Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Exploring with a Camera: Reflections in Glass

I'm so excited for today's exploration! The "Exploring with a Camera" series is about seeing things around you in a different way. To get good photographs, you first have to see, like I discussed in Monday's post. Today we're looking at capturing images with Reflections in Glass.

Reflections in glass are so cool because the image you see is not a direct image of a subject. What's behind and around the glass changes the images, and the reflection itself often softens and distorts the subject.

Below is an example from our recent stay in Lucerne, Switzerland. In this image, the only "direct" image you are seeing is straight through the walkway. The rest of the arches and store windows are reflections. See the people on the right? They are really on the left, not directly visible to the camera, but in the reflection they have a "ghost image" quality. It's like an optical illusion, but it's just looking down a corridor lined with glass.
To get this image I moved around and took photos from several different angles and at different times with varying amounts of people. When I took this specific shot, I didn't even notice the people visible in the reflection on the right because I was focusing on the "direct" part of the image being free of people.

Here is another example, of my son looking out of a train window. The reflection draws your eye to his profile. Look at it for a while and you start to see the symmetric shape between the two profiles. You'll also notice that the key areas of his face in the reflection - eyes, nose, lips - are clearly visible while the other parts are modified by what is seen out the window.

If there is something immediately behind the glass, you can get really cool effects in your reflections. The security door immediately behind the glass in this photo enabled me to get an uninterrupted scene of the reflected street in Lucerne but with a really unique texture.

A reflection can completely change a setting. Without the reflection of me and my family, the image below would be just another doorway to a modern building. Nothing of note that I would routinely photograph. With the reflection, it becomes a family portrait with a sense of place - you can see the wording above the door is in Spanish (we were in Barcelona) and the funky tube things draped across the top show part of the science museum we were entering. Notice how everything in the photograph seems to draw your eye to the center, where the reflection is. Also notice also the cool "double" effect with our reflections because the entrance had two sets of glass doors.

Here is another reflection of an entrance, a self-portrait of me at our apartment building in Italy. I love the sense of place that is achieved by what is reflected in the background, along with the tiny little suggestion of what is behind the door. Not a huge fan of my pictures of myself (who is?), I also like how the reflection softens my image so that I don't focus on all of the things I immediately see as "flaws" in a regular photograph. Maybe I'm able to better see the real me, as others see me, because it's a reflection.

And, just a reminder, glass is just not windows and doors! Here is a wine bottle, but in it there is a reflection of me and my family along with the buildings across the street in Nice, France. The subject here is the bottle, but the reflection adds interest.

Tips for getting your own images of reflections in glass:
1. Look for indirect light on both sides of the reflection. In reviewing pictures for this topic I realized that the most interesting reflections have indirect light as the main light source - either in shade or cloudy day or evening light. When there is a direct or strong light source on either side of the glass you will not get the kind of reflections I'm showing here.
2. Look in and Look out. Keep you eye out for reflections on both sides of the glass, whether you are indoors or outdoors. When you see the reflection, also notice what you see through the reflection. That can make or break the image! It's easy to focus so much on the reflection that you don't see something distracting on the other side.
3. Change your perspective. If you see a cool reflection, move around and photograph it from different perspectives and compositions. Because of the way you can often see what's on both side of the glass, you may find a more interesting composition, or even a different reflection, if you move a few steps to the left or right than where you first noticed the reflection.
4. Look for reflections in all kinds of glass - not just windows. When you start to see these, you will notice that glass is everywhere, in all shapes and sizes and colors.

Have fun seeing all of the reflections in glass around you in a whole new way! I would love to see your explorations in this topic, post a link here in the comments or join the Flickr group to share.


  1. Hello I'm participating in August Break and found your link on the blog roll. I had to comment on your reflection photography. It is beautiful. The photo of your son is simply amazing. I'm thrilled to make new connections through this photo group!


  2. What a wonderful and informative post! I learned so much in reading it, and love your photo examples. The wine bottle reflection is very cool. You have inspired me--I am going to go and try some photo reflections. Thanks so much, and thank you for your supportive comments on my blog. :)

  3. This is a such a wonderful and inspiring post! I especially love the photo of your son, it really stands out. You've motivated me to go through my own reflection photos and perhaps post them as well.
    I enjoy your blog so much!

  4. You have inspired me! The only things I have tried to capture are people/models in store window. Something new to try - wonderful instructions, Thank you very much!

  5. I love these. all of them. the one of your son with his nose steam on the train window priceless!

  6. Very informative and inspiring post! Really love the photo of your son on the train.


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