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Old 01-06-2004, 11:57 PM   #1
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Can you all give me some tips on photographing fish/tanks?

We got a Cannon A70 for Christmas and I haven't spent a lot of time photographing the fish so far... I've been so busy taking shots of everything else! I just took some shots of my Orandas and they're ALL blurry and this is not a fast moving fish, lol.

Also, I don't yet know how to use Photoshop or anything to touch up pics.

Here is a photo of the gang:


Here is the same shot with merely the "sharpen" effect in Irfanview:


I'm trying to show the orange algae on the glass. Anyhow, my first attempt sucks and I need help!
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Old 01-07-2004, 12:46 AM   #2
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When I shoot here, there are several things I do.
One, turn off all lights in the room other than those that concentrate light into the tanks.

Two, try your hardest to set things up so that you do not have to use a flash.
( Nothing like a flat glass surface to get a back flash off of)

Three, plan on taking several poor shots for each that turn out good.

Four, don't try to shoot around a normal feeding time. Fish can tell time .

Five, give the fish several minutes to settle down after you get within their sight.
Fish associate you with food, so they get excited when they see you.
Allow them time to get back into their normal routine.

Hope this helps,
dino
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Old 01-07-2004, 01:02 AM   #3
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I recommend a tripod. My fish pix sucked 'til I got one. Check thrift stores! I got a great tripod for $1.50 at St. Vincents it is no pro model by any means but it works great for what I am doing.

It IS bette to not use a flash, but I still have the lame light that came with my 'kit' (What a waste, never get the kit IMO. What was I thinking) so I am stuck with the flash for now. If you take your shot at a slight angle, enough to not reflect the flash but not enough to distort the fish, you can get some pretty good shots.

My high school photography teacher told me, "It takes a roll of film to get one great picture."

For every shot I have posted in my gallery I have many more that are not worth posting.
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Old 01-07-2004, 01:25 AM   #4
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Maybe theres a setting on the camera for taking close up pictures like that? With my polaroid, If I leave it on default, it takes awful pictures. There is a setting called macro I can put it on for taking close pictures and it really brings them out.
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Old 01-07-2004, 11:36 AM   #5
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Helpful stuff! I'm glad I have a digital, so I can waste all the bad pics with zero cost. Thanks for the tips!
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Old 01-07-2004, 12:01 PM   #6
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I have an A60 which is functionaly the same as your A70 except for a few features. First, set the camera to the fast action mode and that should help a bit. You also have full controls on that camera, you can try a faster shutter speed as well. And use the macro mode if you are close to the fish.

The flash works OK as long as you take the pic at an angle. My fish do not seem to mind the flash, but I try not to use it just in case. I took this with my A60, most of the pics come out crappy though:



No flash, camera mode to to fast action, macro mode.
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Old 01-07-2004, 12:51 PM   #7
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Good Morning, Holly.

I'll offer my tips, but I do not know te capabilities of your camera.

1. For good "fish" shots as opposed to "tank" shots, a macro capability is a must.

2. The wider the angle you can set your lens to, the closer you can get to the fish with greatly increased depth of field.

3. If you do not have the capability for "off-camera" flash, then again, you must move in very close to reduce or hopefully eliminate reflection of the flash off the glass.

4. You can use extra tank lights, but they are not "color balanced" as your internal flash is. You either have to adjust the white balance in you camera's menu (yes, for once you are going to have to read the manual) - OR learn to "adjust color balance" in Photoshop or an easier imaging application. It's a one-click adjustment - so don't be intimidated.

5. You will need to learn to "squeeze" the shutter gently whch will reduce some of the blur. My technique is the same for shooting a rifle. Take a breath, let it half-way out, hold it and squeeze the trigger gently - while locking your elbows into you sides or resting them on an object. See - those 3 years in Uncle Sam's Army DID pay off!)

6. I my experience a tripod is out of the question - except for a situation I will get to in a minute. Shooting a fish is like shooting any moving target. You can't shoot where it is, you have to shoot where it's going to be - or you lose a piece of the head, because the fish moved out of the frame while you were taking the shot. Think trap shooting. You must "lead" the target.

7. If you want to use a tripod, buy a 2.5 G betta tank that comes with the three glass dividers. Spray paint one flat black and the other flat white. Turn the tank longways. Insert the proper painted glass that will best contrast your subject in the glass slot closest to you. Be sure the painted side is facing you or again, reflection issues will arise. Install background materials, (such as plastic plants or a flat rock standing up) that you find attractive. You've now limited the amount of space that the fish has to wander in - to about 6" wide X 8 " high X 4" deep. You can also very easily cut new notches in the tank frame to adjust the amount of room the fish has. I have one set of notches that are only an inch deep. Of course I shoot guppies and catfish, so bear that in mind.

