Imagine the serene morning glow of a sun-drenched mountain range, mirrored in the calm, crystalline surface of a secluded alpine lake. Or consider a busy city street, with its dazzling neon lights reflecting on slick, rain-kissed pavements. These are more than just visually appealing scenarios. They can guide us in the artistry of travel photography, particularly in capturing exquisite reflections using bodies of water or other reflective surfaces.

Why Use Reflections in Travel Photography?

In travel photography, reflections can transform your ordinary snapshots into extraordinary works of art. They help capture the character of a place, add depth and symmetry to your compositions, and often convey a sense of poetic beauty that’s more impressionistic. Whether it’s the grandeur of a mirrored skyline or the simple allure of a reflected streetlamp in a puddle, embracing opportunities for reflection can have a profound impact on your photography.

Identifying Ideal Locations for Reflections

The first step in capturing striking reflections is to identify ideal environments with a potential for interesting play of light and shadow. Naturally, bodies of water — lakes, rivers, oceans, even puddles on the street — are your go-to places. Surprisingly, though, less obvious choices can often produce stunning results as well: polished stone surfaces, windows, mirrors, and shiny metal objects can all catch and reflect light in intriguing ways.

Maximizing Natural Light

There’s no better friend to the travel photographer than natural light, and this is especially true when working with reflections. Early morning and late afternoon, often referred to as ‘golden hours’, are prime times for capturing warm, dramatic hues across your scene. Clouds, with their unpredictable aesthetics, can also cast interesting reflection patterns on the surface of water, offering a lot of creative possibility.

Camera Settings for Capturing Reflections

When it comes to photographing reflections, the right setup is crucial. Depending on your subject matter and the specific effect you want to achieve, different settings might be required. As a general rule, though, playing around with shutter speeds can have a big impact: a faster shutter speed freezes the action, helpful for rippling water, while a slower speed can turn a bustling cityscape into a dreamy blur of light.

Experimenting with Composition

Reflections provide excellent resources for experimenting with composition in your images. Are you more interested in the reflection than the ground? Turn your camera upside down and press the shutter! Can you isolate the reflection in a way that generates an abstract image? Your creativity is the only limit. Straight, symmetrical shots are appealing with still water reflections, although they aren’t your only choice. By including other elements in the frame, you can incorporate a sense of context and storytelling into your shot.

Timing is Everything

You should note that timing can be crucial for capturing perfect reflections, particularly when working with natural elements such as water or light. Sunrise and sunset, also known as the ‘golden hours’, are perfect for catching the warm, evocative hues of the changing sky, mirrored on serene bodies of water. Remember, patience is important, and sometimes waiting for the right moment can pay off tremendously in capturing a breathtaking reflection.

Post-Processing Reflections

In addition to capturing the right moment, post-processing also plays a major role in refining your reflection shots. Whether you’re adjusting the contrast for a bolder image or tinkering with color gradients, software tools like Lightroom and Photoshop can further enhance your shots. Nonetheless, keep it modest; the goal is to emphasize what’s already there, not to create something entirely new.

Reflections in Iconic Landmarks

In some cases, reflections can add a unique twist to your attempts to photograph iconic landmarks. It can lend a refreshing and interesting perspective to otherwise commonly photographed scenes, helping your images stand out from the crowd. Next time you’re trying to capture a well-known spot, look for a chance to include a reflection that enhances your shot.


Whether you’re aiming to capture vibrant cityscapes, breathtaking landscapes, or the hustle and bustle of urban streets, integrating reflections into your photography can infuse depth, intrigue, and artistic flair into your shots. So, get out there and start experimenting with reflections. And remember, as in all areas of travel photography, it’s your unique perspective that will make your images stand out.

Now, what’s the most unexpected surface you’ve found to shoot a reflection? How did the shot turn out? Do share your experience and the story behind the shot with us in the comments section. Adventure awaits, so go out there and mirror the world in your own unique way!