Photographing Reflections Using Your Digital SLR - dummies

Photographing Reflections Using Your Digital SLR

By Doug Sahlin

Calm water is the most common — and artistic — place to find reflections suitable for photographing with your digital SLR, but mirrors and windows present interesting opportunities as well to get wonderful images of reflected clouds, boats, and other nearby objects.

The best times to capture reflections in water are early in the morning or late in the afternoon, when the sun is low on the horizon and the light has a wonderful golden hue.

Setting up your digital SLR to shoot reflections

Photographing water reflections begs for a huge depth of field. You want the objects reflecting on the water to be in sharp focus, as well as the water itself. So choose Aperture Priority mode with a small aperture of f/16 or smaller. A wide-angle focal length lets you capture the big picture. Use the lowest ISO setting that allows you to achieve a shutter speed of about 1/50 of a second or faster. Focal length should be between 28mm and 35mm.

Use the same settings to get compelling images of reflections from mirrors and windows. When you see a reflection that you find worthy of a photo, move around until you can see part of the reflection and part of what’s behind the window and take a picture.


If you have one with you, a tripod ensures that you can keep the camera rock steady and produce a blur-free picture. If you don’t have a tripod, steady hands and a relatively fast shutter speed can yield a crystal-clear image, with some help from an image stabilization feature if you have it.

Taking the picture

When you want to capture an image that includes great reflections on still water, you have to be a little spontaneous and, at the same time, do a bit of planning. Plan your photo shoot for to good light of early morning or late afternoon. And find a vantage point where the sun is shining at the objects casting the reflections — shooting into the sun makes the reflections and the water look dark.

The reflections are the main focus of your image. Therefore, place the horizon line near the upper third of the image:


A gentle breeze can cause small ripples that produce painterly reflections: