How to Use a Mirror for Creative Portrait Photography

Work gets tough for photographers when there are shiny surfaces involved. Mirrors, for example, cause glare and produce stray light. But when used carefully, mirrors can make for great images. Photographer Daniel Norton from Adorama demonstrates how you can use a mirror creatively for a portrait shoot:

Lighting Setup

For the purpose of this photo shoot, Norton uses an old mirror and places it at an angle to form the model’s reflection. The mirror is lit with two Profoto lights on each side at the back, each light having a 1×3 strip. The purpose of these lights is to provide an edge lighting to the mirror.

Norton uses a beauty dish with a grid to light the model’s face. The grid concentrates the light totally on the model and avoids stray light. Controlling light spill allows the background to go dark and prevents unnecessary things from popping into the scene.

Aligning the Mirror

Once the lighting is set up, the next important task is to align the model, the mirror, and the camera. Norton poses the model in front of the beauty dish and turns the mirror until she can see the camera. The basic idea is that if the model can see the camera, the camera can see the model. It’s that simple.

Taking the Photos

Norton uses his Hasselblad X1D with the Hasselblad 90mm f/3.2 lens and is tethered to his computer. He gets the model to pose in front of the beauty dish and then manually focuses on her reflection in the mirror.

mirror portrait

To make sure that the image is properly exposed and in focus, Norton continuously reviews the images on the computer screen. Also, by reviewing the images, he is able to direct the model where to turn so that her face is lit properly.

creative mirror photography


The model’s reflection in the mirror gives the image a picture frame effect. While Norton has chosen to have the background dark, you can opt to use any kind of background for your image and light it. Also, try using different kinds of mirrors and see what works best.

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