I compiled these aquarium photography tips because I know the frustration of seeing glare ruin an otherwise perfect tank shot. If you are anything like me, you have experienced the difficulty of trying to take decent tropical fish photos of your aquarium.
Aquarium lighting and glass tanks present extremely challenging tasks to overcome when taking pictures of a fish tank. It looks great through the viewfinder, but the resulting exposure is too dark, or over-exposed and washed out. Or blurry. Out of focus. Aaaarghhhhh!!
Try these tips and see if they help you as much as they did me. With patience, practice, and adjustment of the necessary settings, it will eventually get easier.
Professional Grade or Low Budget?
Professional-grade camera equipment is not necessary to take good aquarium photographs. Sure, it would be awesome to have some of that high-dollar, high-tech camera gear… but, it really isn’t necessary.
Read on to discover Aquarium Photography Tips on a Budget…
Essential Gear for Aquarium Photography
There are many factors to consider before you begin shooting pictures of your fish tank. Some are very simple, and yes, fairly obvious. But I guarantee if you forget to do any of these basic steps, your pictures will not be as good as they could have been.
Tips for that Elusive Fish Portrait
Trying to capture a good photo of any particular fish can be difficult. Blurred, out-of-focus images are fairly common. Since some fish can move quickly – suddenly darting to and fro – it becomes difficult to get a clear focused picture.
Sure, you can use a flash which will allow the shutter speed to increase – resulting in a perfect still shot… but the glare from the flash has washed out your fish colors and is reflecting off the glass in the tank. So, you can keep trying to fine-tune the lighting with your flash, or you can try using external lighting sources to illuminate your aquarium.
If you DON’T use a flash, you have underexposed pictures and blurry subjects. Or you can see reflections of yourself in the aquarium glass. Again – you have to adjust your camera’s ISO settings to compensate for low-light conditions.
Aquarium Photography Using a Flash
If you take a picture using a flash straight on into the tank… you are going to be disappointed. You will get glare from the glass washing out your picture. I don’t normally use a flash for fish pictures, but I know some of you do. So I have a few aquarium flash photography tips for you.
Aquarium Photography Tips: Photos Without Flash
There are many advantages of taking photos without a flash. Color is richer and more realistic. Just as you did with using a flash, it is recommended to adjust the white balance until the colors of your aquarium pictures closely match the real thing. In relation to flash photography, these photos will have more depth and less shadow to deal with.
Fish are constantly moving. Swimming around the tank looking for food, or hovering in place, their fins are always moving. Even when stationary, their mouths, and gills are still in motion. For this reason, it is difficult to use slow shutter speeds in aquarium photography.
Another obstacle is low light conditions, which a slower shutter speed would help with.
Aquarium Photography Tips: Light Source Placement
Lighting is hugely important in aquarium photography. Of all of our aquarium photography tips, this is the one that will make or break a fish picture.
Your subject needs to be the main focus of your shot, meaning that it needs to stand out more than the background. That is why I recommend using a spotlight over the tank. This will work the same way as a flash but without the glare or reflections. You can adjust the spotlight to make sure your subject is receiving more light than the background.
Choose a Good Background
The type of shot I am going after will determine my choice of background. If I want to get a shot of the entire tank, showing the aesthetics of a beautifully laid out freshwater aquarium, then I want big leafy plants in the background and a colored sheet of paper or cloth over the back of the aquarium.
If I am shooting a portrait shot of a fish in that same aquarium, I want to make sure the prime focus of the shot is my subject fish. I don’t want the viewer to be distracted by a busy background. Big green leafy plants just behind the fish make for a good background.
Aquarium Photography Tips Exclusive – If my purpose is taking portrait shots of a particular fish, I normally remove him from the big aquarium and take shots of him in a photo tank. This method takes more time, as the fish has to become comfortable in his new surroundings. But he will usually relax after a few hours and be ready to pose for pictures. I use water from the original tank, so acclimation is not an issue.
The background of the photo tank is usually either black or white. This allows the fish’s colors to really pop.
Taking the Shot Requires Patience
If you are using a spotlight, you need to choose a location – then wait for the fish to swim into that spot. After you’ve chosen a good location with a soft background and enough open space in front, then it’s just a matter of time. Don’t follow the fish with your camera throughout the whole tank, just wait until the fish comes in front of the background in the location you have highlighted with your spotlight.
Try to predict where the fish is going – this is where knowing your fish comes in handy – and track it with your camera just in that small spot you have chosen.
Aquarium Photography Tips – Make sure your camera is parallel to the glass of the tank. This results in the best quality picture. If it is not parallel, the picture will probably be blurry.
Even after you have studied our aquarium photography tips and learned how to set everything up – in order to get those great shots, you still need to be patient. Sometimes it seems that your fishy friend simply doesn’t want to cooperate. This is where knowing the swimming habits of your fish will help you a lot. But mainly – having patience is what you need to get that perfect shot. Wait for it. LOL