There’s just something about a water reflection photo that I really enjoy.
I can’t decide if it’s the calmness of it or the symmetry. Maybe it’s both!
But snagging photos like the one above is a little more involved than pointing and shooting at a calm body of water (though those are important steps).
Step #1: Consider the Subject
Not everything that’s reflected in water makes for a great subject.
A mountain peak – yes. A nuclear power plant – not so much.
Remember, whatever the subject is, it will be doubled in the shot due to the reflection. That means you need to ensure the subject is strong, has good lines or shapes, or has eye-catching colors.
That’s why mountains, trees with fall foliage, and city skylines are popular subjects for water reflection shots – each has interesting shapes or colors that make them a strong subject.
Step #2: Consider the Time of Day & the Weather
Water reflection shots have the most impact if the water has a still, glassy surface.
But that stillness doesn’t come at just any time of day.
The chances are better for still waters in the early morning, such as at sunrise.
The afternoon, however, is typically the time when the wind kicks up most frequently, so afternoon shots will be more difficult to come by.
What’s more, reflection shots benefit from the softer, more colorful light that’s present in the early morning and late evening. There’s less glare, too, since the sun is so low in the sky.
Step #3: Use Aperture Priority Mode
Reflection shots are tricky because your subject is much further away from the lens than its reflection, yet you want both to be in focus.
One way to do that is to ensure the depth of field is large enough to capture both elements.
The aperture you use is one of the factors that influence depth of field. The larger the aperture value, the greater the depth of field.
So, put your camera in aperture priority mode (A or AV on your camera’s dial), and select an aperture like f/11 or f/16. Even if there’s objects in the shot just a few feet from you, that aperture should give you enough depth of field to get the entire scene in sharp focus.
Step #4: Minimize the ISO
If you’re shooting a reflection photo during the daytime, minimizing the ISO won’t be a problem.
But at sunrise and sunset, you might need to bump it up a bit to prevent the image from being too dark.
In those cases, still strive to keep the ISO as low as possible.
This is advisable because as the ISO increases, the image becomes grainier due to noise.
Fortunately, when shooting in aperture priority mode, you can set the ISO as well.
Today’s cameras can easily shoot at ISO 800, 1600 or even 3200 before noise becomes a noticeable issue, so just be aware of that when changing the ISO setting.