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Create Faux Reflections in Photoshop

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Adding reflections to your photographs gives them an exciting and unexpected element. Thanks to the power of Photoshop, your reflections can be realistic—or not. If no shiny surface is handy, why not conjure up an instant pond or puddle to reflect surrounding objects? Helen Bradley shows you step-by-step how to add fun faux reflections to images with Photoshop.

There’s something very compelling about photos that capture reflections. These reflections can come from puddles on the ground, for instance—but they’re not limited to wet environments. In fact, any shiny surface can reflect its surroundings. If you’re not lucky enough to encounter a real-life reflection worthy of capturing, you can create a reflection with Photoshop. The process is relatively simple, and you can create results that vary from looking realistic to playfully faux. In this article, I’ll show you three variations on the reflection theme, including how to make a reflection in a mirror and how to create a puddle of water where none existed.

Some Reflections on Reflecting

Before you start working on reflections, you need to be aware of some issues. One of these is to avoid attempting the impossible, such as placing a person in front of a surface and creating a mirror reflection of that person in the surface. The problem is that you typically need two images to create the mirrored version—one shot from each side of the person—because what’s reflected in the mirror isn’t what you see in front of it, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1

Figure 1 A photo of a person reflected in a mirror. To re-create this effect digitally, you’d need two images, one shot from either side of the person.

The easiest reflections to create are in situations where the reflective surface is below the object being reflected in it. Examples include reflecting a building or scene in a lake or pond. This type of reflection requires only one image to achieve a semblance of reality. Another type of reflection that’s simple to achieve shows the reflection but not the original object—in this case, almost anything can be reflected.

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