Have you ever spent a moment looking at your aquarium and immediately seeing something that you need to share with others? Maybe you see something beautiful and want to take a picture to keep a memory of it.
It is no surprise that a lot of aquarists take a lot of pride in taking amazing pictures of their aquarium fish and corals.
However, it is unfortunate that capturing that perfect moment and taking beautiful pictures is difficult and frustrating.
The aquarium’s lighting, blur, and reflections make it extremely challenging for aquarium photographers to take focused pictures. Especially the newbies.
However, with patience and the right tips, aquarium photography becomes easier over time. So, here are some tips for you.
Identify Your Subject
Do you want a picture of the entire tank? Or do you want an image of a specific organism?
This tip may look like a no-brainer; however, you need to know what you want to capture before trying to take a photo. Knowing what you want to capture will help you focus more on taking the image.
Clean Tanks Look Better in Pictures
If you notice, the most beautiful aquarium pictures tend to showcase clean aquariums?
There is a reason for that–immaculate fish tanks give better photos.
If the pictures you are taking do not stand out like those professional masterpieces, take a look at your aquarium with an observant eye. For example, are there nonessential tools or wires in the picture? Or, is the sand and the glass of your aquarium clean?
Ensure that the aquarium glass or acrylic is spotless and free of salt, smudges, and remove fingerprints.
Using microfiber towels is a vital aquarium photography tip for a chemical-free and smudge-free tank. If the glass of your aquarium is cracked, it will ruin your image when you shoot close-up pictures. Also, if the fish you want to capture is not close to you, the scratches and damages on the tank would not be visible in the picture you want to take.
Use Your Camera Flash for Fish
Flash has a lot of advantages during aquarium photography. It illuminates the fish’s flanks and brings out the littlest details in your subject, which is superb for aesthetic purposes.
Reduce the distance between the camera lens and the subject to prevent the risk of reflections when using flash.
Advanced photographers opt for cameras with more sophisticated controls to allow narrow apertures, which aids with illumination. You can choose this also.
Use a Tripod When Shooting Corals
Getting a perfect and detailed shot of corals, tissues, and polyps usually needs a tripod to give a firm platform for your camera.
You might assume your hands are steady, but the slightest shake will affect your closest and farthest shots. Even if you are not shaking, the littlest vibrations from your hands can result in a camera blur.
To prevent this, get a lightweight tripod. Although setting up a tripod can be tasking for an amateur, you would not regret using one. You can use the tripod’s manual to set it easily.
Using a tripod when shooting corals is perfectly adequate for capturing the coral’s structure and growth over time by using a narrow aperture and a higher depth of field.
Ensure you remove smudges, algae, or salt from your glass, as overlooking it can spoil a perfect shot. Even with a very high ISO, including a tripod is an added benefit and gives better results.
Also, ensure you clean any marks, algae, or salt from your tank’s glass. These specks of dirt are easily overlooked, so removing them prevents a ruined image of the fish and other invertebrates in the tank.
Do Not Chase the Fish Around
When taking shots, you must ensure that you have better luck taking photos of spots where the fish is likely to go and not where they have been.
It is very challenging to snap a perfect aquarium photo if you are chasing after your fish. So instead, you should focus on taking shots at the spot where the fish spends most of its time. Or, you can snap the photo when the fish swims into your view.
If you can achieve this, you will reduce the effect of several other factors that will negatively affect your picture’s quality.
Patience Gives You Better Pictures
You cannot speed up the snapping process if you want a great photo. Outstanding picture opportunities just happen, so you need to have a little patience and wait for the moment to happen.
It is unlikely that you get a great shot if you want to rush it. So try to exercise some patience if you want a fantastic image.
Avoid Taking Pictures from an Angle
One of the common issues most people have when shooting aquarium pictures is commonly referred to as ghosting.
Ghosting is a result of refraction through the glass or acrylic and taking shots from an angle.
Be a straight-shooter and hold your camera perpendicular to the area of the aquarium you are snapping for better picture results.
Another reason for ghosting or blurry images is when you shoot at an odd angle. So be sure of what area you choose when snapping.
One of the biggest problems in aquarium photography is dealing with reflections in the glass. To avoid this, switch off other lights and do not wear bright and reflective clothes.
Also, you should position your camera and shoot near to the aquarium glass if possible.
Try, Try, and Try Again
Do not think you will get the perfect picture from a single shot. It is usually a game of numbers and since the photographs are free, take as many as you can. You will realize that the more pictures you shoot, the more outstanding and beautiful photos you get. So don’t give up if the first picture you take is not perfect. It requires more practice to take amazing aquarium pictures, especially if you are doing it for the first time.
Aquarium Photography Tips with iPhone
Aquariums are beautiful with mesmerizing sites that are full of color and unique species. How can you not want to take pictures of the fishes, corals, and other invertebrates in them?
If you are using an iPhone, here are some tips that can enable you to capture some great photos of your aquarium.
You do not need to observe every tip listed below, but keeping them in mind helps you create art pieces with your phone.
