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DPChallenge Forums >> Tips, Tricks, and Q&A >> Photographing an aquarium
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01/22/2012 07:17:33 PM · #1
I have tried to get some nice macro shots of my aquarium but continue to come up short. I'm using my 85mm 1.8 and extension tubes. I cannot seem to get the to come out sharp. I have seen some amazing saltwater images and want to try to come close to emulating them.

Here are two of my unedited images straight from the camera cropped to 70px with info. Would love some tips.

1/4s @ f/8
ISO 200
No flash
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1/8s @ f/8
ISO 200
No Flash
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01/22/2012 07:19:38 PM · #2
And just so that you are not blinded by my horrible, unedited images here are a set of images that inspire me.

What good aquarium photography looks like.
01/22/2012 07:20:22 PM · #3
are you hand holding? If so it is mostly blur from the long exposure. Try either bumping up the iso or dropping the aperture... or a combination of the two to get your shutter speed up
01/22/2012 07:22:34 PM · #4
On a tripod. I was thinking the shutter clicking might even be causing it. Is that possible?

Message edited by author 2012-01-22 19:23:05.
01/22/2012 07:25:18 PM · #5
it's possible, also just pressing the shutter can cause it. Best bet is to use a release or self timer. I would still try getting the shutter speed up as well as things in water tend to move.
01/22/2012 07:25:57 PM · #6
Originally posted by SEG:

On a tripod. I was thinking the shutter clicking might even be causing it. Is that possible?


Not likely due to shutter clicking. It is probably the movement of the water inside the tank - remember that these aquariums are constantly in motion to simulate tidal movement. You need to use a faster shutter speed to lock the motion. Your choice of f8 seems way too closed down for low light situations. I would try again with shallow DOF and faster shutter speed and higher ISO.

Also, looking at your examples, it appears that the glass you are shooting through is not flat - with some strange 'bending' going on at the bottom and top of the image.

Message edited by author 2012-01-22 19:27:09.
01/22/2012 07:31:38 PM · #7
This was shot in an aquarium...:)

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01/22/2012 07:32:45 PM · #8
Why aren't you using flash? I've had lots of practice, and I never got anything usable until I started using flash.

eta: I also mostly shoot aquarium shots with 800 ISO.

Message edited by author 2012-01-22 19:38:22.
01/22/2012 07:43:50 PM · #9
Good advice and good observations. I am using a release also. Good eye on the glass. The tank does have a slightly curved front. So I guess I need to up the ISO, stop down, and maybe shut down the circulation and try again.

As far the flash I figured I would get to much glare from the glass. I could place it above the water pointing down but I don't have a trigger and the only way I can trigger off camera is with the inboard flash which would defeat the purpose. Am I thinking correctly on this?
01/22/2012 08:03:11 PM · #10
you could shoot a long exposure (5-10 seconds), bringing your ambient down to zero and just hit the test on your flash to fire it.... it will freeze your subject and give you total lighting flexibility...
01/22/2012 08:03:51 PM · #11
Get a remote cord for the flash. This will enable you to get the flash off-camera, while maintaining communications as if it were mounted to the camera. Easier than remote triggering, best option for a single flash in close proximity to the camera. Now you can place the flash fire down from above, or position it off to the side to avoid reflections.

Message edited by author 2012-01-22 20:04:00.
01/22/2012 08:06:32 PM · #12
Try to move your camera away from the glass to reduce the distortion. I am not an expert in this area. But recently I've noticed that this helps a lot.
01/22/2012 08:08:28 PM · #13
So glad you started this topic. This is the best I've been able to do on my own aquarium:

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I also took this one from an aquarium, but one at a theme park:

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For the first photo, it took a lot of work just to get that one. For fish, I found it is easier to focus on a specific spot in the aquarium and wait for the fish to go there then to try and follow them. I don't use flash because I only have the built-in flash on my camera, and that'd just cause a reflection in the glass.

I also would get blurry images, so I started using a tripod. My lens has image stabilization, so I think that helps too. Also shoot perpendicular to the glass of the tank, because I think you can get distortion if you shoot at an angle.

Message edited by author 2012-01-22 20:09:35.
01/22/2012 08:34:49 PM · #14
In my experience I have always shot as wide open as possible with the highest usable ISO. Anything slower than F2.8 will struggle. I'll post some of my aquarium shots and their respective settings when I get a moment.
01/22/2012 08:39:54 PM · #15
I'm not sure if the D70 does this, but there's a command setting in the flash menu which allows the camera to communicate with an off-board flash, wirelessly.
01/22/2012 09:09:09 PM · #16
Originally posted by SEG:

Good advice and good observations. I am using a release also. Good eye on the glass. The tank does have a slightly curved front. So I guess I need to up the ISO, stop down, and maybe shut down the circulation and try again.

As far the flash I figured I would get to much glare from the glass. I could place it above the water pointing down but I don't have a trigger and the only way I can trigger off camera is with the inboard flash which would defeat the purpose. Am I thinking correctly on this?


I use a hotshoe flash and point it up at the top of the water line, it bounces back down giving an even diffused light while still freezing the frame. I also shoot with a lens hood placed against the glass to avoid flash glare. I never used a tripod on these (but then, I'm usually out at a public aquarium with crowds of people).

