Reflections In Photography | 8 Tips For Creative Reflection

Reflections in photography is not just a nice little challenge, it also leads to really great photos, especially when taking landscapes. You surely know these impressive photos, e.g. a lake in which snow-capped mountains are reflected. Of course there are many other examples and possibilities that we would like to show you here. Let our tips and pictures inspire you!

Photographing reflections in nature and the city
Reflections are not only widespread in landscapes. Even in street photography or architecture you can photograph breathtaking reflections with puddles after a downpour. It’s not difficult to find inspiration for creative reflections. Find a river or lake if you want to take landscape shots. Wait until the rain is over and look for puddles when you’re in town. But it is not enough just to find a body of water. And this is exactly where this article starts. If you want to improve your photographic know-how of creative reflections, read on.

ِِAngle of view is crucial

Getting a good mirror or reflection in a photo is very often a matter of the right angle. Reflections are created by a light source. But this light source must not appear in your picture. Take this picture, for example. A landscape shot of a small mountain lake, which is surrounded by dark tree silhouettes.

The classic: A mountain lake in which dark tree silhouettes are reflected (@Julius Silver, pixabay)

When photographing such a scene, make sure that the sun does not appear in the frame. If the sun is in your frame, it will reflect in the lake and ruin your photo. The sun would significantly reduce the reflection of the main element and the contrast of the scene. It would almost completely destroy your reflection.

How to find the best angle

It’s mainly about finding the right angle. However, there is no single composition that is perfect for all situations. You need to take the scene into account, adjust your own position or that of your camera, and make sure you keep the sun out of your picture. This will help you find the best angle to deflect the light rays from the mirror surface.

The best time to photograph reflections

In the early morning hours or in the evening, you are particularly good at photographing reflections. The fog and colored clouds of the sunset are great subjects. When the sky is overcast, the reflection can help add interest to an otherwise dull sky. You can also look for shadows. Having the reflection in a shaded area will help you accentuate the reflection.

The weather decides

On the one hand, reflections can improve a composition when photographing a gray sky or a completely cloud-free area. On the other hand, a lot of wind or a downpour can ruin your pictures. Therefore, when photographing reflections, pay attention to calm weather and completely still water. Otherwise you would not be able to get clear reflections on streams or rivers. The water is simply too rough due to the wind.

Forget the well-known rules of composition

Photographing reflections is relatively easy from a technical point of view. Once you have the right weather and settings, it all comes down to your composition. It is easier to first photograph reflections in the city. You may find a puddle that reflects a beautiful 200 year old building. This is your chance! Fill the frame with the puddle and the building reflected in it. And you already have an interesting picture. Don’t let yourself be restricted by “photographically correct” composition rules. This is especially true for the photography of a reflection.

Some of the most popular rules in photography is the rule of thirds. When it comes to taking photos of reflections, however, you will be particularly “itchy” to break this rule. Why? Because of the precise and almost “geometric” nature of the natural reflections. Remember a reflection on the calm surface of a lake. Sometimes it makes sense to balance the composition along a central line. In fact, I often place the line of reflection right in the middle of the frame to achieve symmetry. I make sure I have the same amount of sky or air, both above and below. Simple, but always effective.

CPL filters are prohibited

A smooth surface of the water is the best mirror for photographing reflections. A pool of water left behind by the rain, a river, the water of the sea that stays with the rocks when the tide retreats, a lake, etc. Under these conditions you will probably want to reach for the polarization filter intuitively. But in this case the CPL filter is much more harmful than useful.

Photographing reflections – CPL
CPL can destroy the reflection on smooth surfaces such as water. (@Frank Winkler, pixabay)

Polarizing filter destroys reflections – Why is that happening?

The CPL filter (or polarizing filter) prevents any possibility of reflections on water and non-metallic surfaces. Even if you don’t take a photo with reflections on the surface of the water, but use the surface of a skyscraper as a mirror, you won’t get any reflection when using a CPL. So you have two options: Either you do without the CPL completely or you use it as far as possible. You can focus your attention and the polarizing effect on something other than your reflective surface. Avoid the CPL to create reflections. When photographing reflections of a building I never use the CPL as it damages the composition.

I usually use the CPL for landscape photography anyway, even if I want to photograph a composition with reflections. To avoid the CPL destroying my reflection, I turn the polarization so that it does not affect the reflection. Instead, the CPL focuses on other areas of the image that it enhances rather than harms.

