The Complete Guide to Mastering Reflections in Photography (Capture Them or Eliminate Them)

How is it possible?! With what we are fascinated by reflections and what we have talked about them and we had not yet dedicated an article to them as they deserve? Ok, yes, we have made challenges and an inspirational gallery, but we have not sat down to tell you how to master them. Because of course, we love capturing their magic, but… do we always want them in our photos? Sometimes not. Sometimes we rack our brains to avoid them because they are just a distraction, not a pretty reflection that adds appeal.

Well, my intention today is that you learn to dominate them, either when it comes to capturing their beauty and attractiveness or to leave them out of the image when they get in your way. Take note that these tips will come to you from the movies. Let’s go there!

These are the tips that I am going to detail below to avoid reflections:

  1. Use a polarizing filter
  2. turn off the flash
  3. change the angle
  4. Stick the target to the glass
  5. Turn off the lights
  6. clean crystals
  7. Photoshop

How to avoid annoying reflections in your images

Has it ever happened to you that you were trying to capture the beauty of crystal clear water and the stones or little fish that were below and all you got was a luminous surface? Or try to portray someone looking in the mirror and have the flash appear in the photo. Or maybe you want to photograph the decoration of a room and that the reflections on the glass spoil the whole harmony… These cases are quite common. But, luckily, there is a way to prevent them from happening. Let’s see how:

1. Use a polarizing filter

In addition to providing you with a beautiful contrast between the blue of the sky and the white of the clouds, helping to remove haze from landscapes or increase the saturation of colors, this filter reduces unwanted reflections. You can use it for landscape, interiors, car photography or when you need to reduce reflections from any reflective surface (glass, metal, water…).

2. Turn off the flash

Unless it is essential, do not use the flash and you will avoid its reflection. If you can’t avoid it, follow the advice below.

3. Change the angle

This trick is useful both when it comes to avoiding the reflection of the flash and when taking a portrait of someone who wears glasses, for example. Many times you will be able to eliminate unwanted reflections simply by changing the angle from which you take the photograph. You can also change the position of the reflective surface, for example, in the case of portraiture, it may be enough to rotate your face a few degrees. In short, move the light source, be it a flash or a lamp and, if you can’t, try to change the position of the object or shoot from another angle. Many unwanted reflections are eliminated with this simple gesture.

4. Stick the target to the glass

When photographing through glass, stick the lens well to the east. Except when you are in a moving vehicle, such as a plane, a car or a train, in which case you must leave a centimeter of distance to avoid vibrations and that your photo is moved.

5. Turn off lights

Do you want to photograph the outside from a glass? In addition to following the advice above, turn off the lights, if they are on.

6. Clean crystals

The cleaner the glass, the purer its transparency. Whenever you can, try to keep it clean to avoid reflections that do not touch.

7. Photoshop

When none of the above works, turn to San Photoshop. If you can avoid it with the tips above, all the better for you. The result will be of higher quality and you will invest less time. But if it is not possible, pull it, the resources are there to be used. If you don’t know how, look on Youtube, surely there is a tutorial to remove that reflection from that specific surface you are looking for ;).

How to capture the beauty of reflections

Not all reflections are annoying, on the contrary, there are some of extreme beauty and interest. Surely you already know it and that you have tried to capture them on more than one occasion and two. In this section I will give you some tips so that you can get some spectacular photographs of reflections.

1. Sharp reflections

If what you want is to capture the reflection in the water, try to do it on a day when there is not much wind or waves, the calmer the water is, be it on a beach or in a lake, the clearer the reflection will be.

2. Abstract reflections

On the contrary, you can play with the movement of water to create abstract or textured images. Either with the water moved by the air, by the passage of a boat or because you throw a stone into the water and form attractive waves that break the symmetry.

3. Silhouettes

The silhouettes are very attractive, if you catch their reflection, twice as attractive ;). Backlit photography during sunrise or sunset and… voila!

4. Creativity

Creativity has a lot of room in the theme of reflections, turning the unreal into real, making the reflected motif the protagonist, inverting, turning around, breaking patterns or anything you can think of to surprise will be welcome.

5. Angle

If changing the angle can help you reduce or eliminate annoying reflections, it can also help you capture the ones you care about. A monument in a puddle, the reflection of an interesting face in a shop window, some children running along the seashore at sunset. Crouch or drop to the ground if necessary, try different angles until you find the best place.

6. Composition

Take care of the composition, skip the rules if necessary, for example to look for symmetry. But take care of each element of the image. Decide exactly how you want to frame. Your reflection may be wonderful, but if the composition isn’t good, it won’t do any good.

7. Clean crystals

Don’t let a smudge on a mirror or glass ruin your reflection. Try, whenever possible, to clean the surfaces where you want to capture your reflection.

8. Nocturnes

Take advantage of the night to capture the reflections of the lights.

9. Lighting

A reflection is best captured if the subject is well lit while the reflective surface is not. Also keep this in mind when photographing landscapes, when the light is dimmer and less overhead, your reflections in the water will be much more spectacular, so sunrise and sunset are very good times.

10. Get closer

The closer your camera is to the surface the better you can capture the reflection.

11. Manual mode

Although it is not essential (the photo above is taken with a mobile and in automatic mode), using your camera in manual mode offers you many more possibilities when it comes to mastering your reflexes. For example:

  • Using a small aperture to capture an entire reflected landscape
  • Work with a large aperture to focus attention on a reflection in the foreground and blur the rest
  • Use slow speeds for better reflections or night reflections
  • Control light exposure
  • And so on

In short, a manual mode increases your possibilities to infinity (and beyond… ;)).

12. Break the rules

Rules are there to be broken. Definitely. In the blog we show them to you, we recommend that you take them into account, but also that you break them. Knowingly, of course. Here is a photo with dirty glass and annoying reflections, however, in my opinion, it is what makes the portrait interesting and different.

13. Inspiration

Finally, fill yourself with inspiration. In this article you will find tons of ideas and photos that will make you want to immediately go out in search of reflections. If they seem few to you, you can go here or here.

As a bonus, I leave you with a video of Ainara García with a trick that you will love to know to achieve impressive reflections in a very simple way:

I hope I have helped you master the wildest reflections and capture the most beautiful ones. It doesn’t matter if your thing is landscapes, portraits, macro or street photography, to name a few examples. You can capture reflexes in any discipline. Photograph them and enjoy them. Come on, your camera awaits you!

Pss, pss, don’t go so fast… If you found this article interesting, it is very likely that some of your contacts with whom you share a passion for photography will also find it useful. Therefore, I will be infinitely grateful if you send it to them by sharing it on your favorite social network. Thanks and see you soon.