Limit the Use of Your Phone Camera’s Flash
The most obvious problem with using your camera’s flash is the reflection on the aquarium’s surface. If you want to prevent the reflection, always remember to control the lighting around you. If your aquarium is dark, you can use an external flash on your lens hood’s exterior to help light up the tank.
It is, however, crucial to note that fish scales are reflective. Therefore, if you want natural photos, reduce the use of flash so as not to distort the colors of your image.
Be Conscious of What is Behind the Tank
One of the tips for capturing a beautiful photo of your favorite fish is to hide the water filter, power cords, and unattractive wallpaper behind your tank. To hide the background, use wallpapers that resemble the natural habitat of fish or experiment with various colors to achieve the look you want.
Adjust Your Camera Settings
Since the lighting of aquariums is different, your best option is to use the iPhone camera’s auto white balance and ISO settings. If you don’t opt for this, you will spend more time fiddling with your phone rather than taking pictures.
If possible, also try to avoid slow shutter speeds to reduce the chances of a blurry photo.
Take a Ton of Photos and Experiment During Editing
As always, getting that perfect picture can only occur after taking several pictures of your aquarium. So don’t hesitate to take as many images as you can.
It is preferable to sort through many terrible photos to find your best shot than having only a single image to select. Furthermore, try enhancing your photos by editing them to add an extra touch.
When editing your aquarium pictures, opt for natural colors, and if the original image looks very blue, experiment by adjusting the colors.
Determine Optimal Camera Mode
Make sure to choose the best camera mode to take beautiful aquarium photographs. Your iPhone burst mode is beneficial as fishes are constantly in motion, making it difficult to get a good photo.
Often to get a single good picture, you take photo after photo. However, with the burst mode, the setting forces your camera to take ten pictures every second.
So if the fish is moving towards a good spot, applying burst mode takes several photos of the fish, one after the other. One of these pictures may be a perfect one.
Direct your camera lens towards what you want to snap, then press down the photo button to use burst mode.
At the bottom of your screen, an icon displays the number of pictures you have taken.
To screen every photo you have taken and keep the best ones; you can:
- Tap the pictures you just captured and then touch “select” at the bottom of your phone screen.
- Then, all of the photos you took with the burst mode will show up at the bottom of the screen.
- Swipe to view each photo, and to keep your best shots, tap the small circle at the bottom right of the picture and click the “Done” icon.
Use the Rule of Thirds for Lovely Photos
The best-looking aquariums have rocks, tall plants, corals, or hills to the sides of the aquarium.
In fact, with a front view, a portion on the aquarium landscaping is usually higher than the other. So how does this affect taking photos with your iPhone?
Applying the Rule of Thirds simply means setting vital features of your subject and placing it on the lines and intersections of a tic-tac-toe style grid.
iPhones have these tic-tac-toe guidelines as a built-in setting. You just need to focus on taking a good shot.
To get visually stimulating photos, place the subject of your image a little off the center or you can keep the subject (fish) in the middle but have another fish in the background that is not centered.
Shoot in RAW
If you want to control the outcome during the post-processing and alter your photos’ exposure, shoot in RAW format.
RAW gives you manual control over your settings, and it is a feature introduced to the newer models of the iPhone.
However, if you do not have an updated iOS or newer iPhone, you will need a third-party app.
Taking manual control of settings such as the shutter speed, ISO, and white balance is beneficial when the camera does not get you the shot you need.
For instance, your camera will overcompensate for the darkness of aquariums by adding shadows to spoil the regular format of aquarium photos.
By selecting the settings you want yourself, you will have more control during editing. However, a disadvantage of RAW photos is their large file size compared to JPG pictures.
Hence, over time if all your aquarium shots are captured in RAW format, you will find yourself running out of storage.
Adjust White Balance
If you take photos in reefs or saltwater aquariums, white balance will be a significant problem. To correct this, use your phone’s auto white balance feature. In addition, you can manually change the white balance if you have a good reference point or object.
If you take pictures at wide angles, you have a higher chance of getting distortions, so capturing front-facing photos in aquariums is preferable.
By choosing an eye-to-eye camera angle, you can get even the most minor details of your aquatic life species.
In more enormous aquariums, you can shoot at the low-angle position to get the teeth and fins of larger fish.
If you do not use these tips to avoid distortion, you will have to edit your pictures, so the sides of the fish tank might look parallel.
Taking aquarium pictures for the first time and getting a perfect shot might be difficult as it can turn out very dark or blurry.
However, with the right equipment and by incorporating these tips, you can work with reflections, light, and other variables, you are good to go.
You have learned some usable aquarium photography tips on how to take fantastic pictures. Now, you don’t have to hesitate to take hundreds of images at a time; consistency and practice are the secrets of a great photographer.
The more the pictures, the more opportunities you have to get the perfect shot.
Alexis O. Walker is a freelance writer and editor who is experienced in aquarium management and fish species. Her passion for aquariums arose after spending a whole day looking at beautiful and fascinating aquarium fish, sparking her interest to study about them and learn about proper management and care. She also writes about travel, entrepreneurship, parenting, and self-help.