reflection photo above the lake by ali syaaban on Unsplash

An Essential Guide to Reflection Photography: Where to Find | How to Take Great Ones

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You can go from taking amateur snapshots to becoming a professional photographer by simply understanding the basics of reflection photography. In this guide, we'll show you where to find the best opportunities for reflection photography and how to take great reflective shots.

Ready to get started? Let's begin.

What Is Reflection Photography?

Reflection photography involves taking pictures of objects reflecting in a mirror-like surface. Such images can be naturally occurring or created using any reflective surface, including water, glass, metal, or even polished stone.

It's important to note that the quality of the reflection will be affected by the quality of the surface it reflects off of. For example, a reflection in a puddle of water will be less clear than a reflection in a still lake.

There are four main types of reflection photography categorized according to the type of reflection used. These are:

Surreal Reflection

This is a type of reflection photography where the photographer uses objects in the scene to create a reflection that is not actually there. You can do this by using a mirror, a transparent object like a glass of water, or other reflective surfaces.

It is important to note that it can be challenging for a person or even a photographer to notice the surreal reflection unless he has an artistic eye.  

Architectural Reflections

reflection photo of buildings

Photo by Erik Eastman on Unsplash

This type of reflection photography uses the reflection of buildings to create an interesting composition. The most common type of architectural reflection is the one that uses the reflection of a cityscape in a body of water. The water body can be a river, lake, or even a puddle.

The photographer must carefully position the camera so that the reflection is not too distorted.

Abstract Reflections

This type of reflection photography shows only the lines and colors of the reflection without revealing any details of the reflected object. A good example is a colorful building or material reflected in a body of water, showing only the colors and lines of the reflection without any details of the building.

Natural Reflections

reflection photo of the river

Photo by Jonny Gios on Unsplash

This type of reflection photography occurs naturally without any intervention from the photographer. A good example is a photo of a tree reflected in a lake or a photo of hills reflected in a river.

How to Find Reflection Photography?

Finding a good place to do reflection photography can be tricky, especially if you don't have a specific location in mind, but it's worth it when you get a great shot. While many places in the world are suitable for photographing reflection photos, choosing the right place will make all the difference.

Some of the best locations for different type of photography are:

1. Large Bodies of Water

Water bodies like Lakes, oceans, and rivers are all excellent places to find perfect reflection shots for landscape photography. The water's surface acts as a mirror, reflecting whatever is in front. This can create some stunning images, especially if there are interesting objects or scenery in the water's reflection.

While water in these water bodies is constantly moving, there is always the time of day when it's calmer, and the surface is more still, making it easier to get a clear reflection. The best time to shoot reflection images is usually in the early morning because at this time, the water is usually the stillest, and there is often a low-lying mist and the golden hour which can add to the atmosphere of the shot.

Do not forget to take your shot of the still water to avoid ripples in the reflection.

2. Puddles

Another great place to find and use reflections is in puddles, especially after it has rained. The raindrops on the surface of the puddle act as little mirrors, reflecting whatever is around them. Look for puddles in interesting locations like near colorful flowers, in front of buildings with interesting architecture, or in a forest with tall trees.

a person taking relfection photo by the puddle

Photo by Dewang Gupta on Unsplash

Shooting reflections in puddles is also an excellent way to make your viewer feel like they are looking into another world. This is because the reflections in puddles often look quite different from the reality around them. For example, a puddle in front of buildings reflects the buildings upside down, making it look like you are looking into a parallel world.

3. Mirrors

Mirrors are another significant object to use for reflection photography. You can find mirrors in many different places, like in store windows, on the side of cars, or even in some public art installations.

The great thing about using mirrors is that they can reflect both the object in front of them and the environment around them. This can create some really interesting and unique shots.

It would be best if you tried to change your perspective and find the right view to create the best composition for your reflection photo. A perfect way of doing this is by getting low to the ground so that the mirror reflects the sky instead of the ground, which can make for a stunning and serene image.

4. Metals

Metals like steel and aluminum are suitable for taking reflection photos. The surface of these metals is very smooth and reflective and can create some stunning shots. The great thing about using metals is that you can find them in many places.

For example, you can find them in the form of building facades, sculptures, and even some pieces of furniture. Like with mirrors, it's crucial to find the right perspective when taking your reflection photo using metals.

reflection photo of the sky

Photo by Marcel Strauß on Unsplash

Getting low to the ground can often create the best composition, allowing the metal to reflect the sky instead of the ground.