Camera settings: take pictures of reflections

  • Aperture: f / 9.0 – f / 10
  • Shutter speed: 3 – 5 seconds
  • ISO: 100
  • Filter: Avoid


First, make sure that you set the aperture to a sufficiently small value. This can be useful in any situation where you are looking for a reflection. If you often take landscape photos, you probably already have a tripod. Make sure to use it and check that the subject is in focus in the reflected part of the image. I start with an aperture of f / 9.0 or f / 10 to maximize the depth of field and thus have the entire scene in focus. If that’s not enough, go to f / 16.

Shutter speed

With the tripod you can increase the shutter speed without blurring the picture. This will help make the surface of the water smoother. Since the water is the reflective surface, the reflection appears clearer and more pleasant.

Lengthening the shutter speed also means keeping the other parts of the composition under control. For example, clouds can form streaks over time, or you will see the sun move into your frame.


As already mentioned, it is better to avoid the CPL filter so as not to destroy the reflection on the water.

  • You can use ND filters to slow down the shutter speed.
  • If you need to compensate for the exposure, you can also use GND filters. These filters will also help you slow down the shutter speed.

If you have a good tripod, a slower shutter speed is not a problem. Use a remote shutter release or your camera’s timer to avoid vibration as much as possible. If you have a DSLR, raise the mirror before taking a photo. The line between a clear reflection and complete chaos that is reflected in the water is really fine.


Those who photograph reflections are very close to landscape photography. At least that’s how I feel. Have you already thought of the right camera equipment? We have made a list here of the best landscape photography cameras for every budget. Look in here!

Get creative with your own visual style

Reflections are not just beautiful – they help you to design your pictures more creatively and to develop your very own style. Reflections are excellent for astonishing and confusing the viewer. Regardless of whether it is a puddle that shows an inverted building or an amazing landscape that takes your breath away. Consciously use reflections as a photography trick to arouse the curiosity of your viewers. Use horizontal or vertical reflections. And don’t forget the side reflections! Especially if you are shooting in an urban setting.

Photograph reflections in the city with inception effect.

You can also use the reflection to confuse the viewer. What’s up? What below? Make viewers wonder which side is the reflection and which is not! This way, the eyes will stay on your photos longer.

Distort reality

Distort reality by showing an inception-style world turned upside down. Immortalize yourself by hiding your selfie or silhouette in the reflection. Why? Doesn’t that break the picture? No, because that gives the viewer the feeling that he is also in the photo. Great trick!

There is a lot more to it than just natural reflections. Photograph a building, man-made pools, or even sparkling objects. These lenses all offer great opportunities to photograph reflections.

Photographing Reflections- Buildings-London
Window facades allow creative reflections (@St. Pauls Cathedral London, pixabay)

Superimposed reflections

If you photograph reflections in windows, you have the advantage that the motifs on your photo overlap. This means that the viewer thinks about which side people and things are actually on.

Find 8 reflections


Don’t limit yourself to just shiny floors. Walls (made of marble and stone, for example), door handles and cars are just the beginning. Additionally, look for a shimmer or sparkle when you’re taking photos. Then find the source of the reflection. Tip: A reflection that you can always have with you is the glass ball. Learn everything about glass ball photography in our tutorial.

Photographing reflections – glass ball
The possibilities of photography of reflections are almost unlimited (@Stefanie Richter, pixolum)


A classic that is often combined with black and white photography! Reflections in shop windows can lead to fascinating compositions with the superimposition of motifs in the interior and exterior.

Mirror reflections

Mirrors are an obvious choice that make it all the more fun to challenge creativity. Bring in multiple reflections or place them in unexpected places and angles – two ways you can play with.


Lakes and ponds are probably the rock stars among mirror photographs. But there are countless other places where you can find reflections in nature:

  • Ice cream (only if the temperature is right)
  • Dew (photograph this with a macro lens)
  • Eye of an animal (hereafter a picture from horse photography) or
  • Wave in the sea
Photographing reflections – animal eye
With the eye of a horse as a reflection, you can particularly astonish your target group. (@Christels, pixabay)


Puddles are a godsend if you’re looking for a reflection. You can find them in fun and unexpected places. Puddles don’t move and when it rains you have an extremely wide range of options! Here you will find great ideas on what else you can photograph in the rain.


Reflections are all around us and allow you to take unique and impressive photos. If you want to spot reflections, find ponds, windows, and other reflective surfaces. Or go into nature and take unique landscape shots with reflections. Stepping out of your comfort zone and improving your photography skills is fun!

Did we forget something? Tell us your tips and tricks or questions about photography in the comment section!