Reflecting on Birds

by David Lilly
August 10, 2014




Bird photographers are always searching for creative ideas on how to photograph their subject. One sure way to get a little creative and add impact is to photograph the bird being reflected in the water. Of course this only applies to shorebirds, ducks etc.


American Avocet David Lilly © American Avocet David Lilly ©
American Avocet David Lilly American Avocet David Lilly ©


Reflections can be a little tricky, especially bird reflections. Here are some tips for better bird reflection photography.

  1. The water must be completely calm. Wading ducks and other birds never stay still, so a little patience is required.

  2. You can use a polarizer on sunny days. In the case of the bird photographs in this article, they were all photographed on an overcast day without a polarizer.

  3. Be careful if you decide to use a flash as you may see the flash in the reflection. There was no flash used in these photographs.

  4. Often, reflections can have a surreal feel appearance to them in the first place, so slight technical imperfections
    | won't be as noticeable. Worry about the overall tone and look of the image rather than ruining an entire photo to keep from one small blow-out.

  5. Symmetry is important in bird reflections. Usually I would not put the horizon in the middle of the photograph due
    to the “Rule of Thirds”, but in bird reflections this is your best composition. If the water is completely calm you
    won't see an horizon except where the bird touches the water.

  6. The eye of the bird must be sharp.

  7. In the bird reflections in this article I had to do a considerable amount of spot removal etc. You may still see some spots.

  8. To expose the reflection on overcast days, add +1 to the exposure as the light meter will expose for the bright water and under expose your subject, in this case the bird.

  9. As always when photographing birds use a shutter speed of 1000sec or higher. You will need a lager F-stop then normal F8 or F11, as the reflection stretches out on the water in front of the bird. In the Black-necked stilt photograph the reflection as much as half of a meter in front of the bird.

  10. As always keep it simple, one bird, one reflection.
Black-necked Stilts David Lilly



Sandpiper David Lilly ©   American Avocet David Lilly ©


In the future if you are looking to get creative with your bird photography, try some reflection for impact.


David Lilly portrait


David Lilly is a professional nature photographer living and working in Calgary, AB he also teaches photo workshops. His photos have been published in PhotoLife, Calgary's Natural Parks, Alberta Nature Magazine and Fine Scale Military Modeler. Dave shoots with Nikon equipment. This is Dave's 10th article for the Canadian Nature photographer. David is also founder of the Calgary Camera Club.

David Lilly
Web site:

Phone: 403 236-8587 (Cell)

This is David Lilly's 9th article for the Canadian Nature photographer.


See David's other Bird Photography articles on the Canadian Nature photographer

       [ Top ]