Find a way to utilize a reflection in your images. This could be a reflection in a window pane, in a puddle, or even in a raindrop. If you can, challenge yourself to shoot something more than a person standing in front of a mirror— get more creative!
Using reflections can also move your image into the realm of the abstract. By solely photographing a reflection you can puzzle the viewer’s eye and entice them to look longer to solve the visual riddle.
Make an image that puzzles, intrigues or tells a story by making a reflection a central element of your photograph.
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Reflections are great for telling a story, adding visual interest, or even creating symmetry an image. Perhaps your use of reflections tells a story of duality, with the subject looking in the mirror NOT matching the reflection. Or a large reflection of an entire scene to create perfect and peaceful symmetry to your composition. You could also look for a unique element in the scene that creates a reflection, and shoot a close-up on this object that usually would be overlooked (a piece of jewelry, a hubcap, a puddle of water and more). The options are endless.
Gregory Crewdson’s work is known for its elaborately staged scenes and story-telling imagery. The subjects often appear lonely, isolated and empty in the intricate environments he constructs. In several of Crewdson’s most popular images, reflections play an important role. In one image a woman sits alone at her vanity of mirrors, staring blankly into the reflection. However, one in the background the mirror reflects a nude woman, complete vacant who is just beyond the camera’s view in the room. The result is chilling.
In my early years as a photographer, my subjects were nature and landscapes and I frequently utilized reflections in my work. When photographing mountain and lake scene, I would seek perfect reflections in the water. For awhile, I photographed reflections in raindrops, and the tiny and amazing world of reflections that were created with a raindrop clinging to a flower petal. It didn’t occur to me to use these same techniques until I saw an image by Susan Derges. In the frame, The Observer and the Observed No 1, water shoots across the scene making droplets of water. A woman’s face is visible out of focus in the background while her face is also visible inverted in the droplets to create an intriguing and unusual pieces.
Recently I came across the work of Lisa Jacoby, whose work is ALL about reflections and disjointed reality. In her study of figures and mirrors, nudes are wrapped around mirrors to create surreal and visually engaging compositions where the viewer is left wondering what is reflection and what is ‘reality’. She also creates real-life composites by using mirrors to reflect one part of a subject’s face or body onto another person. The results are bizarre but invites you to explore the results.
I have personally shot mirrors many times in my own editorials and creative works. For one men’s fashion editorial, I brought mirror-plated plexiglass out on location into the forest. The placement of the mirrors in the scene allowed me to reflect my subject, the environment, and to create surreal and somewhat abstract effects.
Have more inspiration to add? Absolutely feel free to add other links and artists you admire in the comments section so we can all share and be inspired!
Sometimes there isn’t a reflection in your scene, so you bring the reflection along with you! As seen in a couple of my images above, at times I have brought extra large mirrors on location to be able to reflect large parts of the environment for surreal results.
For this particular challenge I decided to utilize something more portable, more affordable, and more abstract by making myself a prism of mirrors. Though making this contraption only costs a few dollars, it allows you to have a prism that transforms the environment and your subject in creative ways.
This particular prism is made from 3 piece of mirror taped together (I recommend duct tape or perhaps gorilla glue at the edges). You can have these pieces of mirrors custom cut to fit your size requirements, but I actually got these pieces for a few dollars a piece at a home decor store. Originally these mirrors were meant to be table decoration (perhaps to place candles upon) but I saw entirely different potential!
Note: In another iteration of this concept, I had 2ft square pieces of mirror-plated plexiglass cut and taped together so I could fit my subjects within the mirror prism itself for a giant-size version of this concept! I’ve actually shot this as a beauty editorial and more unusual fine art nudes as well!
After building the prism, it was time to experiment. What is fascinating about this contraption is that the visual variety is endless. I discovered that my choice of focal length, angle of the lens and distance of the lens within the prism all completely changed the final results. A wider focal length reveals more reflections and repetition in the scene whereas a longer focal length allows you to focus (literally and compositionally) on just a few reflections. If I angle my lens to the side, I can have the actual subject (in focus) in just part of the composition while the rest of the frame is taken up by out-of-focus reflected abstractions.
For this challenge I shot all natural light in a park with a basic background of trees and leaves behind my subject. I actually positioned my subject so that there was an opening in the trees to the left of my frame and light bouncing off the sidewalk/ground near the subject. This created a beautiful glowing light source for nice illumination on the subject’s face. If you look at the light on the face of the subject in the final images you can actually see this soft directionality to the light.
For the final images I selected I chose a slightly wider aperture (F/4.0) so that the background wouldn’t be too sharp or distracting. After a lot of experimenting I decided that for this particular portrait (great effect for wedding imagery too!) that I liked a slightly longer focal length ranging from 90-105mm. This longer focal length simplified the reflections and also compressed/simplified the background a bit. If I were shooting something more Avant Garde or with a graphic background element I may have chosen more depth-of-field or more repetition of reflections (aka wider focal length). For more of a beauty or bridal portrait I actually decided that less is more!
This technique is great to make the scene look a bit more surreal and creative, and can be especially useful in spicing up an otherwise boring background!
Shutter speed: 1/200
Join the Creativelive Photo Challenge
I’ve shared my resulting image, and now it is time to share yours! Each month I’ll personally be selecting winners to be featured by Creativelive. Be sure to enter as we’ll be giving away some amazing prizes including a Canon imagePROGRAF 1000 printer to one lucky grand prize winner!
If you’d like even more inspiration, check out my book “Creative 52” for more ideas to invigorate your photography portfolio! I can’t wait to see what you create! I hope I inspire you, because my photographic community is always inspiring me!
Used during this shoot