I tried a few times to achieve mirror-like images with water, like this:

enter image description here

However, I never manage to take out all the roughness due to waves, streams and so on. I guess these pictures aren't always taken with perfectly flat water, and that they use long exposures to smooth all the irregularities. Is that true?

How can I get a nice reflection even if the water is not perfectly still?

Little update: indeed it's just a matter of finding place where the water is very still :) A small capture from Norway, a few days ago:

enter image description here

Thank you very much for the advice!

3 Answers 3


Nope. When it's done without cheating (adding the "reflection" in post-processing), it's a short exposure and still water. You'd be amazed how eerily quiet the water surface can be in the very early morning on a small lake in the woods; you can see the wake that waterfowl left behind minutes ago. But it does generally mean getting there at some unblessed hour, woefully undercaffeinated.

Taking a long exposure will blur the image, leaving (usually) a vertically-smeared suggestion of the colour and shapes of the landscape and sky above the waterline. That, too, is a nice effect, but it's not what you're looking for. You can't get a clearer reflection by averaging over time.


Just to add to Stan Rogers' answer, here is a non processed example of such a blur happening on the reflected image after a 15s exposure.

Faro Boat Line 2 | Linha de barcos em Faro

While the surface objects are reasonably sharp, the reflections are clearly not. Also note the effect on the clouds, which were moving quite fast that night.

As Stan mentioned, those artifacts aren't necessarily bad per se, but the result is not what you gave as a target.


From Scott Kelby's, The Digital Photography Book (the first)

Another advantage of shooting at dawn (rather than at sunset) is that water (in ponds, lakes, bays, etc.) is more still at dawn because there’s usually less wind in the morning than in the late afternoon. So, if you’re looking for that glassy mirror-like reflection in the lake, you’ve got a much better shot at getting that effect at dawn than you do at dusk.

So - in order to improve the probability of getting the shot, you should get up early. Also, that gets the nice morning colors that is apparent in the first photograph.

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