Software Workshop: Creating a Fake Reflection

Use Photoshop to add an interesting new dimension to your photos.

Faking It:

Faking It:

The water that was original to this picture was choppy, brown, and barely reflective. Not every scene photographs the way you see it in your mind’s eye. Say you find a great spot for a landscape and position yourself for a composition with an interesting foreground, middleground, and background. The lake is lovely, but it’s windy and the surface of the water is choppy instead of tranquil. You take the shot because you won’t be coming back to this place, but later find the final result lacking. There’s no need to live with it—you can fake it in Adobe Photoshop. Plenty of photographers oppose doing these kinds of interventions to pictures, but we think it’s fun sometimes to mess with reality, using software as the tool that it is. In that spirit, here’s how to create a mirror-like reflection, even if mother nature didn’t provide oneLee Sie
Step 1:

Step 1:

Since the sky will be doubled in your picture, make sure it’s beautiful before you start. This photo had a very bright spot on the top left portion of the sky that we used the Healing Brush to remove. Likewise, before you create your faux reflection, make sure you like everything about the image exposure and color tones. When your photo is at a good starting place, grab the rectangular Marquee tool and make a selection around the whole top section of your image.Lee Sie
Step 2:

Step 2:

Type Ctrl (Command on a Mac) + J to copy your selected area automatically and jump it to a new layer of its own. Then go to Edit > Transform > Flip Vertical to turn it upside down. Type V to get the move tool, and, holding down the Shift key so it doesn’t wiggle left or right, drag the top half down until it meets the horizon line. Since in this case it doesn’t quite fit, type Ctrl (Command) + T to transform it, and stretch it until it meets the bottom. If you don't need to mask off the foreground, head straight to Step 5.Lee Sie
Step 3:

Step 3:

Here comes the tedious part: the selection. Turn off the layer with your fake reflection, select the layer below, and use the most appropriate (or your favorite) method to select anything that isn’t water. Different methods work better for different photos; here, the Blue channel makes a good starting place for use as a mask. Duplicate it, then use Levels to add enough contrast to blow out the water. Click OK, then hit Ctrl (Command) + A to select the whole layer and Ctrl (Command) + C to copy. Turn off your extra channel so you no longer see it, but save it in case you want to go back. Any selection method will work, so you can replace Steps 3 and 4 with the method you prefer.Lee Sie
Step 4:

Step 4:

Head back to your layers, then add a mask to the layer that contains your reflection. Alt (Option) + click on it to show the mask, then hit Ctrl (Command) + V to paste into it the contrasty version of your Blue channel. Deselect it, then use the Brush to finish whiting out the water and blacking out the foreground grasses. The foreground in this image is detailed, so I spent a few hours perfecting it using the Pen tool and the Quick Selection tool.Lee Sie
Final Step:

Final Step:

Now for the fun—making the water more realistic. Click on the layer thumbnail for the upside-down sky. Then go to Filter > Blur > Motion Blur. Choose an angle that’s nearly horizontal (4 degrees or so) and a distance you like. Click OK. Now run that filter again, this time choosing a more vertical angle, such as 60 degrees. Finally, darken the water. Make a Curves Adjustment Layer, and lock it to the water layer by Alt (Option) + clicking on the line between the Curves and the water layer. Bring down midtones until your water looks real. If you hate making selections, be sure to start with an image with a simple foreground, or just pretend the whole bottom half of your photo was the lake.Lee Sie