15 Dec 2007

Photographing reflections - part 2

I try to persuade my students not to get too hung up with the importance of depth of field, but it really is a vital factor to consider when photographing reflections, and, for maximum depth, the smallest possible aperture should be used. It is not just the object reflecting the image that needs to be in focus, but the reflection itself, which could be some distance away. For maximum depth of field, focus on a spot about one third the way between the nearest (the reflector) and the furthest (the reflected images) points which need to be sharp. The depth of field preview button on your camera can be very useful for checking that everything will be in focus.

With most reflections, except those on metal surfaces, a polarising filter can intensify the colours and clarify the reflected image. It does this by removing indirect light reflections. In effect, the polarising filter removes the ‘film’ of reflected light from the surface of the reflector, so increasing the clarity of the reflected image itself.

With the light directly behind the camera (frontlight on the subject), the boats in the picture above have been brightly lit. This has caused the colour of the reflections to be very intense. It is worth remembering that if you want powerful colours in your reflections – use frontlight.

Polarising filters
For the picture of the small boat, a polarising filter has been used to take away the ‘film’ of white reflected light on the surface of the water. This has intensified and deepened the colours of the reflected image. Slight under exposure ( by ½ a stop) has helped saturate the colours even more. Remember – a polarising filter will not take away the image of the reflection – only that ‘film’ of reflected light. Very useful!

A completely abstract design has been made from a very ordinary white-painted factory building. Looking into smooth, but slightly undulating water like this can often reveal really lovely images of very mundane and everyday objects

Reflections do not play a major part in the picture of the harbourside building at sunset. They just help add interest by drawing the colours right into the foreground. I used a slow shutter speed of one second so that the gently-moving surface of the water would show the reflections of the lights in the windows as a series of wiggly lines rather than a series of ‘pin pricks’. The reflected colour of the sky has been captured as a more general colour on the surface of the water

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