Camera Setting for Great Reflection Photos

Focal Point

For taking a beautiful reflection photo, you want to ensure that your focal point is in the correct location. If you want to take a photo of your subject's reflection alone, ensure that you aim and set your focal point on the subject's reflection only and not on the object you are reflecting on.

However, if you want to take a photo of both your subject and the reflecting surface, ensure that you aim and then set your focal point in the middle so that both the subject and the object are in focus.


If you want to focus on both the object you are reflecting on and your subject, you will need to set your aperture to a high number for a long exposure, for example, f/16. This will ensure that both the subject and the object are in focus.

If you want to focus only on the reflection, you can set your aperture to a lower number, for example, f/1.8. This will make the reflection stand out more and blur the frame for great depth of field.

Shutter speed

A slow shutter speed or longer shutter speed (1/60 or below) will create a sense of movement in the reflection that is often silky and dreamy. This is a good choice if you want to create an ethereal mood in your photo.

reflection photo of the street on the buildings

Photo by Derek Lee on Unsplash

A faster shutter speed (at least 1/250) will freeze the movement in the reflection, making it sharp and clear. This is a good choice if you want to capture the detail of the reflection of a still object when the water surface is not completely still.


The ISO setting will determine how sensitive your camera sensor is to light. The lower the ISO number, the less sensitive it is; the higher the ISO number, the more sensitive it is.

Shutter speed and ISO go hand in hand when taking reflection photos. If you choose a fast shutter speed, you will also need to select a higher ISO (approximately 400 or above) to make your sensor more sensitive to light so that you can still capture a clear image.

However, if you choose a slow shutter speed, you will need to select a lower ISO ( approximately 200 or below) to make your sensor less sensitive to light and avoid oversaturation so that your image doesn't come out blurry.

Pro-tips for Stunning Reflection Photography

For anyone who loves taking pictures, learning how to take stunning reflection photographs can be a great way to add a new skill to your repertoire. Here are a few pro photography tips to help you take your reflection photos to the next level:

1. Use Waves to Distort Reflections

reflection photo of bus on the after-rain street

If you're near a body of water, use the movement of the waves to create interesting distortions in your reflection photos. Waves unpredictably distort reflections, making them look warped and surreal.

However, if there are no waves, you can create your own with your feet, especially if the water is shallow enough or by throwing a pebble or stone into the water.

2. Emphasize Symmetry

When taking a reflection photo, keep your eye out for ways to emphasize the symmetry of the whole scene. This could mean framing the shot so that the reflection is perfectly centered or finding a reflection with interesting symmetry already built in.

Symmetrical shots are pleasing to the eye and make for striking photos.

3. Elimination of Distractions

One of the most important aspects of taking a great reflection photo is eliminating distractions. This means taking the time to eliminate anything in the frame that is not contributing to the overall shot. This could be power lines, trash on the ground, or even people walking by in street photography.

Sometimes the best way to eliminate distractions is to move your subject to a different angle or position so that only the desired elements are in the frame, that is, your subject and the reflection.

4. Mix It Up

Mixing up your reflection photos can be a great way to add variety to your shots. Instead of just taking photos of reflections in water, try to take both the reflection and the reflected object. This could be a photo of a building reflected in a puddle or a person reflected in a mirror.

reflection picutre of a girl in the mirror

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

By mixing things up, you'll give your photos an interesting composition.

5. Use a Unique Subject

Using a unique subject is a great way to make your water reflection photos stand out. This could be anything from a brightly colored object to an interesting pattern or even a person. The key is to find something that will add an element of interest to your photo or self-portrait and make it stand out on social media.

6. Use a Good Reflective Surface

Not all surfaces reflect light equally well. You'll want to use a surface that reflects light well to get the best reflection photo possible. This could be a still body of water, a polished metal surface, or even a glass window.

By using a surface that reflects light well, you'll be able to get a clear and crisp reflection that will make your photo look amazing.

7. Take Many Shots From Different Angles

When you find a good reflection, take multiple shots from different angles to capture different perspectives. Get low to the ground for an interesting and right angle, or climb up high for a bird's eye view.

Do not take just one photo and move on – experiment and have fun with it. This will give you many more options to choose from when you're editing later.


Reflection photography is a beautiful and unique way to capture the environment around you. By finding the right location and using the right techniques, you can take fantastic reflection photos that will wow your friends and family.

With a bit of practice, you can become a master of reflection photography.

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