Reflections photography – Water and puddles as mirrors of reality

Reflections photography – Water and puddles as mirrors of reality

Reflections in lakes, ponds, rivers and even puddles offer photographers a wealth of possibilities to turn a motif into a highlight. Depending on the weather and lighting conditions, it can sometimes be tricky to achieve the desired effect. In this article, we’ll give you some tips and ideas on how to take effective photos of reflections and provide some ideas for possible motifs.

Photographing reflections in the water correctly

The weather, time of day and currents are the three most important factors to consider when photographing reflections in water. As so often in photography, dawn and dusk are the best times of day to photograph reflections. The warm light of the sun creates a beautiful atmosphere. In addition, it is usually more windless at the beginning or end of the day. Since a smooth water surface with as little movement as possible produces the sharpest and most detailed reflections, choose a standing body of water and ensure that there is no wind. Ponds and small lakes are best suited here.

With a wide-angle lens you can capture a larger section of the image, so it is also very suitable for reflections, as you usually combine two motifs together. When adjusting the camera settings, you should make sure that the ISO value is as low as possible so that the image is as sharp as can be. In order to capture all details, a small aperture starting at f/11 is recommended. Slight movements on the water can be smoothed by a longer exposure time. However, a rippled water surface also has a certain charm. Here the reflection in the water becomes blurred. Give it a try to achieve the best image effect.

The composition of the image has to be right for the reflection to come into its own. In order to enhance the effect of illusion and reality, you should place the mirror axis in the middle. In this way you create symmetry and both image components are reproduced in the same proportion. It is important to align the camera parallel to the horizon. Many cameras have an artificial horizon display, which simplifies the alignment and makes the reflection straight. To avoid unwanted light reflections and to give the image more colour saturation, you can use a polarisation filter.

Reflections in the city – using puddles as mirrors

In the city, too, excellent reflections can be photographed. Puddles offer you a wonderful smooth surface. The deeper the puddle, the better and more contrasting the photos will be later on. Basically the same rules apply here as when photographing reflections in water: A wide-angle lens and a small aperture are the keys to success.

For puddles, you should always photograph as close to the water surface as possible in order to make the best use of the water surface. The worm’s-eye view is the optimal angle to take symmetrical photos of reflection and reality. Do not be afraid to get dirty or get as close as possible to the water surface with the lens. With suitable clothing and rain gear for the camera, you will get beautiful reflective images. If it’s still raining when you set out to photograph reflections, be sure to work with a manual focus. The automatic focus always jumps back and forth with the raindrops, so that the desired places are not focused here.

Photo ideas for reflection photography

Reflections allow you to play with the image composition and motifs. We have collected a few ideas on how reflections can become a highlight in your photo and how they can be used.

Duplication of reality

With perfect camera alignment and a completely smooth water surface, unique photos can be taken at the right angle. Here it is difficult for the viewer to distinguish between reality and reflection. To achieve this effect, keep the aperture small and align the camera as parallel as possible to the horizon. Try to adjust the orientation of the camera a bit until the reflection and reality are really symmetrical. You can give the viewer food for thought especially if you present the finished photo upside down in the end.


Reflections as frames

Landscapes can be beautifully framed with a reflection. The symmetry in the picture creates rounded landscape shots with that certain something. The prerequisite for this is that the motif to be mirrored is relatively large and the water surface further away. It works best with a mountain landscape.

Movement in the picture

If the water surface is too calm for you and the image is too harmonious, then create a little movement on the water surface. For example, throw a stone into the water or spray water from the edge to the middle. However, you need to be quick here to catch the movement before it subsides. The shutter speed must be set accordingly. Here, the focus of the camera is on the movement in the water.


Revealing the concealed

Reflections can also reveal what would otherwise have escaped the viewer. Reflections can be used to expand images, but also to limit them. Try to hide certain parts of the picture creatively. View waters and puddles from different angles to find the best reflection motif.


Reflections for portrait photography

Use waters and puddles to take great pictures of your fellow human beings. You can use reflections as an element of a classic portrait or in everyday situations. This brings a second layer into the picture to make it more interesting and unique.


Reflections give a photo that certain special something. They open up a new image plane and make the viewer think. They can blur reality and reflection to create interesting photos. When taking photographs, be sure to align the camera correctly and keep the aperture as closed as possible. A polarisation filter helps to suppress unwanted light reflections.

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