This video tutorial explores a few interesting and creative ways you can use mirrors on your next video or photography shoot.
If you’re a videographer or photographer, you can use a mirror for more than just brushing your hair. While the creative uses are vast, I’m going to show you five practical setups that you can get up and running immediately. Here’s what I’ll be using in this shoot:
tripod C-stand with arm 1 medium-sized mirror an assistant glass cleaner and paper towels
Now, let’s have a closer look at the setups.
1 . Overhead Rig
Place the mirror, instead of the camera, on a C-stand.
When setting up an overhead rig, most people attach a camera to a C-stand. While this works, it makes it incredibly difficult to monitor and operate the camera. To solve this problem, I can simply place a mirror on the C-stand instead.
With the mirror mounted, I’ll pivot it to a forty-five-degree angle. Now I can shoot directly at it, giving me a nice overhead shot. Using this setup, I can monitor the image and access my camera settings normally. The added benefit here is that I can quickly shoot other angles without disassembling the overhead rig each time.
2. Low Angle
Position the mirror under the shot you need to capture.
The mirror will then reflect your shot as you capture it.
Shooting upward from a very low angle can be just as difficult as shooting overhead. In this example, I’m trying to get a low-angle shot looking straight up a stairwell. However, the space from which I’m shooting is very small, making a tripod difficult to use, especially from a long angle. I’m also using a viewfinder that doesn’t pivot, and I don’t have a flip screen.
All of these reasons make a mirror the perfect choice for this scenario. I’ll simply place a mirror on the ground, angling it slightly on a book. Now, I can sit on the ground close to the mirror and get the shot I need.
3. Extra Depth
Use a mirror to make small spaces seem bigger.
The main reason I started experimenting with mirrors is because I needed to shoot scenes in very small spaces. When shooting in these conditions, it can often be very difficult to get the perfect angle. One of the main headaches is not being able to pull a subject away from the background.
For this particular setup, I’ll place the mirror on a C-stand where I would normally stand. Then, I’ll find an angle next to the talent, where I can capture the same shot as before via the mirror. Only this time, I’ll have nearly twice the distance with which to work.
4. Fake Background
Creating the illusion of an actual background.
The reflection from the mirror moves the objects into the subject’s background.
This is a really interesting and creative trick, and it’s quite difficult to do with such a small mirror. If I place my mirror directly behind my subject and frame out the edges, I can then pivot the mirror to shift the background image. Again, if I had a larger mirror, I could loosen up the framing of my shot a bit. Nevertheless, it’s a great trick.
J.J. Abrams used this technique while shooting the 2009 Star Trek film. For the space jump scene when Captain Kirk free-falls to the surface of Vulcan, Abrams used mirrors to capture the scene. He shot the actors from a high angle as they stood on mirrors outside. This placed the sky in the background, allowing Abrams to avoid hanging his actors upside down on wires. The moral of the story? Work smart, not hard.
5. Reaction Shot
Using a mirror to catch a reaction shot from both actors.
Another great use of mirrors involves working with two or more actors. This setup can work on a single, two-shot, or over-the-shoulder. Use it to get two actors’ faces in the frame at the same time. Simply angle the mirror to show an actor who is out of frame. This allows you to capture a reaction shot without switching to a cutaway. If you’re working on a limited schedule or you can’t fit in another setup, it’s a useful technique.
After spending some time shooting with mirrors, I found a few solid practices to keep in mind:
Clean the mirror — a lot. Don’t forget to horizontally or vertically flip the image in post. Use a large mirror. Watch for wobble. Check your angles. Hire an assistant.
So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to get some mirrors and start shooting.
Looking for more video tutorials? Check these out.
How to Create the Miniature Look with a DroneThe Benefits of Understanding White Balance in the Digital EraUsing Tungsten Lighting in a Daylight-balanced SceneWhat to Do During a Drone Fly AwayIPhone 11 Filmmaking
Interested in the tracks we used to make this video?
For more ideas about working with reflections and other practical lighting effects, check out our profile of Dani Lyn Ayee.
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