally frames it. If you want to get more creative you can also use a pair of eyeglasses or a spoon.
8. Overlapping planes
One of my favorite qualities of reflections is that they show you two, or more scenes on the same plane. When you look at a mirror you are also seeing what is behind you. With a window, you can even add a third plane when you also add the scene from inside the room, and so on. If you compose the subjects from each scene in a harmonic way you can create a surreal or dream-like image.
9. The reflection IS the subject
Last but not least, a reflection can be a subject in itself. You can make a project or a series just about reflections, it’s just a matter of finding a concept to build upon. If you need some inspiration, I highly advise you to read this Guide to Creating Unique Conceptual Photography.
Come up with an idea and just run with it. I hope this article sparked some inspiration so you can use reflections more creatively! Share your reflection photos in the comments section below and, most of all, have fun!