How to create very realistic (but still fake) reflections in Photoshop using 3D

Dec 11, 2020

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

How to create very realistic (but still fake) reflections in Photoshop using 3D

Dec 11, 2020

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Creating reflections in Photoshop is one of those things that people have been trying to master ever since those early Photoshop experiments hinted that it was even possible. There have been a lot of plugins available to perform this task over the years, but it’s possible to do it natively in Photoshop without any third-party plugins.

In this video, Unmesh at PiXimperfect shows us a technique we can use to create very realistic looking reflections in our landscape photos using Photoshop’s three-dimensional workspace to not only create a reflection but also waves and ripples.

This is quite a long tutorial, coming in at around 25 minutes, but there’s a lot to cover and take in. You’re probably not going to get your efforts perfect on your very first attempt, even if you’re following along with Unmesh while he works. But ultimately, the process is fairly straightforward and once you’ve got it figured out, you’ll be creating realistic looking reflections in no time.

It’s a technique that works great with landscapes like this, but if you’re shooting items close up, especially if you’re looking down on an item, then you’re not going to be able to get perfectly realistic mirror-like reflections (physics and perspective just doesn’t work that way), but if you want rippled water with broken up reflections, it can be a great method for making those if you’re not able to include a reflective surface while shooting.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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