Step by Step Guide to Stunning Reflection Photography
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Step by Step Guide to Stunning Reflection Photography

I’d begin this blog about using reflection photography 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.

I want to help outline reflection photography. I want you to be confident in adding this unique style to your photography skills portfolio and switch up your normal every day photos. 

I love all the examples of everyday reflective surfaces that she shares! Read "Using Reflective Surfaces to Enhance Your Photography"

What is a reflection shot?

A reflection shot is an image with any subject that also has a reflection.

My favorite that I first think of is a landscape shot of a grand mountain with a bright blue lake below it. In that lake you see a perfect reflection of the mountain.

Including reflections in your composition is just one of the ways that you can bring art into an otherwise everyday moment.

A child sitting at a table with a bright window filled door in the background with a reflection of the child for reflective photography.

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!

Why is reflection important in photography?

Reflections are an important way to create interest your photography. The light pulls you into the subject and makes a powerful and artistic shot.

Adding reflections adds depth and dimension in an otherwise basic photo. The reflection tells a different story than just the subject alone would.

How to take reflection photography

A small child smiling up at a vase of beautiful flowers. These are both reflected on the counter top for reflection photography.

Find a reflective surface

First, there are of course the ones you expect to be rock star reflective surfaces such as puddles, glass, and gleamy countertops.

Two children sitting on the floor with a bright light highlighted. With a reflection of the children for reflective photography.

But if you start to really pay attention, there will be surfaces that surprise you. Kind of like a subtle reflection in dull beige 80s floor tile that is probably covered in stickiness of unknown origin.

You can also find a reflective surface on your black dishwasher. Or a stainless steel fridge.

Child sitting on the floor with cereal and a reflection in the dishwasher.

Find an interesting subject

After you have a reflective surface then you need a subject of your reflection photography.

Once you have a subject in mind, also consider your surroundings.

Make sure that your area is clutter free so all of the focus goes straight to the subject and the reflection.

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. I filled the frame with them instead of the nearby garbage cans, and luggage.

Speaking of filling the frame, I have a whole blog on 11 Composition Rules to Know to Improve your Photography!

Child wearing a blue shirt with palm trees all around in the reflection photography in the window.

Find the best angle

Since reflective surfaces vary in shininess, smoothness, and the light hitting them, you will want to move around to find the best angle. That will help you find where to capture the reflection.

Below, the position of my subject in relation to the reflective dishwasher. Due to that I was comfortably smashed right up against the cabinets in order to get her full reflection.

A child wearing a red dress in the kitchen with a reflection in the dishwasher.

Make sure you have adequate light to be able to produce a clear reflection. Also know that you will likely have to touch up the exposure in post processing.

Get down on it’s level

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.

Child in a red dress washing dishes in the kitchen with a reflection on the counter top. This is an example of reflection photography.

Doing so will add a larger reflective surface plane and allow you to be able to get the most out of the reflection.

Two images side by side of a child with a fruit basket showing how to get down on the surface level to capture reflection photography.

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.

Notice how the second photo doesn’t have that much of a reflection and while it is still a great photo, we are more drawn to the composition and reflection of the first photo.

What types of surfaces are best for reflection photography?

Flat, smooth, and shiny are the best type of surfaces for reflection photography.

The obvious surface is a mirror but you should also look for surfaces like glass, water, and metal.

Small child playing in the kitchen with a bright light on their body.

Reflection photography around the house

I like to use my counter tops and things found in the kitchen. It helps that my kitchen window has amazing light so I am able to use the counters, dishwasher, floor, and fridge as surfaces for reflection photography.

Reflection photography on trips

When on a trip always look for water first. Especially if the water is smooth and calm. It’s amazing how your photo can change with just a little reflection.

Also look for reflections in windows of buildings, houses, or even cars.

In the photo below the greenhouse windows are reflecting the blue cloud sky and makes it seem to be never ending. This created a lovely backdrop for my cider slushie-sipping girl.

Child drinking a slushie wearing a pink dress with a large greenhouse behind her reflecting the sky and green grass.

Give reflection photography a shot

I challenge you to go out today and try to take a reflection shot. Follow these easy steps to help you capture a new artistic shot. Remember reflections are everywhere, just keep your eyes open.

Also you can purchase a Lens Ball that can put a creative spin on your photos!

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?

Find out more ways to elevate your everyday imagery:

7 Tips to Help Elevate Your Everyday Images

5 Ways to Elevate your Photography with Atmosphere

How Dramatic Natural Light Can Inspire Your Photography

5 Ways to Elevate Your Photography by Capturing Movement

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