8. Position the tank to receive as much natural light as possible striking it's front, about 4 feet away from a window, at an angle, leavng space for you and the tripod to get between the window and the tank, without blocking the ambient light.

All this being said, I have never succesfully use this technique to acquire a shot that I liked. All of the shots in my gallery were made in a 10 gallon tank, hand-held - just the way it is. I like to do things the hard way - but that's just me.

9. Shoot like a maniac. The motto in digital photography is, "Electrons are Free." The only expense once you own the equipment is your time.

10. Develop patience. I am not exagerating when I tell you that I have already taken 500 pictures of a single fish before I got one I liked - and even then I was hoping it would have been better.

11. Practice different techniques to develop a style that works best for you. It's nice to get pointers, but in the end you'll wind up with your own formula for success.

12. Cruise the gallery. When you see pix that approximate what it is you are trying to achieve, ask that person for some advice. This will greatly reduce the learning curve.

13. Search the web. There's a lot of info out there and you just might find "exactly" the info you need to improve your efforts.

14. Show-off your efforts. Even the crapola. Get feedback and learn to accept criticism in the manner in which it is offered. You'll need tough skin for this part.

15. Above all else - HAVE FUN!!! All the effort will be worth it when you get that one shot you want to hang on the wall and get made into next years's Christmas/Hanukah/Pagan/Heathen/Devil Worship (pick one) holiday greeting cards.

That's all I have to offer unless you have other questions.

Now - will you being using Visa or Mastercard, today?

Happy shooting! - Frank/Guppyman
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Old 01-07-2004, 02:12 PM   #8
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Excellent tips!

I'm STILL :P trying hopelessly to get good pix of my fish (hence my empty Gallery). I get a lot of blurry ones, but they are actually improving. Soon I may have something to post, and believe me, you'll all hear about it, LOL.

I have a Canon G2 and I've been putting it in macro mode, using the fast action setting, and turning off the flash. The thing I really have to learn is patience!
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Old 01-07-2004, 02:26 PM   #9
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Photo Tips

Myriam,

Try using the flash if you are right up/touching the glass at a little bit of an angle. I have gotten some good shots this way.

Or, put your camera in manual mode, and use a higher shutter speed. That might help. Just keep experimenting. And - like you said. "patience." You'll get there. - Frank/Guppyman
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Old 01-07-2004, 02:30 PM   #10
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You know my camera has this little blue light that flickers/flashes right before the flash goes off, and it freaks the fish out. They'll be sitting there seeming like they're ready to get their picture taken, the blue light flickers, and they're off! I've tried using the flash but putting my finger right over that blue light window.

I know this is lame, but I don't know how to use the manual mode :-( That's why I bought an automatic!

You are right, experimentation and insane amounts of patience will get me there someday! Thanks
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Old 01-07-2004, 02:38 PM   #11
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All *great* advice so far...

I think the most important question to ask in fish photography is "what's making my pictures so blurry?" The root of the answer is *not* that the fish or you are moving, though this will certainly be the case. The answer *is* that you have far too little light to appropriately photograph an object in a normally-lighted fishtank. You need about 5 watts per gallon before you can start to photograph moving fish with little blur...

I usually do my absolute best to add light to the top of the tank in order to better illuminate my subjects, and I always switch off the overhead lights in order to reduce reflections on the glass.

Your best bet, if you can't add more light by propping other lights/ballasts over the tank, is to be patient and wait for a moment when your subject has slowed down (evident, I suppose). Common sense applies...

HTH
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Old 01-07-2004, 02:45 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by myriam
You know my camera has this little blue light that flickers/flashes right before the flash goes off
This is either a "red-eye" reduction feature, which should be a customizable menu setting OR "auto-focus" assist which can also be turned off.

