Architectural Subject: Reflections | Photography Unfolded

Architectural Subject: Reflections

 In Tips + Tricks

We thought it would be helpful to occasionally share subject or composition ideas to help you see your environment in a new way. We’d also urge you to take just one of these ideas and focus on it for a day, an afternoon or even just an hour. You’d be surprised at how much more you actually see when you do this. So, today, we’re going to share the many ways to see reflections and how to incorporate them into architecture photography. It’s definitely a favorite!

Perhaps the most obvious is reflections in a body of water: lake, river, pond, sea, ocean, harbor, fountain, reflecting pool…you get the idea. For the larger bodies of water mentioned here, it’s most often utilized for cityscapes. If you’re lucky, you get a calm, mirrored reflection like this view of Vancouver’s skyline Michael created.


Coal Harbor – Vancouver, BC

Or, your reflections can be abstract and painterly when the city lights blur during a nighttime long exposure.

toronto skyline

View from Centre Island – Toronto, ON

If you want to go really abstract, you remove the city and just focus on those reflections. Maybe others don’t know those lights are from the city, or that they’re lights at all, but I say it still passes as architectural, even if only you know why 😉

View from Centre Island – Toronto, ON

You can also get a mix of reflections. Both, impressionist-like, as you see with the city lights blurred in the river. Plus, definition, like you see here with parts of the Manhattan Bridge reflecting on the river.

nyc skyline, manhattan bridge

Manhattan Bridge – New York, NY

Something a bit less grand in terms of the largeness of a city + ocean, sea, river or lake, is a reflecting pool. Whether you have a relatively calm day, like I did here, allowing for a near mirror-like reflection. Or a windy day, which would give you more of an impressionistic view similar to what you see with the nighttime cityscapes. Either way has its upsides, sometimes it’s just a matter of timing.

foundation louis vuitton, paris

Another, less obvious, water reflection would be utilizing puddles. Get low to see more of your subject in the reflection and eliminate the middle-ground, as Michael did with the Eiffel Tower.

eiffel tower

Then, there’s using buildings to reflect other buildings. You can go the cityscape-like route. The first is a more literal way to do this, where the buildings are relatively identifiable.

chicago skyline, reflections

Or you can take a bit more of an abstract cityscape approach.

on the grid, nuveen chicago, reflections

Somewhere between cityscape and abstract, you can share a portion of a recognizable building reflected in the glassy details of another.

trump tower, wrigley building

Inching a bit further toward abstraction, if you position yourself or your camera up against a reflective building you can get this symmetrical, tunnel vision-like effect.

hyatt center

For complete abstraction, get in tight and look for surfaces that tend to warp what’s being reflected.

burberry chicago

Other than one building reflecting another, you can also find buildings that will reflect themselves. You must get very close to the surface of the building for this to work well. Also, the building either needs to have a protrusion, such as these fins, or you need to be near a corner, whether square or curvy, so it will reflect back on itself.

chicago chinatown library, som

kellogg school of management, northwestern university, kpmb architects

You can utilize buildings to reflect the natural environment too.

burberry michigan ave, chicago

Or reflect & blend in.

four world trade center

Four World Trade Center – New York, NY

Last, staying on the lookout for those random reflective surfaces. Here, Michael utilized a marble bench to reflect the Chicago skyline.

milton lee olive park, chicago skyline

Milton Lee Olive Park – Chicago, IL

At nearby Navy Pier, there are these tall, cylinder-like sculptures that warp whatever they reflect. In this case, the Ferris Wheel.

navy pier, ferris wheel

There are many more random surfaces that can reflect, just stay on the lookout. They can lead to some interesting perspectives. As with any photography, it’s all about the art of observation.

As we mentioned at the beginning of this post, sometimes limiting yourself to just one way of seeing, at least for a short period of time, can open your eyes to things you’d most certainly miss otherwise. So, next time you go out, perhaps just look for reflections. You might be surprised at how many unique ways you can see 🙂

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