Yep I don’t know why but I’m fascinated with reflections in general. By reflections I mean a mirrored duplication of an object that appears almost identical, but is reversed in the direction perpendicular to the reflective surface, or at least that’s what the dictionary says.
1) Best places to take reflections photos
Look for water. A river or a lake are your safest bets. You should be able to find one or the other near or around where you live. Do a quick Google search to see what the nearest lake or river is to you. If you’re lucky you might have a lake or river or even both situated within the city limits.
Good, you’ve found it, now the real fun begins.
2) Go for a walk, bring your camera
First time you visit the location it will be for scouting. Walk along the riverbank and see what interesting subjects you can find. It can be trees as in a forest or a single tree, a bunch o buildings or a single house. Choose one or multiple locations based on where the subject is situated.
3) Camera settings and lenses
What aperture to use for reflection photos? You want to be somewhere between F8 and F11. You can experiment with higher F stops but above F11 you will encounter diffraction issues (no matter what lens you use) which will make your pictures softer.
What lens to use for reflection photos? Usually a wide angle lens works great but I have found that a telephoto lens can get you very interesting results if you find a great subject to isolate.
4) Best time of the day to take reflection photos
As with all landscape photography the best light you’ll possibly get is either early in the morning or just before the sunset or during it (golden hour). However don’t be discouraged if you can’t make those specific hours of the day, reflection photos will always be cool even in harsh light (mid-day) and even in almost no light (at night)
5) Best weather to take reflection photos
Reflections are best formed when the surface of the water is smooth and very still. Waves and wind will cause ripples and thus making the reflections look weird and ripply and uneven loosing details of the reflected subject. We cannot control weather so even if you find a perfect location and have great light you might not get the perfect reflection photo on your first try. You have to keep at it.
6) How to compose a great reflections photo
Rule of thirds works great, keeping the subject perfectly centered for super symmetry works well too, it depends on your personal preference and experience.
7) The Secret to Great Reflections Photos
That being said, in my opinion, what make or brakes a great reflection photo are the CLOUDS. Everybody like a nice reflection photo because it shows balance and symmetry has been scientifically proven to be inherently attractive to the human eye.
For me, for a reflection photo to reach the next level requires more than symmetry, it requires clouds. Not just any type of clouds but the big, fluffy and cool shaped kind.
Getting some clouds into your reflection photo won’t be that hard but getting a great looking cloud perfectly mirrored in the water, now that’s a challenge. It’s a challenge because great clouds don’t show up every day and they are rarely perfectly aligned or positioned with your initial composition so that they show up as perfectly mirrored as well.
8) The Water Part of the Reflection is Darker
Not only is the water part of the reflection darker but it is also more contrasty and sometimes will look better than the actual real subject. Why is that? Not many people know this but water acts like a polarizing filter making the sky and the reflection look more saturated in color. I sometimes like and enjoy that effect but if your a purist or are looking for perfect symmetry, a quick and easy fix is using a polarizing filter to darken the sky. You can do that on site with an actual filter which goes in front of your lens or you can do that later in post processing.
9) Caution! Easier said than done!
Capturing great reflection photos might not be as easy as you first thought. You might not get a satisfactory reflection photo on your first try or tries. Don’t get discouraged or frustrated, this is a long term photographic project which should be enjoyed at every step.
10) Play around, experiment and Enjoy!
Don’t forget to enjoy nature and light and colors along your journey. Taking photos and sharing them is great but the experience of taking a photo might be even more rewarding. Enjoy the fresh air, enjoy the symmetry and the beauty of nature or architecture, even if you won’t get 1000 likes on your photo.
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