Mirror, mirror on the wall…it seems you have better uses after all. Most notably I can use a mirror as a substitute backdrop when an unobstructed vista is not available for toy photography.
I live in an older suburb where the houses are just close enough to be annoying for toy photography. Where ever I set up a scene there is a fence, a house or a car in the background. Nowhere can I capture the true natural beauty of bokeh created by sun shining through foliage. Recently I saw a neat trick that uses a mirror as a backdrop to capture either a natural bokeh or the sky. As soon as I saw the behind the scenes image, I knew I had to try this technique.
If you haven’t heard Brett and I are giving away a complete set of UniKitty blind bag mini figures. I thought I would take my favorite subject, Unikitty, out for a spin, to see if this mirror trick was any good.
What You Need
This is an inexpensive prop to create. All you need is a piece of mirror and a frame to put it in. I tried this with only a mirror with no protective edge and I ended up chipping my glass immediately. I recommend you spend a few extra dollars and purchase a cheap frame to protect your glass. It will also make your ‘background’ easier to transport. While this technique is great for around the house, or apartment, I wouldn’t recommend traveling long distances carting around a piece of mirror.
My first attempt was under my favorite Japanese maple in my front yard. I placed Unikitty and her entourage in front of the mirror and snapped away. I liked the results. My only concerns were around the angle of the mirror and how much clarity I wanted in my bokeh. I played with the aperture and ended up photographing this image at f 4.5; a nice middle ground.
I wondered what would happen if you dangled items in front of the mirror? Could you capture an interesting reflection that could be integrated into the story? What would happen if you placed a ‘sun’ in front of the mirror to simulate the sun in the sky? I like to photograph the sun, but find it devolves into a large bright hole of nothing in a photo. I thought I would substitute a LEGO sun and see if it was anymore successful.
I kind of like the results of the sun test. I think I might need to play with this idea a little more and set up my scene with more care to really tell if this is worth pursuing. But for now, it is an intriguing path of exploration.
Because Unikitty is associated with rainbows, spirals, confetti and all manor of items bright and colorful I wondered what it would be like to photograph her with a rainbow. Now I could create a rainbow in photoshop, but what happens if you add one directly to the mirror?
Again this was a rather hasty set up, but the results were promising. I can see painting the rainbow with more care; maybe even adding another layer using a different transparent material. But for a quick photo, I’m pretty happy with the results.
I think using a mirror to create an interesting background is certainly worth exploring. My favorite of the three methods was the first attempt. But I can see trying this method with a more dramatic sky or even possibly a sunrise. There is plenty of times when im photographing into the sunrise (or sunset) when the sun is behind me. Usually I resort to bounce card or a small portable light to illuminate my figure. But why not flip the equation and get both the light on the figure AND the sunset?
For now I will be putting option number one into regular use. There are plenty of times when I need to grab a quick photo and the location isn’t that critical, but a creamy bokeh background would be nice.
Have you ever used this technique or anything similar? If so, how did it work for you?
If you would like to win a complete set of the Unikitty series of blind bags, join our G+ Community and participate in this months theme challenge: One.
I did not invent this mirror trick, I saw it on @Cruelcodex’s IG feed. It seems he was inspired by a post by @Passage2alderaan. The free sharing of information is what makes this community so much fun, we all have the opportunity to learn from each other. Thank you Anthony and Tony for sharing your wisdom and creativity!
That’s pretty clever! I think I’ll try that. I live in Brooklyn so I always have brick walls, poles, cars or garbage, ugh.
Anna this could be an excellent solution. Let me know how it works for you. 🙂
Wooowwww!! That’s awesome!! I have to try that sometime!
It was a surprisingly easy and effective solution. Let me know if it works for you too. 🙂
Thank you for this! You just helped me solved a problem. I have been trying to figure out how to shoot backgrounds of clear blue skies. Great tip indeed!
I think it works best for this! You can control the lighting on your figure AND still get a clear but sky. Im looking forward to trying this in the fall when we get more clouds. I would love to capture a dramatic sky with this technique. Let me know how it goes for you.
OH MY GOD this blew my mind! I definitely have to try this out, I’m often frustrated with some of the backgrounds I end up finding in my go-to spots.
Im glad I’m not the only one who’s mind was blown! I think you will find your options just multiplied exponentially. Have fun experimenting!
That is so clever! This technique worked really well for your photos. I especially like the first one 🙂
Thanks Lynn. Yes the first one is my favorite too. So if you see my feed suddenly fill up with that same blue/green background you know what I’m up too! 😀
Wow, so genius! I often have the same problems with bokeh or sky. This might be great solution. Thank You very much Shelly for this tip! I will try it!
Thanks Tomasz, I wish I was the originator of this clever trick. But alas…. I’ve used this several times already and it works like a charm. I hope you will have the same success! Let me know how it goes. 🙂
This is on top of my list of “what have i learned in 2018”.
I’ve never thought about it! That’s so smart!!! I should definitely try it, i should only find a big-enough mirror…
Marco I had the mirror cut at a hardware store to fit my frame. If you cant find a ready made frame in a reasonable size, that might be another option for you. Let me know how it goes if you give it a try. 🙂
Great idea! I have neighbours on both sides with boring Colorbond fence. I think I know whose image it could be and I can email the link to you.
Thanks Janan for helping me to locate the source of this awesome tip. I love how our community is so open about sharing information. It makes us all better photographers!
Hi Shelly, What an incredible discovery. And now, once again, you are sharing amazing tricks. Thank you. Wow. It soooo worked. And that Unikitty and her entourage pic is just amazing. I hope there’s a Unikitty minifig trade opened up soon. It’s so hard to find the few I still need (not want; need). Loved this piece.
Doug have you entered the contest in our G+ community? We are giving away a complete set of the new Unikitty collectible mini figures. No promises, but there may be more than one prize. Check it out! In the mean time, I think maybe we should create a Unikitty trading group; what a fabulous idea!!