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Message edited by author 2012-01-22 21:11:04.
01/22/2012 09:13:03 PM · #17
I always use a tripod.
I usually shoot around f/8 or smaller.
I always turn off the pumps, protein skimmer, etc. and wait for things to settle down in the tank.
I always set a custom white balance.
I always use a remote trigger.
I always use a long-ish exposure.
I never use a flash.

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Some are better than others. As I progressed in my photography skills overall, the aquarium stuff got better.

Message edited by author 2012-01-22 21:20:51.
01/22/2012 09:16:55 PM · #18
Also, are you shooting through curved glass? That will cause some issues.

And my lighting is pretty bright... about 220 watts for a 35 gallon tank. But I've taken decent pictures with less lighting. I just don't think you need a flash. I can't imagine having zoanthids in poor lighting conditions.

If you send me some of those gorgeous zoanthids, I will reveal more secrets :-)

Oops, I also noticed you are using a non-macro lens... maybe that's what's holding you back. I've only used a "real" macro lens.

Message edited by author 2012-01-22 21:23:26.
01/22/2012 09:24:28 PM · #19
Maybe it's the angle of approach too... I always shoot straight into the coral... never from an angle.
01/22/2012 09:29:15 PM · #20
' . substr('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21_F.gif', strrpos('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21_F.gif', '/') + 1) . ' Kelli - I was looking for that image. I knew someone had a very nice macro that I liked but I couldn't find it earlier.

' . substr('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21_F.gif', strrpos('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21_F.gif', '/') + 1) . ' slickchik - I love your shots. If you are truly interested in some of my zoa's I will contact you if I ever frag them out if you were looking to trade maybe? ' . substr('//img.photobucket.com/albums/v153/91mini/smileys/yup.gif', strrpos('//img.photobucket.com/albums/v153/91mini/smileys/yup.gif', '/') + 1) . ' Although I have never mailed any frags before.

Here is an image of my Ocellaris that I took for a challenge. ' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_challenge/1000-1999/1424/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_962738.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_challenge/1000-1999/1424/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_962738.jpg', '/') + 1) . '

Message edited by author 2012-01-22 21:30:11.
01/22/2012 09:30:58 PM · #21
.

Message edited by author 2012-01-22 21:31:25.
01/22/2012 09:32:17 PM · #22
Originally posted by SEG:

' . substr('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21_F.gif', strrpos('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21_F.gif', '/') + 1) . ' Kelli - I was looking for that image. I knew someone had a very nice macro that I liked but I couldn't find it earlier.

' . substr('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21_F.gif', strrpos('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21_F.gif', '/') + 1) . ' slickchik - I love your shots. If you are truly interested in some of my zoa's I will contact you if I ever frag them out if you were looking to trade maybe? ' . substr('//img.photobucket.com/albums/v153/91mini/smileys/yup.gif', strrpos('//img.photobucket.com/albums/v153/91mini/smileys/yup.gif', '/') + 1) . ' Although I have never mailed any frags before.

Here is an image of my Ocellaris that I took for a challenge. ' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_challenge/1000-1999/1424/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_962738.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_challenge/1000-1999/1424/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_962738.jpg', '/') + 1) . '


I am interested in your zoas but I don't think I would have much to trade. My tank crashed and I have very little left that is worth sharing. :-( I will keep you in mind... and as I try to re-establish some things, I will let you know.
01/22/2012 11:00:22 PM · #23
Originally posted by slickchik:

Originally posted by SEG:

' . substr('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21_F.gif', strrpos('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21_F.gif', '/') + 1) . ' Kelli - I was looking for that image. I knew someone had a very nice macro that I liked but I couldn't find it earlier.

' . substr('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21_F.gif', strrpos('//www.dpchallenge.com/images/user_icon/21_F.gif', '/') + 1) . ' slickchik - I love your shots. If you are truly interested in some of my zoa's I will contact you if I ever frag them out if you were looking to trade maybe? ' . substr('//img.photobucket.com/albums/v153/91mini/smileys/yup.gif', strrpos('//img.photobucket.com/albums/v153/91mini/smileys/yup.gif', '/') + 1) . ' Although I have never mailed any frags before.

Here is an image of my Ocellaris that I took for a challenge. ' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_challenge/1000-1999/1424/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_962738.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_challenge/1000-1999/1424/120/Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_962738.jpg', '/') + 1) . '


I am interested in your zoas but I don't think I would have much to trade. My tank crashed and I have very little left that is worth sharing. :-( I will keep you in mind... and as I try to re-establish some things, I will let you know.


No worries. I'll send some to you for free if I frag enough. I'll let you know. Sorry to hear about the crash. Saltwater Aquarium's are a tough hobby. Don't know if you are familiar with what Aptasia is but it's my newest nuisance. I've had my tank for a year and am now seeing signs of it. Going to get a Peppermint shrimp tommorrow and see if he wants to eat some it before I get chemicals to destroy them.
01/22/2012 11:36:21 PM · #24
My only recent aquarium photos wsere taken at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, in this folder; I ended up shooting mostly "telephoto macros" (long focal length in as close as possible) using ambient light, and trying to get where there weren't any reflections.
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01/23/2012 03:06:39 AM · #25
Peppermint shrimp are the best way to deal with that... Hands down. I'd get a couple of them.
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