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289 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I didn't want to fill up Steve's tank thread so I'll post out here.
If your looking for photography tips so you can take some good shots
of your tank try this link. This person has some good info on using either
big buck cameras or cheapo and how to use the settings for best pics.

Not the LFS.......
460 Posts
I was going to post this site.......great link with at lot of usefull information. Here are some additional tips from a link on RC....thanks to jwedehase.

TIP: Underexpose Your Tank Shot to Help Reduce Over-Saturation Problems
Something that's worked well for me is to purposely underexpose my tank photos just a little bit. The reason for this is that due to the extremely vibrant colors that tend to be in a reef tank also seem to be a little too extreme for photography. Colors come out oversaturated, and look overly fake. So I'll underexpose the shot, just a little bit, then bring up the brightness with the Levels toolbox in Photoshop. This has really helped me control oversaturation in some of my photos.

TIP: Spot Metering for Details
With the extremely high amount of lighting in our tanks, there tends to be a lot of contrast in our photos. The simple fact of the matter is that you can't capture full light and full darkness at the same time. (This is called Exposure Latitude, if you'd like to look it up for more information). Because of this, you're going to have to decide whether you'd rather see the extremely bright things, or the shadows and depths.

So let's choose to shoot a nicely lit, bright coral. Get in real close to the coral, as close as you can and still be in focus. Press your shutter release halfway and note the readings your camera displays for aperture and shutter speed. Now back up to where you want to take your photo, and do the same. If the numbers are the same, you don't have to do anything, your picture should come out perfectly exposed. If they are different, set your camera to manual mode, and manually dial in the numbers you saw with the up-close photo.

Sub-Tip: Your camera probably already does this
Somewhere in your menu, you should see something for Metering, and it should say something like "Spot" and "Multi." Multi-metering takes a general brightness reading of everything in the picture. Spot-metering will pinpoint a tiny area, usually the center. For this reason, you can also set your camera to spot metering, and let it do all the work for you. But in this case, you have to be very careful about what's exactly in the center of the photo, because that's what's going to be metered.

TIP: Always shoot as wide as possible
In my experience, photographs tend to look better if they are shot zoomed all the way out. Zooming in tends to flatten the image, making it hard to tell what's closer and what's further away from the lens. On the other hand, wide shots tend to really emphasize the depth of the subject, which looks really nice with aquarium photos. My rule of thumb is to always get in closer, never zoom unless absolutely necessary. Even then, in most cases, I'd rather stay zoomed out, then crop the photo later. Try it. Get in close!

TIP: Don't have a tripod? Make one!
As lame as this admission is, I don't own a tripod. I always find things to rest a camera on, lean up against, and so on. For full tank shots, I've been known to set a chair in front of the tank, then put a bucket on it, then my jacket on top of it all. The jacket makes the nice, soft, "sandbag" if you will, that I can move around to get the camera to sit just right. I've also used the strap, bundled up under the camera lens, to adjust tilt when I set the camera on a rock or something in the wild.

TIP: Shoot perpendicular to the glass
This is probably one of the only crowds to whom I don't need to explain glass distortion. How many people are going with acrylic tanks just for less distortion? You know, when you look across diagonally into the tank. Everything gets all distorted. Yeah, it does that for the camera, too. For maximum clarity, always shoot as perpendicular to the glass as possible.

TIP: Your timer can help make sharper pictures
You know that 10-second timer we all use for taking pictures of ourselves and loved ones? We set up the photograph, press the shutter release, and scramble back to get into the photo. It can help take sharper pictures by eliminating hand-induced camera shake. When you press the shutter release, you are moving the camera, even if it's on a tripod. Set up your shot, set the timer, press the shutter release and get away from the camera. Now you just stand there for ten seconds while the camera counts away and shoots the picture. In most cases, the shake is minimal, or even undetectable, but you'll see it on the detail shots.

TIP: Adjusting your aperture for maximum sharpness
Most lenses are sharpest in their middle apertures. If you have a standard lens that does something like f/3-f/16, you can probably bet that the sharpest photos come out around f/9-10. Set your camera to aperture priority mode (you may need to check your manual. Sometimes it's called AV), and manually adjust it to the middle ranges. I like to average my highest possible and lowest possible apertures, then go with that.

TIP: Shoot at the lowest ISO for maximum quality
Your digital camera will have a setting somewhere for ISO (film speed). I always use the lowest number available, which is usually 100. Higher ISO values help take faster photos, and will probably be necessary if you're trying to catch a fish on film. The downside is grainier images, less detail, and higher contrast. So if you're shooting corals, lower is better.

TIP: Put That Flash Away!
Unless you have a remote flash, or a diffuser to help soften that harsh light, put that flash away, or turn it off! Flash lighting is so harsh, and direct, and the wrong color for tank settings. Flashes create harsh shadows, and an obviously unnatural lighting that just doesn't play well with the marine world. The exceptions are when you're able to use a remote flash for top lighting, or side lighting, etc. or if you're able to use a diffuser to help wash out the harsh light. Sto-Fen products makes a real nice diffuser that I haven't had the opportunity to try on a reef tank, but I am interested in what it might do. (

TIP: Darken the Room to Help Reduce Reflections
Have you ever tried to take a full tank shot, and see it ruined by the horizontal lines of the reflection of the mini-blinds? Or maybe you can see the room lights reflecting in the front glass. Work in the dark. Darken the room, cover the windows or whatever might be directly behind the camera. A little bit of preparation goes a long way.

TIP: Turn Off the Water Flow
This is a tip most people are familiar with. When you're getting ready to shoot those corals, especially the softies, turn off the powerheads and circulation pumps to stop the water movement. It will only be for a short while, so don't worry about your corals. The lack of water movement will help capture the little details like polyps and tentacles that make reef tank shots so fantastic.
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