Monday, December 7, 2009

Shooting Reflections

After Friday's rant I decided to take the weekend off from major forms of technology. It felt good and now that's it's Monday morning I'm back to clinging to my laptop for dear life.

I want to talk about shooting reflections for today's post. In almost every wedding I shoot I find an opportunity to photograph someone in a mirror. And reflections can be a friend or a foe depending on your lighting and angle. I've mentioned before the concept of angle of incident, but I want to bring it up again here since it is integral to how reflections work. Basically, light hits a reflective surface at an angle (known as the angle of incident) which is equal to the angle in which it bounces off (angle of reflection).  The half way point at which we observe these two angles is called the normal. So, looking at the photo above you'll notice that in the mirror both the bride and bridesmaids behind her are visible to the camera. If this same image was taken from the bride's point of view, you'd see not only her bridesmaids 45 degrees to her right, but you'd also see me and my camera 45 degrees to the left. She is standing at the normal point I just mentioned and myself and the bridesmaids are equally distanced from the bride.

That is the key to photographing a reflection without including yourself. You must position yourself at the angle of reflection and your subjects at the angle of incident. (Note: the same equation can be used for the distance between the bride and myself in the shot above, the angle is just smaller.)

Another important part of photographing a reflection is depth of field. You have to chose very carefully what you want to include and what you don't. A shallow depth of field will look good with images designed to show the reflection only and not the person. In shots like the one above, a larger aperture would be best so information in the dress, and mirror are sharp. You should also keep in mind that the sharpness of the image will depend on the reflective surface and most of the time reflections are slighting soft focus by nature. Also, do your best to not focus on the glass itself, otherwise your image will just show the dust and finger prints on the surface of the mirror.

Finally remember that images (like the one above) need to say something. Reflections carry a story telling property that when used correctly they covey a message. Psychologically we associate reflections with an outward manifestation of what lies within. It's important when trying to tell a story in an image to be specific in your intent. Your audience will naturally infer many different levels into an image and provide a personal interpretation. Photojournalism, especially in wedding photography, is a way of communicating and when it's done with precise graphical language it can make for visually striking images and happy customers!

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