Have you ever noticed that sometimes when you look at a reflection in a body of water, the reflection is offset from its actual source?

This is known as the water reflection light effect and can be a bit disconcerting for some people.

It’s all about the way our eyes perceive light and objects.

water light reflection effect

What Is The water light reflection effect?

Water reflection is a beautiful and unusual effect that you can recreate by shooting water in a certain way. It creates an image with bright light spots on a dark background.

This effect is called water reflection because it looks like the light is reflected on the surface of the water.

Water reflection is made by taking a photo of a still body of water while shooting into the sun.

Water reflection techniques create bright, sometimes colorful, circular dots on a dark background.



What Is The Water Reflection Light Effect?

Truly symmetrical light reflections are rare, but you can create your own with a few simple tools.

In the video below, the light source is on the left, but when we see the reflection on the right, it appears offset by half a foot.

This illusion occurs because our brains perceive light differently than other objects.

If an object is lit by a lamp and then reflected in a mirror or puddle of water, we tend to see the object first, then notice the mirror/puddle afterwards.

To create your own simple versions of this illusion, you’ll need to find something that reflects well with strong contrast behind it.

Light Reflecting Off Water In Video

This is a tutorial on how to use water for light reflection in a video. This can be used in many scenarios, like a swimming pool, or an ocean.

Step 1:

First, go into your footage and cut out the part of the video where you see the water. Put it into your timeline, then duplicate this layer twice.

You can now “stack” these layers on top of each other.

Step 2:

Now we’re going to add a “screen” effect onto each layer by pressing “S”. This will make the black parts transparent. We want the dark greys to be transparent and the light grey to remain visible.

Step 3:

Now we’re going to add a motion blur onto the second layer by pressing W and dragging it down. The speed should be around 145-155.

Step 4:

Next, add a motion blur onto the third layer by pressing W and dragging it up. The speed should be around 28-35.

Step 5:

Finally, add some light effects using Edit -> Adjustments -> Exposure/HDR/Levels/Curves.

Light Creates A Mesmerizing Water Reflection Effect

In this video tutorial, we’ll create a light reflection effect by adding a layer with a pattern on top of the original video.This can be used to create a subtle reflection or as a more dramatic effect.

In the example, I used a still image of an underwater scene, but you can use any other footage that you have, including your footage or stock footage.


1. First open the original video in FCPX and then duplicate it by pressing Cmd+D.

2. Now go to Effects Browser > Video Effects and then drag Water Reflection onto the newly created clip.

If you want to change some parameters for this effect such as scale, rotation or position just select it and press Cmd+E and then choose any variation from the parameters menu.

To add more realism, add another clip on top of the first one with some patterns in it (I added an underwater pattern from Motion Array) and change its blending mode from Normal to Color Dodge so that it will look like the light is coming from behind it.

If you want to change color or other effects for this layer just select it and press Cmd+E and choose any variation from the parameter menu.

Why Do Reflections Appear In The Water?

When light contacts any surface and is reflected back, it typically reflects at the same angle at which it hit the surface.

However, if you drop a stone into a pool of water, the water acts as if it was a mirror, reflecting the image below.

Why does this happen? Turbulence. 

When a stone is dropped into water, an expanding ring of waves is created, which eventually come to equilibrium with each other. This turbulence helps create multiple images that are projected in different directions.

Lighting conditions 

The light source must be shining directly on the water’s surface for reflections to form.

When this happens, there is more light hitting the tops of the waves than the bottoms, creating bright spots on the top surfaces and dark spots on the bottom surfaces. The light hitting these bright spots will be reflected straight back to you.

High-density waves

The speed of light is 299,792 km/sec (186,282 mi/sec).


Because light travels slower through water than air or space, it bends when passing from one medium to another.

This bending can cause multiple images to be created above and below a single-point source of light when there is high-density wave activity on the water’s surface.

What Is Water Reflection In Film?

Water reflection is an important part of photography.

Water Reflection is a photographic technique where the camera is tilted so that the water appears to reflect images like a mirror. The water should be calm for this to work properly.

The objective is to have the reflections of objects which are present above the waterline in the photograph, but not present in real life. 

Water reflection has been used by many photographers around the world to bring their photos to life. It makes photographs more interesting, especially if they depict a serene landscape. 

Water reflection can also be used as a way to remove unwanted objects from your images.

How Can You Make Water More Reflective?

There are many ways to make water appear more reflective. I will go over several methods here.

I love the idea of making large pieces of glass or mirrors out of water.

However, multiple small pieces are easier to work with if you’re just starting out. I’ve seen some great video’s that use milk and/or food coloring to make beautiful designs.

The first thing you need to do is find a container that has a flat bottom. The container can be any shape but it should have a flat bottom.

For example, you may find that different-shaped glasses will produce different results. Make sure the containers are clear so that your audience can see through them when viewing the finished product.

Add food coloring to the water. As you add coloring to the water, it will become more saturated and darker in color. Eventually, no light can penetrate it and it will look black. 

If you find the color too dark, try adding less food coloring or adding more water.

DIY Water Reflection Light Rig

A cool effect is created when you shoot an object with reflected water from below. This is inspired by the works of photographer William Bay.

He shoots glass objects which are partially submerged in water and creates a beautiful reflection on the surface of the glass.

Gather all the materials

You will need a black neoprene case, some white paper, a piece of foam board and a flashlight. You will also need gaffer tape.

Cut the top part of the case and put it upside down on your table. Place the black foam board (or cardboard) on top of it and mark where to cut so that the board fits just inside the case with no gaps.

Cut out this rectangle

You now have a background as shown in the picture below.

Place your object on top of this background and place another piece of foam board behind it to act as a reflector as shown in the picture below. This will give you nice shadows and reflections on the glass.


Water Reflections On Wall

Water paintings can be a unique addition to any setting. Water offers a sense of tranquility, serenity, and reflection.

Water paintings are ideal for calming the mind and relaxing the soul. Tropical fish, colorful underwater plants, and coral reefs are good subjects for your water painting.

A water painting can be created to reflect any style or period of art, from realism to impressionism.

Water paintings blend well with both contemporary and traditional settings. On one hand, they bring a simple feeling of calmness or serenity to a room that might otherwise be lacking in character.

On the other hand, they can complement more formal rooms by adding a touch of whimsy or simply enhancing the aesthetic appeal of the space. Water reflections on a wall can provide a great atmosphere for people to enjoy.

How Do You Make Water Reflection On Walls?

A good way to add realism to a white wall is to create the illusion of water. This can be done by creating a picture of water and transferring it to your wall.

You might want to create a sea scene, waterfall, or lake. 

The steps are as follows: 

 Create a new layer in Photoshop and fill it with white.

Get a picture of water on the internet (or use one you’ve taken with a digital camera). This can be anything from a river, lake, waterfall, ocean etc.

Put the selection tool on top of the area you want to copy and click CTRL+A (Select All). Copy (CTRL+C) it.

Put the selection tool on your blank layer and click CTRL+V (paste). The whole image will appear on your screen in your blank layer, with white showing through where you don’t want it.

Using the eraser tool (set at 50% opacity), erase all parts of the image that you don’t need. When you’ve erased everything you don’t want, use CTRL+E (merge visible layers).

Press D to reset your colors and then change them back again if you like.