Beginner with an advanced subject needs help...

Blazer1

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Hello,

I have recently purchased a Nikon D3300 kit with hopes of taking photographs of my saltwater coral reef tank. I was surprised and disappointed when I rushed home and captured my first shots in auto mode, they where terrible! Okay, there is a bit of a learning curve which I have begun.

I have a basic understanding of the triangle, shutter speed/aperture/ISO, and have been experimenting in manual mode. I spent several hours in manual mode adjusting-shooting, adjusting-shooting,..after several hundred pictures none of them where worth a darn but I learned a lot!

My tank lighting is around 15k in color and very bright causing a ghostly blue overexposed look. I have found I can adjust some of the blue out with the white balance but only to about 9k. So far my best setting have been 250/f9/ISO 100, white balance cloudy, vivid color. These results are a step in the right direction but a no where near what I have seen done by others, I have to be missing something? I have pictures I can post if it may help?

Thanks!
 

spiralout462

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Welcome to TPF. There is one simple thing you can do to vastly improve your aquarium shots. It sounds like you are shooting JPG's. If you change that to Raw capture you will have significantly more latitude when editing. The caveat? You need Raw conversion software. The majority of folks use Adobe Lightroom but the software that shipped with your camera should also suffice. I'm sure there are specific things you can do to benefit your particular situation but I am inexperienced with those. I used to keep fish but I didn't photograph them much.
 

cherylynne1

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That link explains what I was going to suggest...put a white or gray card in the tank and set a custom white balance. It can also be done in post processing, as mentioned, if you shoot in Raw and have the software. Those are pretty much your only options, I think.
 

astroNikon

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That link explains what I was going to suggest...put a white or gray card in the tank and set a custom white balance. It can also be done in post processing, as mentioned, if you shoot in Raw and have the software. Those are pretty much your only options, I think.
$2.00 US for grey cards ... 3 in1 Digital Black / White / 18% Gray Color White Balance exposure Card Quality

takes a couple weeks to get them in the mail though. BUT it's $2 TOTAL including shipping.

I use a grey card as a first shot all the time now.
 
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Blazer1

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I know my camera has the option of "shooting a grey card" to set the white balance but I do not understand the process. I was going to try using a white card just to see how it effects the final picture. Some of the aquarium photographers I am impressed with use a white section of PVC pipe. Can someone explain this procedure on my Nikon D3300?

The aquarium photographer I am most impressed with and compare my work to recently post some pictures that where straight from her camera, no editing and they where beautiful! I know she is using a Canon 70D and she is a professional photographer by trade but shoots reef aquariums for fun. Is my D3300 able to compete in picture quality?
 

vintagesnaps

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If she's a professional photographer she probably understands how her camera works and knows how to set and adjust it for various conditions.

You kind of went from 0 to 60 in a heartbeat - that's a challenging subject shooting glass because it's reflective, can have glare; the light in the water in the tank could be different from the existing room light so that might be what your meter is reading. I don't know what lens you have but kit lenses sometimes are not exactly the sharpest lenses to use.

That ISO setting seems low for existing room light (that being the measure of light sensitivity. I'd use probably at least 400 indoors. It could vary with the time of day and the light coming into the room.

I'd suggest you spend some time figuring out how to use the camera taking other pictures besides the tank and get some practice with it. Take time to think about what you're doing instead of falling into the trap of firing off the shutter hundreds of times - you don't have to release the shutter each time, stop a minute and think about how the camera's set. Take some notes on what worked and what didn't. And keep reading up on it, that seems to be a specialized type of photography.
 

cherylynne1

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Actually, the d3300 has a newer sensor, and I think in some respects it could beat the 70d in image quality. But I wouldn't expect that anytime soon. The skills and experience of the photographer is the most important aspect of a good photo. Give yourself time, you'll get there.

If she isn't editing at all and her pictures look good (although keep in mind, your opinion of good might be different than a professional's) then I can almost guarantee she is using a gray card beforehand. The PVC pipe is the same basic idea, the gray cards are just especially designed for photographers to make sure they are the perfect shade. But if you have a PVC pipe handy, you can use that until you get a gray card.

I don't know the exact method for the d3300, that should be in the manual. But on the cameras I've used, if you go through the white balance options (auto, cloudy, etc) one of them will be Custom. You select that, and a small dot appears in the center of the screen. You place the dot on the gray card/pvc pipe and click the shutter. Then just continue taking pictures as normal.

