There’s just something about reflections photography that gets the creative juices flowing. Perhaps it’s the unpredictability of it, or maybe it’s the many unique compositions that are possible with reflection photos. Whatever the reason, reflection photography is a fun way to get out of a photographic rut or practice a new skill. And in this article, we’re going to make a case for why you should give it a try.
Getting started with reflections photography
The cool thing about reflections photography is that it requires so little to get started. All you need is your iPhone, or another type of camera, and a willingness to try new things. Once you get the hang of capturing reflections, you may want to add some gear to your photography kit, but the extra gear isn’t mandatory.
What does “reflection” mean in photography?
Reflection photography is more than just mirror selfies. Anytime you capture an image that is reflected off a surface — whether that surface is a mirror, a window, or a body of water — you are practicing “reflection photography.” The possibilities for capturing reflections are endless. However, you do need to find a proper reflecting surface to make it work. Water is a great choice for practicing reflections photography, as is glass, metal, or other shiny surfaces. Once you start looking, you’ll see reflections everywhere!
Why reflections are important in photography
To improve at any type of photography, you need to practice the technical aspects, like how to use the settings on your camera or phone and how to use editing apps. You also need to practice creative aspects like how to use composition techniques to add interest to your image. Reflections photography focuses heavily on those creative aspects of photography, giving you the opportunity to practice artistic composition, perspective, and shooting from different angles.
Gear for taking reflection pictures on iPhone
As stated above, you don’t need any fancy equipment to start taking reflection pictures with your iPhone. Our advice is to just get out there and start shooting! But once you’ve practiced a bit, there are a few pieces of gear that will make reflection photography more fun. Here’s what we recommend for more advanced reflections photography:
- A tripod: A steady hand will produce crisp images, but a tripod is even better! This pocket-size tripod will allow you to shoot reflections without any camera shake.
- A reflection ball: Reflection balls make great props for photography projects and for practicing reflection images.
- A fisheye lens: If you find that you love taking reflection shots and want to add some creative flair to your images, try shooting with a fisheye lens that mounts over your iPhone lens. These wide-angle lenses will distort an image around the edges, creating great reflection pictures.
How to shoot reflection photos
Reflection photos are easy to capture once you nail down the most difficult part — finding a reflective surface and an interesting subject in close proximity to each other. Here are some tips for capturing amazing reflection pictures.
Tip 1: Throw composition rules out the window
You may already know some of the “rules” of photography, like the rule of thirds or the use of leading lines. These composition guidelines are great to know and useful for creating more interesting compositions. They don’t always work out when shooting reflections, though. That’s because your reflection photos often have multiple subjects: the main subject, the reflection, and whatever else you choose to include in your image. Instead of following arbitrary rules when practicing reflections photography, experiment with different compositions and angles until you get an interesting shot.
Tip 2: Practice reflections photography during the golden hour
The golden hour is the period just after sunrise or just after sunset. And it’s the perfect time to capture reflections because the sky will provide some interesting colors that will be magnified in your reflection. If you are capturing water reflections, aim for early-morning sessions when the water is still and the reflections more true-to-life.
Tip 3: Get close to the surface of the reflection
One way to add a bit of drama to your photo is to hold your camera close to the source of the reflection while shooting across it. This helps minimize distractions in your photos and creates interesting compositions and unusual effects. If you’re shooting a reflection in a body of water, get down close to the surface to frame your shot. And if you’re shooting a window or mirror reflection, bring your camera close to capture more of the reflected scene.
Water reflection photography tips
Water is perfect for experimenting with reflections photography. To capture reflections in water, head to your nearest lake or pond early in the morning, or swing downtown after heavy rain. Here are some tips for capturing reflections in water.
Tip 1: Shoot water reflections in calm weather
If the goal is to get sharp reflections in still water, you need to shoot in calm conditions. You’re more likely to find calm water early in the morning, which will lead to beautiful, serene images. If you can’t make it out before the sun, check the weather forecast for periods with little to no wind. These are perfect conditions for capturing reflections. But if you do go out on a windy day, work with what you’ve got. You may be surprised at some of the abstract results visible in ripples, waves, and swells.
Tip 2: Schedule a photoshoot just after a rainstorm
The cool thing about puddle reflections is that you can find them anywhere, as long as you’ve had recent rain, so you aren’t limited to lakes and ponds. Puddles of rainwater will pool differently depending on various factors, so shooting puddle reflections is like going on a treasure hunt — you never know what you’ll end up with. Capturing reflections in puddles just after sunset will allow you to photograph artificial lights within your reflection. And during the day, it’s fun to look for unique angles that highlight buildings, people, and vehicles within puddles on the street. Finally, if you’ve run out of ideas, try a puddle self-portrait to really get those creative juices flowing.
Tip 3: Set your autofocus lock on the water
When photographing water reflections, the goal is usually to get a sharp image through the entirety of the photo. When using your iPhone camera, the focus point can be changed, but it can’t be manually adjusted. For the best results, use the AE/AF Lock to focus on the most detailed part of your reflection. This ensures that your reflection is as sharp as it can be, and it also gives you a brighter reflection because the water will be properly exposed.
Tips for mirror reflection photography
A mirror is a simple but effective tool for experimenting with creative compositions, whether you’re looking for unique selfie ideas or more abstract scenes in nature. Here are some fun mirror reflection ideas for your next photoshoot.
Tip 1: Get creative with your mirror selfie
The world only needs so many bathroom mirror selfies. And while these run-of-mill selfies are useful for choosing outfits or documenting weight loss, they aren’t great for creative photography. So the next time you’re tempted to strike a pose in front of a mirror, try something different. Here are a few suggestions:
- Lean a mirror against a vertical surface and lie or sit in front of it. Now take your photo from above using a tripod and a remote shutter.
- Position a mirror on the ground and shoot from above.
- Hold a hand mirror to reflect your face and have a friend capture your mirror image from behind. You can do this one with a tripod as well, but it takes some practice!
Tip 2: Use a mirror to creatively frame your subject
Framing is one of those photography composition rules that photographers leverage in order to add interest to their shots. You can use all kinds of things to frame your subject — doorways, windows, tree branches, and, yes, mirrors. Use the edges of your mirror to frame the subject you want to capture. Simply find a cool angle and press the shutter. The more you practice with this technique, the better your compositions will become.
Tip 3: Use a broken mirror for abstract shots
For added drama, try capturing your subject within the shards of a broken mirror. You can also use a mirror that is cracked but not in pieces. Broken mirror images are great for selfies, still-life photography, and even landscapes. Once you start experimenting with this type of reflection photography, you’ll want to keep a bag of broken mirror pieces on you for every photoshoot!
The best thing about reflections photography is that it only requires bare-bones equipment to get started. Before you know it, you’ll be seeing unique reflection compositions everywhere you go. Have fun with this addictive and creative way to enjoy iPhone photography!