5 Reasons You Should Look Beyond the Mirror. I Especially Love the Fifth One

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Often we tend to look at lighting as a tool for revealing form. But there comes an odd moment, when you realize that by creating reflection, you allow viewer to see more than just a form. A world. A story. In this tutorial I will show you 5 reasons why you should look beyond the mirror.

The virtual image becomes the living image, an intensification of the normal.” – Paul Cadden

1. Reflection Allow Viewer to See More Than Just the Form

Objects with a reflective surface aren’t a dead end for our gaze. They doesn’t let us focus on the form and color. Instead, they open another dimension and drag us towards it.

hdri lighting tutorial blender

Notice how the spheres change each time we rotate the background.

While obviously we look at the same objects, their form is being warped by reflections every turn. 

Blender Tutorial: How to Make 100 Awesome Images Using 1 HDRi?

Not speaking about the mood of the picture. Honestly, I committed to writing this article after seeing these ever-changing spheres. I was deeply inspired by how you can create dozens of different (and still appealing!) images, just by tweaking one slider.

2. Explore the World From Different Perspectives

Each reflection is a different world. Embrace it. Show it so others can see it.

As a maker of art you can use reflections to show the world from the eyes of a lake; from the perspective of a chrome bicycle; from the standpoint of a helmet.

Reflection has its point of view. We are looking from this point too.

The source model: Robot Bust – BAM by masterxeon1001. Thanks, mate!

3. Now Let’s Create a Picture Withing Picture

Curiously, reflections can create a multiple imagery in a single scene. For me it looks almost like the bounced rays multiply the images and perspectives. And you fit many fragmented pieces into one postmodern image.

Indeed, Graham Harman – a contemporary philosopher of metaphysics – claims that in Hyper-real paintings “objects interact with other objects at the price of turning them into images.”

chicago bean reflection

Chicago Bean turns the city into image

4. Reflections Bend the Light in a Weird and Captivating Way

Light, bouncing from the surface of an object, reveals warped environment and its colors. Often, ice and glass and other reflective materials are nothing more than a glimpse of the world, that peaks through reflection. Even when we don’t see environment clearly, the color and value are still there.

hdri lighting blender cycles

5. Create a Hyperrealism Style Pictures

Think for a moment: why Hyperrealist painters are obsessed with reflective surfaces? Maybe because reflection is an indicator of reality? To be reflected, something needs to exist first. Or to cast shadows. Here we almost coming to “I’m reflected, therefore I am” statement.

However, in Hyperreal paintings reflections easily surpass author’s artistic intention and start to create their own meanings.

They create “…some very weird worlds of translation and interpretation, in which a storefront is reflected by hubcap; or a bus with passengers is translated by the read window of a car; or a row of subway seats is interpreted by the shimmering roof of the subway itself.”

Heidegger and the Work of Art History

reflection blender cycles

Create a Hyperrealism style pictures, by utilizing reflections

LIGHTING OPEN PROJECT: I need Your Feedback

This project is my way of writing a book, with your interest and support.

Every week I publish the tutorial, touching some aspect of digital lighting. Work in progress and other exciting stuff goes straight to social media. So be sure to like (on Facebook) and follow (on Twitter).

I want to keep this project open and transparent.

I need to hear your voice, so please leave a comment and tell me, what do you like/dislike about the article, and what do you want to see in THE NEXT one.

Let’s keep it open and make this book together.

Subscribe by writing down your email, if you want to keep track of new chapters.

Bonus Tip for Nerds:

Trying to simulate metal, mud, ice or some other weird material, but can’t get reflections right? One thing that influence reflection like nothing else is the Roughness of the material. Watch how to enhance the realism of your materials by a factor of 100.

roughness shader tutorial

  • Great article, as usual!

  • “I’m reflected, therefore I am.”

    You just unlocked a whole world right now.

    • This small discovery made me feel a bit strange, honestly.

  • Horeb

    This was really eye-opening. I especially love the image of the red, vintage car. Great job, Gleb

  • Ethan J. Biller

    Great content! I’m really liking these articles, very inspiring!

    • Lcq92

      Waow it’s stunning !! Did you use an HDR, or modeled a very ‘liny’ environment ?

      • The ridges are normal mapped. I like that you can’t tell what’s the geometry and what’s the environment!

    • Woah! That’s what I’m talking about. Brilliant!
      How did you make the geometry – did you use displacement + triangulate + wireframe modifier? 😉

  • Mark Edwards

    Awesome as always, I was playing about with using procedural textures to create the environment map as well, that’s quite fun this is just bricks mixed in the environment texture then used them to light the scene and the rest reflections. Looking forward to the book you have some really good ideas and love your work.

    • Using procedural textures as the environment map.. hmm, nice idea! can lead to interesting patterns in reflections

  • Lcq92

    Golden article as always!

    But that clickbait title though !! It’s…it’s a joke, right ? I hope ? (it actually made me laugh pretty hard 🙂

  • Yulia Kalashnikova

    A purely technikal matter, sorry, I’ve signed up to follow your blog (green button at the top), couple of times, actually, but I do not recieve any notifictions still. I’ve cheked the spam tab, does not look like it’s an error on my side. May be someone else has this problem?

    • Yulia, I’ve just sent a newsletter, so you can see whether it works or not. Tell me plz if something went wrong, and I will do my best to fix it. 🙂

      • Yulia Kalashnikova

        I got the letter alright) thank you, Gleb!

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  • Tom Aus

    I have a slightly silly question, but how did you make your Sphere so Round. Mine got a bit of edges sidline. I give you a picture, maybe you now what I mean.
    ps if you open the picture in a new Window you will see what i mean

  • Moh Ash

    I suddenly loved those spheres !! 😀