Know your stuff
Better reflections, focal lengths for wildlife, manual mode and much more.
I’d love to know how to get stunning reflections in my landscape images – mine are so underwhelming! Any top shooting tips would be much appreciated.
Using reflections in your landscape images can add real impact, especially if the background and sky are also eye-catching. The technique suits mountain scenes, and lakes are ideal, though you can also use ponds, puddles and even slow-moving rivers. Here are our five top tips...
Avoid windy days
For the sharpest, clearest reflections, shoot in very calm conditions when water takes on a glass-like appearance. Your best chance is around sunset, when wind speed is generally lower than during the day. Keep your eye on the forecast for high pressure conditions, as these also tend to mean lower wind speeds.
Use a long exposure
If there are ripples on the surface of the water, a slow shutter speed will allow the water to blur for a cleaner reflection. At sunrise and sunset you should be able to achieve this without a filter, but in brighter conditions, a 6- or 10-stop ND may be needed. An exposure of at least 5sec is ideal.
Get down low
The lower the angle of your camera to the water, the stronger the reflection will be, so set up your tripod accordingly. If you end up standing in the water, keep very still or your feet could cause unwanted ripples.
Don’t go too wide-angle
Most landscapes are shot with ultra wide-angle lenses, but this isn’t always best for reflections. Wider focal lengths can understate the scale of distant objects (which are usually your main point of interest in reflection shots). They can also mean the camera is looking downwards at the extreme foreground, which tends to result in a weak reflection. Instead, work from a distance with a longer telephoto lens.
Use a grad filter
You might find your reflection is a lot darker than the rest of your image. To fix this, brighten it up in Photoshop, or better yet use an ND grad filter to temper the top half of the frame, equalising the overall exposure.
Tim Berry PP’s deputy editor has a master’s degree in photography and has taught undergraduates. Dan Mold PP’s Photoshop editor is a former Digital Photo staffer who has encyclopedic photo knowledge. Louise Carey PP’s features writer is an experienced fine art and documentary photographer.