Quote:
I don't know how to use the manual mode!
It's on the "thumb wheel" which is now probably set to "A" for automatic. Look for "M" for manual. - Frank/Guppyman

P.S. You're going to have to crack that owner's manual - sooner or later. Might as well be sooner.
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Old 01-07-2004, 03:09 PM   #13
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There is a good post in the Showoff/Photograhy forum about this.
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Old 01-07-2004, 06:02 PM   #14
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the little blue flash thing is probably a "pre flash" for red eye reduction... MOST cameras have a menu option SOMEWHERE (read the book...) to turn off red-eye reduction or a "pre-flash" once you find that they will probably fix the spooking the fish thing...

in terms of the tripod being an "out" thing... this isnt necessarily so... they sell a special kind of "pod" but instead of tri-pod which makes it hard to use right up next to the tank.. and to pan unless you have a high end tripod like I have (bogen manfroto pro series tripod... comes in two pieces... a head and the legs... each roughly $200+ a piece..etc... yes...I have more then one addiction... fish..computers..AND cameras...) anyway you can get a "monopod" which looks like a tall walking stick with a camera mount on top.. this way you stop up and down vibration and you can easily rotate the camera on top to follow the fish since there's only one leg it's sitting on... but if you get one of those you need to make sure it can be collapsed down to about the height where you'd want to take pics in the tank...

if you have the ability to mount an external flash on your digital camera (or film camera) it is best to do so.. and get a polarizing filter for your camera lens. This reduces reflections coming back off the glass at the lens into a MUCH smaller spot meaning with some practice you might be able to anticipate the flash spot and get it in a spot you'd crop out of the picture anyway... ALSO the "larger" the area of your flash the "softer" it becomes in the area of your picture.. If you have an external flash talk to a camera store... particularly a "real" camera store not like Ritz/Wolf/etc one that caters to professionals. You will know a "real" camera store by the fact that it sells products made by hasselblad, mamiya, fuji 6x7, has pro type backgrounds, model lighting equipment, developing equipment, etc.

Once you find a "real" store talk to the people that work there...try to find the owner if possible... etc.. explain what you're trying to do.. explain that it's low light.. what your camera is.. and the fact you need to use flash near glass.. many times the people who work there are not some "teen who just got a work permit" or people that just needed a job and got trained to run the 1 hour photo equipment...

One of the things you can get at one of these stores is called a "bounce kit" this is essentially a light box for your camera flash that velcros on. You can see an example by looking at the lumiquest (a major manufacturer of these..) website front page... [url http=http://www.lumiquest.com/]http://www.lumiquest.com/[/url] the milky cover on the front is a diffuser and it makes the flash less harsh... if it's over a "box" that is much larger then the size of the bulb area in the flash it will then spread the light from a single point to a much larger area and soften it instead of this really harsh spot... IF you can manage to make yourself something like that to fit on your camera flash or buy one from a store like that then

If you look at the comparison area you'll see some of the difference between the photos with and without a bounce device... the direct flash starts to lose details due to the bright harsh light. with the bounce it softens and spreads the light to illuminate evenly and bring out the shadows and other details more naturally instead of filling everything in.... on aquarium photos if you're in close and you bend the box down a little it works amazingly... if you're far back you get a softer white spot on the glass that is almost non-existant if you have a polarizer filter...

polarizers are VERY common so even just that with your digital camera would be a good start.... they are what makes most photos outdoors have darker blue skies and greener trees and grass... and gets rid of that sun reflection on the photos of the car you've been fixing up after you gave it a nice wax job to show it off... etc...


what I mean about the bounce bringing out details... on the comparison look for the drink on the tray with the fruit and shaker thing... notice the lid on the shaker... direct flash it has a darker right side on the top... the bounce you still have a darker area but you can see the rings on the lid very clearly... you can also see the dip in the tray more clearly... also notice the shadows cast on the background are softer on the bounce... this stuff is what you notice with your fish photos... scale patterns and more easily seen... fine details in your plant leaves show up... etc...
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Old 01-07-2004, 06:55 PM   #15
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Wow, thank you all so much for your thoughtful replies! I *really* appreciate the time you all took to write out your tips and thoughts. I was heavily into B&W photography as a teen, but I've never had a camera that takes a battery, lol. I've never had a camera that doesn't take various lenses and lens hoods. I've never done close ups and haven't really shot moving things, let alone fish. I've got some more learning to do. And I just knew you'd mention that word... manual *Cringe*

I guess I'll have to break down and use it :P
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Old 01-07-2004, 07:37 PM   #16
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Here's my second attempt. I think this is pretty good shot of Monster, the panda Oranda
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Old 01-07-2004, 07:38 PM   #17
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Holly that is an AWESOME photo! What a cool fish.
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Old 01-07-2004, 07:41 PM   #18
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Thanks, Myriam! I appreciate it
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Old 01-07-2004, 07:51 PM   #19
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Yeah! Good job! You are getting better already.

Those fish are SO funny looking, it makes them cute. I can't have any tho When my GF agreed to me keeping fish again she said, "Just don't get those ones that look like their brains are on the outside." LOL
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Old 01-07-2004, 08:06 PM   #20
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Photos

Hey Holly! Now you're cooking with gas. Good work. Keep it up. - Frank
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