Including Reflections in Your Images

There is an old adage that “two is better than one”. Like most old adages, there are exceptions to the adage. For example, I just used the word “adage” twice in the same sentence and it sounds kind of crummy. Nevertheless, from a photography perspective, I think Taylor Swift was really onto something when she coined this timeless phrase.

Including a mirror image reflection of a subject can result in a pretty cool picture. I regularly look for reflections in water, mirrors, windows and other reflective surfaces when out shooting pictures. Here are some examples:

Reflections in Water – Landscape photographers regularly use reflections in water as an important compositional element. In most cases, you will want to avoid cutting the reflection in half, so you might have to bend or break the “rule of thirds”, sometimes putting the horizon line dead center in your composition.

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Fishing on the Li : Prints Available

Chinese cormorant fisherman on his boat

Reflections in Mirrors – The shape of the sign and mirrored reflection is what makes the image below (somewhat) interesting. When using a wide-angle lens, you often have to be careful to keep yourself and your camera out of the reflection while also keeping interesting elements in the reflection.

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Reflection on Wacker Drive : Prints Available

Color rendition of a reflection in a sign on Wacker Drive

Reflections in Windows – I did an earlier blog on “watching the windows” when composing, so this is a bit of a repeat. Notice how the reflection in the windows adds color and contrast to the subject.

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Church on the Coast : Prints Available

Red and white coastal church with the beginning of a beautiful sunset overhead

Creative Use of Other Reflective Surfaces – In the shot below, the reflection is the subject, as opposed to complementing the subject. Reflective use of shiny surfaces, such as black plexiglass, is often used in product photography and even portraits.

The Beach

Including Motion in Your Pictures

Photographers are faced with the challenge of bringing life to a static, two dimensional image. The creative use of light and shadows can make images appear three dimensional (I’ll address this in a future blog). You can also make your images more dynamic by capturing motion, which is the topic of this blog. Below are a few examples on how to do this.

Use very long exposures in dark environments. The picture below looks like the London Eye on steroids. The motion blur in the clouds and ferris wheel is the result of a 20 second exposure. These long exposures are only possible when minimal light is hitting the camera’s sensor, such as at night or when using a very dark neutral density filter.

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London Eye spinning at night

Capturing moving objects in brighter conditions. You can still get motion blur in a light environment. The amount of motion depends upon your lens focal length, distance to the subject, shutter speed and, of course, how fast the subject is moving. The shot below from Venice was taken using a shutter speed of 1/2 second, although you can blur fast moving objects using faster shutter speeds, such as 1/250 or faster. Generally, you’ll want to experiment to get the effect you want.

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Gondolas docked at San Marco Square in Venice

Freezing motion. Capturing and freezing water or moving objects using a fast shutter speed can still add movement to your image. This is especially true if the moving subject is prominent in your composition, such as in the wave splash below.

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Wave Crash at Oceanside : Prints Available

A wave crashing on the rocky shore of Oceanside, Oregon is frozen in time

Zooming during the capture. If you use a zoom lens, another way to capture motion is by zooming during the actual capture. In most cases, these shots look better if at least part of the picture is sharp (notice the trees are sharp in the image below). So, it is still important to focus on your subject before zooming.

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Color Burst : Prints Available

Zoom shot of foliage at Groton State Park in Vermont