Photographing fish in aquariums

Discussion in 'Graphics Programs and Photo Gallery' started by Sharkbait, Nov 6, 2003.

  1. Sharkbait

    Sharkbait TPF Noob!

    Nov 4, 2003
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    Indianapolis, IN
    I was responding to a thread in the general photo forum and got to thinking about this. One of my particular areas of experience is shooting aquarium fish, (notably the ones in my saltwater aquarium). It's a tricky and sometimes painstaking process, but when the results are good, they can be out and out spectacular.

    Anyway, I thought I'd put up my experience here and try to organize it all in one spot. :)

    • 1. The tripod is your friend. I almost always use a tripod and cable release when shooting my aquarium, especially when I shoot any of the sessile (non-moving) invertebrates. For fish, I usually go hand-held because it's easier to track them, but my percentage of useable shots usually goes way down.

      2. For any kind of moving fish, I usually use a shutter speed around 1/120s or so. Any lower and I get a lot of motion blur, any higher and the photos become very dark. Depending on the intensity of the lighting you have in your tank and the depth of the fish you're shooting, that might affect that shutter speed as well. I also adjust my exposure compensation way up (sometimes as high as +2 stops) to help get some more brightness into the tank.

      3. Because tank lights use different color temps (kelvin temps), they often look great to our eyes, but lousy on film (or digital sensors). I usually have my white balance adjuster set to incandescent bulbs or fluorescent bulbs, but I've noticed with my new Canon digital rebel the auto white balance feature works pretty well.

      4. I avoid using the flash for several reasons. a) It tends to really wash out the colors of the fish and blend them into the background, making the image look very flat. b) It can be difficult to shoot through the glass tank wall and not get a big flash-glare.

      4.2. I haven't tried this myself, but I've seen some of the people over at and that get GREAT shots using an off-camera sync-flash held above the tank. That way the light from the flash takes on a more natural, top-down look.

      5. Take a LOT of shots. When I shoot my tank inhabitants, I have no qualms at all about taking 200 shots and getting maybe 5 or 10 good, useable ones. This is where digital really shines through.

      6. Use the autofocus, but don't trust it implicitly. The glass can throw off a camera's autofocus, especially on lower end cameras. My Canon doesn't seem to have much trouble, but I'd almost always have to manually focus my old old sony.

      7. Shoot at night with the room lights off (only tank-lights on). This helps cut down glares and flares of reflection off of the tank's glass.

  2. pierce

    pierce TPF Noob!

    Oct 6, 2003
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    It's also a good idea to wear dark clothing (if i'm going for a really good shot I even wear black gloves), and if you are using a regular camera, use 400 speed film so you can keep those shutter speeds fast.
  3. Kent Frost

    Kent Frost TPF Noob!

    Jan 27, 2004
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    Springfield, MO USA
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos NOT OK to edit

    It's interesting to me that this subject has come up. I've been waiting for a good place to post this pic. ;-)

    This was taken with a Canon Elan II with a 28-105AF Promaster lens, topped off with a set of close-up filters.
    I just set the end of the lens flat on the aquarium glass.

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