Reflections in Water

The following excerpt is from Street Photography Assignments by Valerie Jardin.


There are many ways to make compelling photographs by using reflections. After a rainfall, set out with your camera with the intent to capture a visually strong reflection of a subject in the water.


Millions of photo opportunities present themselves in the city after the rain…if you have a creative eye. Beautiful, shiny, glistening pavement, a surreal upside down world—all are photo ops waiting for you. Give yourself enough depth of field (f/5.6 or f/8) and watch your exposure compensation if you do not want to blow out highlights in the reflections of the sky. If your subject is abstract and upside down, pay close attention to the stepping motion and separation so that it cannot be mistaken for something else. Go play in the puddles and have fun!


Avoid flipping the photo in post-processing. Let it remain the way you saw it.

Upside Down / Paris, 2017
It was a rainy Sunday afternoon in Paris in November. Place de la République was
glistening from a recent rain shower. I was admiring the reflections of the architecture on
the pavement when the bicyclist entered my frame in the opening between the buildings.
The weather gave me a gift of a surreal upside-down world, but the buildings included in
the reflection help give the photograph a sense of place.
fujifilm X100f, 23mm, f/5.6, 1/180 sec., iso 200

Reflections in Glass


Ready for some more fun with reflections on the streets? This time use windows and storefronts as your reflective surface.


One of the tricks to this setup is not to include yourself in the reflection. You’re setting out to capture a compelling reflection of a stranger on a glass surface. I recommend you find the glass surface first, and then position yourself so as not to be visible in the frame. Pay attention to any distractions such as cars and signage reflecting on the same surface. Practice on anyone who walks by to gauge whether you’re standing at the right spot or if you should turn your camera vertically to give yourself more space. Ready? Remember to be discerning and choose a compelling subject to make the strongest possible reflection. Don’t worry so much whether they are coming or going, just the appearance of the subject is important. What does your creative eye tell you? What do you envision the strongest image to be? Be patient, and wait for the right subject to come along.

Summer Concert / Stillwater, Minnesota, 2017
I first saw the window of the retro camper. The shiny siding appealed to me, and the
light was also beautiful. It was an outdoor summer concert and I stood to the side so as
not to get myself in the reflection. Sure enough, before too long this woman walked by.
I positioned myself so that her reflection would be in the widest opening in the window
and I pressed the shutter. Her facial features showed up perfectly. Her hat is a bonus as
well as the small lock of hair on her neck. The other people present are far enough away
that she seems alone in the world, enjoying beautiful music on a summer night.
fujifilm X100f, 23mm, f/4, 1/200 sec., iso 1250


Reflection in a Mirror


Let’s step up your game and capture the reflection of a stranger in an actual mirror. For this assignment you will need to find a place like a flea market, an antique store, or possibly a barbershop.


This exercise requires a great deal of speed. You may have to be patient to find a subject worthy of a picture but you will have to move swiftly as soon as he or she appears in the mirror. If you have enough light to work with, set your camera to shoot in aperture priority mode with enough depth of field to capture the subject and the reflection. If you are working in a dark area and need a large aperture, you may need to pre-focus on the mirror. Given the choice, it is the subject’s reflection that should be in sharp focus, not the actual person. Be creative, this is a really challenging exercise but so much fun, too!

Reflection at the Antique Store / Paris, 2020
Les Puces de St. Ouen, Paris. It was a rainy Monday in winter and there were very
few people walking around, and many of the booths were closed. I spotted this tall
gentleman with a hat and casually followed him into the store. As he was going around
I spotted this mirror, framed my shot, and waited a few seconds until he stood right in
front of it.
fujifilm X100v, 23mm, f/3.2, 1/120 sec., iso 160


These 3 street photography assignments are from Valerie Jardin’s book Street Photography Assignments