Thursday, July 7, 2011

Exploring with a Camera: Reflections in Glass (2nd edition)

[Author's Note: Through the summer months Exploring with a Camera will be "Second Edition" postings of previous explorations with some new images. You will find a new link up at the end of this post to share your photos, and your photos are also welcome in the Flickr pool for the opportunity to be featured here on the blog. I hope that you will join in!]

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 this 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 [2010]. 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.

Update: The lead-in image in this post is from my latest trip to Venice. I had a prime spot at the front of the Vaporetto and loved getting a few of these reflection images. If you didn't recognize this as the view from the Accademia bridge alone, I have the text right there to help you! Since this original post, I have been on the lookout for interesting reflections. You can get great contrasts and interesting compositions this way.

Have fun seeing all of the reflections in glass around you in a whole new way. Share your recent or past explorations on this topic, link up below or join the Flickr group to share.

FYI - Links will be moderated. Please use a permalink, ensure that your linked image is on topic, and include a link back to this site in your post through the Exploring with a Camera button (available here) or a text link. Thanks!

PS - Visit Mortal Muses today, I'm musing on Summer Fun and giving away two spots in my Find Your Eye: Starting the Journey class!


  1. Hallo! I uploaded the reflections on the river. I have not the photo of the reflection on the glass. sorry.

  2. I love those reflection photos. Wonderful!

  3. Its 7.40 pm and you have me pointing the camera at a window in the dark!:-0 Interesting granular effect but mmm I don't think so. Off to explore tomorrow. Julie

  4. I'm excited about this topic as I love finding reflections. I find them not only on glass but in water as well. I bet these points will make my reflections better. Love that face of your son in the glass...a beautiful and unique portrait.

  5. Since your first post on this topic, I have been seeing lots more opportunities for fun reflection shots. I will share some in a few days. I love the Venice image, Kat!

  6. Excellent tips Kat. A very 'reflective' post. LOVE those images.

  7. Hiya Kat,
    I'm gobsmacked by the ease with which you moved from one continent to another.
    To have your on-line life continue as if nothing important is happening: it fills me with awe.

  8. I just wrote a post on this and it is the first time i have joined it. I cannot wait to explore with my camera :D


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