Aquarium Photography

Discussion in 'Aquarium Photography' started by RCBruce, Nov 9, 2008.

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  1. RCBruce

    RCBruce Astrea Snail

    Oct 29, 2006
    Baton Rouge Louisiana
    One of the biggest frustrations in our hobby, aside from red slime, fish dying, alge blooms, etc. can certainly be building the tank of our dreams, then getting pictures that don't do justice to all of our hard work. It's really not all that tough to do if you know a few tricks.

    The first thing to remember is that which ever type of camera you use, film or digital, point and shoot or slr, they all see light the same way. Light remains the one constant in all photography. You have to decide before you take the picture which type of light you want, natural or flash. In the case of shooting under water, each has it's own merits.

    Let's talk first about using a point and shoot camera. In case your wondering, this is the type of camera you carry in a pocket, film or digital. The biggest problem I see in pictures using these cameras is blurry pictures. As a rule, this is usually caused by the photographer getting too close to the subject (in this case, the tank). Most cameras have a minimum shooting distance of 3 to 5 feet. Anything closer and the camera can not focus properly. Back away slightly and use your zoom (most cameras these days have some zoom) to bring the picture to you.

    Try to avoid shooting straight at the tank. Often this will cause reflections to show up on the tank glass. Try to shoot around a 45 degree angle to the tank, either to one side or the other, or looking down or up to the tank. This will also help avoid your flash being reflected back at your lens.

    Speaking of flash, if you decide you want to take pictures without it, you can turn it off. The control for flash uses the symbol of a lightening bolt with a point on it. By pushing this button repeatedly, you should be able to change it into a lightening bolt with a circle around it and a line through it. This means the flash will not fire, no matter what the auto setting says.

    SLR's - single lens reflex camera's. Also known as, "camera's you can change lenses on, professional camera's, big heavy camera's." :eek:

    In reallity, single lens reflex, simply stated, means when you look through the viewfinder, your looking through the lens of the camera. You see exactly what the camera sees, as opposed to a seperate view finder or a digitally enhanced image. This is especially useful in aquarium photography, as most of our pictures are taken realitively close up.

    The biggest advantage to slr's, other than the viewfinder and the ability to change lenses, is the fact they are made to adjust themselves to the picture taking situation better than point and shoots. Without getting too deep in this article, they can adjust their shutter speed and aperture to give the best results. The beauty is, they do all this and are as easy to use as any point and shoot pocket camera. They also have a wide array of manual settings for the control freaks out there!

    The bigger lenses allow for more light to enter the camera, allowing for better pictures in low lighting situations. Perfect for us. They also allow for the addition of a larger flash unit (although most come with a small built in) for more power and flexability. Let's discuss each.

    LENSES - Quality. I put this first due to the fact of what I see every day in my work. Customers want to purchase a $1000.00 camera and put a $150.00 lens on it. This is completly opposite of what should be going on. It doesn't matter how much you spend on the body, if you put a cheap lens on it, your going to get cheap pictures, period. I advise people to spend less on the body and more on the lens and they will get the results they are looking for.

    "You can tell what's good by the price tag, right?" Not always. These days, most manufacturers have gone to plastic lenses to cut costs and trying to influence buyers with lighter weight. You always get better, sharper pictures through glass. Without getting into an arguement about which brand is better, just let me state for the record, I own 4 slr's from the two top makers, and all my lenses are made by Tamron. Glass lenses (voted best consumer lens of the year) at almost half the price of manufacturers lenses.

    OK, so I got one, now how do I use it? At it's most basic, the same way I described using a point and shoot camera. Use the zoom to bring the picture to you, shoot on a slight angle to the glass. It's really that simple. Camera's have amazing brains these days, and they will make most of the adjustments for you. The control knob on the top of most slr's will tell the camera how to adjust itself. The green camera or box, depending on which brand you have, is your 'point and shoot' mode. The lady's head is a portrait mode, used for putting your subject in focus and blurring the background. The mountains is the landscape mode, for deep focus all the way to the horizon. The flower (the one we will use most) is for helping the camera focus in closer than normal. The running man is for freezing action. Last is the person with a star or cresent moon over his shoulder, for low light shots.

    Put the camera on the flower, get close to the aquarium, press the shutter button half way down and hold. If one of the aimming boxes lights up red and you hear the camera beep, it has it's focus and you can shoot. If you are too close, nothing will happen and the camera, being as smart as it is, will not fire. Back away slowly and keep repressing the shutter button untill it can focus. Also, pay attention to which box lights up, as this is where the camera is getting it's focus. If you are trying to get a picture of your fish, and the box that lights up is on a coral behing it, the coral will be in focus and your fish will be blurry. Take your finger off the button and move the camera slightly untill a box on the fish lights up.

    FLASH - too much? Sometimes we can wash out our picture, or just not get the mood we want, because the flash was too bright. There is a simple way to stop this, it's called diffusing the light. There are many different commercially made products that you put over a flash to accomplish this. If you don't have access to them, try this. Take a piece of toilet paper doubled over and wrap it around your flash. I know, it looks funny, but it works, is cheap, and does the same thing as the commercially available products.
    One last note. In the case of some of our corals, i.e. frogspawns, hammers, torches, etc. they are transparent or translucent. They don't reflect light, they allow it to pass through, so sometimes the colors won't come out as vivid. Sometimes you can play with the colors in photoshop, or get your developer to add magenta to those pictures.

    I hope this article helps. It is a bigginner list of tips and is by no means meant to answer the more advanced questions. Those are questions and issues for another day. This is meant to be a starting point, so, let's get started!
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