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


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


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).


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