I’d begin this article about using reflective surfaces in your photos with something like “while reflecting on the role of reflections, I realized the following,” but I want at least one or two human beings besides my mom to continue reading this, so I’ll refrain from such dismal puns.
Instead, let’s dive right into six ways you can work with reflective surfaces in your photographs!
No.01Reflections add an artistic layer to your photographs.
Including reflections in your composition is just one of the ways that you can bring art into an otherwise everyday moment. A photo of my daughter coloring at the table suddenly becomes a lot more interesting with the reflection there, too. This isn’t exclusive to a DSLR, either. Any camera can capture a reflection!
No.02Reflective surfaces show up in surprising places.
First, there are of course the ones you expect to be rock star reflective surfaces and drool over all the time, such as puddles, glass, and gleamy countertops.
But if you start to really pay attention, there will be surfaces that surprise you, such as a subtle reflection in dull beige 80s floor tile that is probably covered in stickiness of unknown origin…
… or your black dishwasher, the front of which is covered in that same suspicious stickiness. Please note that the role of stickiness has not made its own numbered tip here. Unfortunately, it’s far from crucial.
No.03Reflective surfaces can work in your favor.
Below, we were outside the Fort Lauderdale airport. Using the reflective surface of the building, I was able to capitalize on those palm trees as a storytelling element, filling the frame with them instead of the nearby garbage cans, luggage, and general abundance of concrete covered in bird poop and cigarette butts. You know, the things that every family vacation dreams of, said no family vacation ever.
No.04Every reflective surface will behave differently.
Since reflective surfaces vary in shininess, smoothness, and the light hitting them, you will want to move around to find the best angle from which to capture the reflection. Below, the position of my subject in relation to the reflective dishwasher meant that I needed to be comfortably smashed right up against the cabinets in order to get her full reflection.
To maximize a reflection on a horizontal plane such as countertops, puddles, or tabletops, you will want to get the camera at the same level as the reflective surface.
An added bonus of being right at the level of a horizontal reflective plane is that you can more easily fool the world into thinking that your counters aren’t usually full of junk. As an example, in the photo on the right, the camera was a few feet above the tabletop.
Greetings, counter junk. Now is probably a good time to recruit a housekeeper and/or deeply regret how frequently this article is referencing my descent into household disarray.
No.05Sometimes you can find multiple reflections.
Again, you just have to look for them! And let’s face it: when you are this cute and your hat is this cool, you want all the reflections you can get.
No.06Think outside the (human subject) box.
The greenhouse windows paired with that vivid blue sky created a lovely backdrop for my cider slushie-sipping girl. Unlike the other photos featured here, the human subject isn’t showing up in duplicate, which is too bad, because she drank most of that slushie and I could have used a second one.
Final bonus tip: if you find yourself wondering if you should replace your existing countertops with gleaming reflective goodness simply for the photographic opportunities it will create, please know that the answer is always a resounding YES. Just clean them more often than I do, okay?