If you plan to do it in post, you simply take a picture of the gray card before you begin and use that shade to set the white balance while editing.
 

astroNikon

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I think this would work ==> How to Create White Balance Presets on the Nikon D3300 - For Dummies

I do grey card stuff in Adobe Lightroom not in camera. But then I shoot in RAW too. If you shoot in JPEG then processing is being done to create the JPEG

It's a technical leap, but it's actually quite easy once you've done it a few times.
 

vintagesnaps

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As far as white balance, most of the time the camera's settings for cloudy, sunny, etc. work. But I find that in low light (for example, sunset) that the camera WB settings may or may not work.

I may go by what I see on my viewscreen - does what I see on there match the sky I'm looking at? is it capturing the strong orange color I'm seeing? If not I'll sometimes go thru all the WB settings til I find one that matches the sky I'm seeing.

And I shoot in Raw too. Being a longtime film photographer and having done sports I learned to get the picture in camera the way I want it for the most part. So I do rather minimal post processing, but still, Raw gives me better options to make adjustments.
 
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Blazer1

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Thanks for the links and help guys!

I am shooting in raw and have adjusted white balance in camera to max, which is around 9050 kelvin but it still will not over come the 15+ kelvin blue of my tank. The lighting for my tank is very, very, strong to mimic the sun, it is led and produces 750par mid tank (do you guys use par?), the biggest battle has been convincing my camera how bright this light really is, anything over ISO 400/f9 the picture looks as if I was photographing an electrical explosion!

I have finally reached a point where I can walk up to my tank, set the camera up in manual mode and take a decent photo, that was pretty rewarding baby step!:05.18-flustered:

I am now looking to get accurate color rendering which has proved just as difficult as learning to set the camera up in manual mode. One unforeseen problem this camera purchase created, taking pictures of my hobby may have created another expensive hobby!:allteeth:
 

soufiej

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You could replace your existing metal halide lighting with something closer to daylight temperatures for any photography session. 15k is pretty high for any digital camera though it does provide great colors to your eye with lots of "pop" and good growth/health for the fish and reef.

Setting a custom white balance is covered in your owner's manual for the camera so there's not much we can explain that you can't easily source on your own. You don't necessarily need a card of any sort, simply set your balance by focusing on a "neutral" colored object in the tank. Follow the instructions for your camera and shoot in RAW capture. Decent processing software will allow you to adjust actual color temperature in the image file.

Which brings me to the question, where do your shots not look right? If you are judging solely by what you see on the camera's LCD screen, then you are not going to ever achieve your best color rendition with that as your reference. You need to obtain and use some decent software which does allow for color temperature adjustment. And, at the least, view your images as they would be presented, say, on line and best as a print. If you do not move to this point in your photography, you're sort of cooking without tasting.

"The aquarium photographer I am most impressed with and compare my work to recently post some pictures that where straight from her camera, no editing and they where beautiful! I know she is using a Canon 70D and she is a professional photographer by trade but shoots reef aquariums for fun. Is my D3300 able to compete in picture quality?"

Your camera is capable of results as close to her's as needed. It is not, however, the camera that is making the difference. If she is a "professional" photographer, she understands lighting and its effect on the final result. And, yes, she understand her camera and how to set it to correct for whatever lighting she encounters.

It's unlikely she would using conventional metal halide aquarium lighting for her photography IMO. No more than she would use MH lighting for her portraits. And "straight from her camera" can mean many things which might simply mean she hasn't cropped the image. IMO you are assuming too much by using her as a guide without knowing more about her process. Contact her and ask her your questions. Like birding and wildlife photography, people who engage in specific genres of photography are typically open to sharing their tips and tricks.
 

dennybeall

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Some good advice so far. I'd also wonder if the photographer you admire has glass tanks or is perhaps shooting with their camera in a waterproof housing so not shooting through the tank side?
I asked because so many of the tanks these days are acrylic instead of glass. Don't know if that would make a difference but I have seen some acrylics with a blue cast to them.
 
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Blazer1

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She visited a "coral farm" and photographed their corals under their lighting and the results where stunning. She was shooting hand held and adjusted white balance off a piece of PVC.

soufiej, you bring up a good point! I can turn off my blue reef lighting and use another more natural source and get an accurate picture of what the tank looks like under a warmer light source, but it is very ugly and does not look anything like my tank or any other tank under the correct blue spectrum.

My tank is glass but it is starphire glass, a low iron optically clear glass. I am sure "clear" is relative here.

I think I need to try adjusting white balance by shooting something white in my tank, I hope my camera has this option although I don't remember seeing it.

I am unsure what lense the photographer in question uses but that would not have any effect on color rendering, correct?
 

spiralout462

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If you are shooting Raw and using Lightroom for post production I see little need for an extremely accurate white balance. It can be done easier and more accurately on the computer with a larger screen. Just my opinion.

Ps. Lenses can have an effect on color rendering.
 

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