12 Quick & Easy Aquarium Photography Tips
Aquarium Photography Tip #1 – Have Patience
Photographing fish in an aquarium is all about patience. Don’t be afraid to shoot lots & lots of images. If you are using a digital camera, the only direct cost of shooting lots is the time it’ll take you to sort through all your images after the shoot, editing to find the best ones. It is not uncommon for me to shoot close to 500 individual frames during a single aquarium photography session which lasts 2 to 4 hours.
Aquarium Photography Tip #2 – Know Your Fish’ Behavior
You’ll find that you’ll take more successful photos of your fish if you study your fish’ behaviors before you pick up your camera and start clicking away. Many fish will have favorite spots in the aquarium that they’ll hang out. They may have a regular swimming pattern or other habit that you might be able to predict and be ready with your camera in the right place at the right time.
Aquarium Photography Tip #3 – Avoid Reflections in the Glass
Reflections in tank’s glass appear in aquarium photos when there is light illuminating objects on the outside of the aquarium. To reduce or eliminate reflections in your aquarium photographs, turn off all the room lights and either shoot at night or close the curtains & blinds in the area which the aquarium is in. The light illuminating the aquarium should be the only lights on.
Aquarium Photography Tip #4 – Minimize Distortions
Photographing through glass introduces distortions. Holding your camera perpendicular to the aquarium glass while shooting (straight through) will minimize distortion in your aquarium photographs. Shooting through the aquarium’s glass at an angle will force the rays of light (which ultimately comprise your image) to travel through more glass which will obscure the image. The greater the angle, the greater the distortion will be.
Aquarium Photography Tip #5 – Use a Flash Correctly
Do not use an on camera flash. They will cause bright reflections in the glass if you are photographing straight through the glass.
Do use an off-camera flash with a sync cord or wirelessly. The single best (technical) thing you can do to improve your aquarium photography is use a flash unit that is positioned above the aquarium. This will g along way to eliminate reflections in the glass and gives a better quality to the look of the light illuminating the fish you’re photographing.
Aquarium Photography Tip #6 – Thoroughly Clean Your Aquarium
To remove as much dirt as possible from the aquarium by perform a large partial water change prior to your planned photo-shoot. Vacuum the gravel during the water change procedure. These will improve the water’s clarity and minimize floating debris ending up in your photographs. Do this a day or so ahead of time to give the water a chance to clear up.
Aquarium Photography Tip #7 – Clean the Glass
Make sure that the glass/acrylic is spotlessly clean before you start your photoshoot. Cleaning the algae off the inside of the tank should be done at least a couple of hours before you plan on starting your aquarium photo shoot as the process usually makes the water cloudy. Waiting for a while gives it a chance to settle & clear up.
Aquarium Photography Tip #8 – Backgrounds Should be Complementary
Ensure your image’s background doesn’t distract from the main subject of your photo. Simple clean backgrounds should complement your subject and make it stand out in the photo. Your can blur the background by using a wide aperture / narrow depth of field.
Aquarium Photography Tip #9 – Remove Distracting Hardware
To aid with keeping your aquarium photo’s background clean and simple, remove any unsightly equipment from your aquarium before you start taking photographs. Heaters and filter pipes are the most usual hardware in your tank and they are usually pretty easy to remove.
Aquarium Photography Tip #10 – Turn Off Pumps
Having the water still will help prevent movement in the aquarium which can lead to blurs in your photographs. This will also allow floating debris to settle and not pollute you aquarium photographs. Make sure not to forget to turn the pumps on at the end of your shoot or if your fish start showing any signs of gasping or stress.
Aquarium Photography Tip #11 – A Tripod can be Beneficial
If you are using slow shutter speeds to photograph your aquarium, a tripod can be helpful to reduce blurs due to camera (hand) shake. However, they are slow and cumbersome to use so if you’re able to have a fast enough shutter-speed to freeze the movement in your images, you’ll find your images easier to compose without a tripod.
Aquarium Photography Tip #12 – “If Your Pictures Aren’t Good Enough, You’re Not Close Enough”
Lastly, a quote from famous photographer, Robert Capa. Strange wisdom; being as Capa was a war photographer. His philosophy however, holds equally true whether you’re shooting soldiers on the battlefield or fish in your aquarium. Before picking up your camera, figure out what the subject of your photo actually is… Is it a fish in your tank? Or, do you want to capture a tight portrait of that fish to convey some of it’s personality? Or, do you want to take a photo of the environment your fish lives in and shoot it’s whole aquarium? Whatever it is, your photos will be more effective if you fill your camera’s viewfinder with your subject. A good guideline is, is that your subject should fill about 80% of your photograph. You may need a macro lens if your subject is small.
Robert Capa was killed by a landmine in 1954 in Thai Binh, Vietnam; trying to get that little bit closer.