Working with reflections – part 1

Reflections: you all certainly know it yourself. Every morning you look into the mirror in your bathroom and whatever you see in it looking back to you makes you jump out of the bathroom right away. One doesn’t always want to know how one looks like, does one ? Especially not in the morning.

However, reflections in photography are a very interesting way of working on photo subjects. Over here in this little series …

… I’d like to  show you some materials or let’s say some general photo subjects that are generally reflecting as such and that are reflecting differently depending on the conditions like the available light, the weather conditions etc. And I’d like to show you how differently you can work with the same reflecting material, creating different compositions, adjusting the cameras to different settings and suchlike.

But before we start with all this, I’d like to show you what should be watched out for, when working with reflecting material. Watch out for you, yourself.

Now what does that mean ?
Well, like the mirror in the bathroom most of the reflecting materials do reflect everything.
Thus when working with reflections photographically it often happens that either parts of your gear or you, yourself are reflected as well.

Just look at these two examples:


That’s me, sitting on the pavement.

I did this photo like it is on purpose to present it over here in order to show this mistake. I knew, I was reflected. But especially in the beginning of working with reflecting materials one often doesn’t know it or better doesn’t realize it when looking through the view finder.


This is part of my gear, a photo bag that I had placed close to me.

Although over here in this photo one might say, only the photographer knows what this is – so why really care for it. But never forget, if you are the photographer you know it and will never forget it, looking at the photo. Thus at least for you, this photo is spoiled, because you didn’t intend to shoot you own photo bag and see it on the photo later on as an element within the composition.

Now, what can be done in order to avoid such distorting elements ?
1. First of all: Always be aware of the characteristics of reflecting, everything will be reflected ! – and thus looking through the view finder you’ll have to look very closely and concentrate on the picture you see there. First thoughts must be – am I reflected anywhere? Is anything of my gear/equipment reflected anywhere? Check this in all details before you press the shutter release button.
2. And re-check it again after the shot, looking at the display of the camera. At the location you still have the chance to change everything when you realize that you or your gear is reflected. At home you can work with image processing only. But depending on the amount of reflections of you or your gear sometimes even image processing might not help to save the photo. It’s ruined.
3. Don’t get too close to the reflecting material. The closer you are, the sooner the chance that you’ll be reflected yourself. Or parts of your gear like the lens and body. You’ll have to check out a safe distance to the reflecting material. Safe = meaning how close can you get without being reflected yourself.
4. Clean the place from where you want to shoot from all your gear/equipment. Nothing should be around you or beside you, like it happened with my photo bag in the example above.
5. Try different angles and positions. Usually you’ll be reflected when you are in front of the reflecting material. Thus try to step aside and shoot from a slightly diagonal position.
6. Use a lens that offers you the possibility to keep distance between you and the reflecting material. A zoom-lens or small/little telephoto lens is helpful very often.
7. Always be aware of the fact that the slightest change in your position might lead to a reflection of you or your gear/equipment etc. Thus whenever you move to get another composition e.g. you’ll have to check out the effects of this movement within the frame first. Look closely through the view finder again.

In the next part of this series I’ll show you the first reflecting material to work with – water. So stay tuned and see you back again soon.

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