Tropical Fresh Water
Cold Fresh Water
Cold Water Marines
Reptiles & Amphibians
best and most versatile option for most non-specialist
photography is the digital S.L.R camera because it offers
full manual control of all the cameras settings and has
interchangeable lenses for different typed of photography
Point and shoot cameras are generally configured to take good snap shots and tend not to work very well for specialised fish photography. It is possible to take the odd good shot with practice but expect a lot of rejects with this type of camera. Prosumer cameras are an intermediate between the two and usually capable of taking good shots of fish with a little practice from the photographer.
Is difficult, this is because a
particular set of problems faced when photographing fish.
Typical Prosumer Camera Functions
Focus Mode Button:
Selects either manual focus or auto focus.
A fast shutter speed will stop or
freeze movement and a slow one will result in a blurred
photo. The very short exposure time of a fast shutter will
freeze movement and give a sharp image of a moving subject.
The shutter speed required to achieve this depends on three
things: The speed of the moving subject, the distance
between the camera and the subject, and the angle of
movement to the camera.
Shutter speeds to freeze slow moving
subjects at 5 metres or less
A fully automatic camera will compensate for the lack of light by increasing the exposure time (slowing the shutter) which often leads to the backdrop being perfectly in focus but the fish which is the main subject will be blurred this is why S.L.R cameras make things a lot easier. But don't forget the faster the shutter speed the more light is needed, simply increasing the shutter speed without sufficient light will only darken the image.
The aperture size or focal length describes how much of the scene from front to back is in focus, and is measured using the f # the greater the f # the greater the focal length which in simple terms means that a low f # will focus only on the subject the area in front and behind the subject will be out of focus as seen in the example below.
Short focal length Long
focal length: At f 2.8 the subject is in sharp
focus whilst everything else is out of focus but at f 8
Using a higher focal length makes it
far easier to ensure that a moving subject is in focus but
when the subject is a particular fish a busy background will
tend to make the subject blend in and just as with the
shutter speed a longer focal length requires more light.
A.S.A or I.S.O:
This goes back to the days of film and the number relates to the speed of the film. Fast films (with a higher A.S.A or I.S.O number) can be used in low light levels because they react to light faster and so need less time of exposure but the final result will be a photo which is grainy in appearance and will have more colour noise. Most digital S.L.R cameras still retain this feature even though they don't use film. This allows us to take photos in low light with a reasonably fast shutter speed and a good depth of field which is ideal if you don't have a flash gun and you want to photograph some active fish. The down side is that the higher the A.S.A number the more the final image will be grainy.
Using the Macro lens allows extreme close ups which is useful when the subject is a fish like a small Tetra and a detailed shot is required. Most modern cameras have this facility and some of the newer ones can be placed as near as an inch from the subject. This can also be useful for aquatic plant identification and fish disease identification. To use this facility usually requires no more than pressing a button and taking the photo in the normal way albeit a little closer than normal.
A very common error and one which mars some otherwise excellent photos. Easily avoided by cleaning the glass both inside and out but do it at least an hour before taking the photos in-order to allow the fish to settle back down. In some cases the photo can be saved using an image editor and a lot of fiddly work.
Under Exposed & Over Exposed:
Unless you are an adept photographer
or you have lots of experience then getting just the right
exposure can be a matter of trial and error. Set the shutter
speed to around 1/250 sec or even 1/125 sec if the fish are
well settled and take a photo if it is over exposed change f
2.8 to the next level up and try again until the right
exposure is achieved.
Motion blur is caused by the shutter
speed being to slow which in turn is caused by insufficient
light. This means the shutter stays open longer and if
anything moves it will register as a blur on the photo as
shown in the example. This is one of the most common of all
Out of Focus:
Even with the choice of auto or
manual focus digital cameras are more difficult to focus
than their film counterparts. One problem is that it takes
quite a long time for the auto focus to actually do its job
and quite often the fish has moved in the time it takes, if
you are lucky it will only have moved a few inches and will
still be reasonably close to where it was and a satisfactory
photo will result.
If the camera moves when the shutter speed is less than 1/60 sec then the image will show some ghosting around all the outlines, this is worse if the subject is further away from the camera. Once the shutter speed is 1/125 sec the problem disappears. In low light situations where the shutter speed can't be increased, the use of a tripod will solve the problem. This is another mistake which usually can't be corrected afterwards.
Incorrect White Balance:
Most cameras have quite a few
settings for white balance, there is usually an auto setting
which can be used most of the time but it isn't perfect. It
is a lot better to select the appropriate setting for the
photo that you are taking.
This is almost inevitable when using a digital camera with fish, the solution is to take lots of photos (no film to waste) and the majority of them will be usable. The odd failure doesn't matter. Nothing can be done to improve the photo if the fish has it's back to you.
Another very common mistake, at first it can seem almost unavoidable but if the camera is angled slightly to the tank instead of being at 90° the flash reflection will be greatly reduced or moved away from the subject to allow the photo to be cropped. If you intend to use a separate flashgun use one which has tilt and turn so that the camera can be used at any angle and the flash itself can be slightly turned away from the subject. Again this error can be corrected provided the reflection isn't over the subject.
However good the photo is
technically if the subject is poor so will the finished
photo be. The only solution is to be a little choosey about
which subjects you take pictures of. The photo in the
example was taken in a fish shop and if you look closely you
will notice it has White spot, it's emaciated, pelvic fins
are almost missing and in truth the fish is probably close
to death. I recently saw a Yellow Tang in a similar physical
condition and ironically it had just won a photo contest.
Which goes to prove that there is no accounting for taste.
A good flashgun is almost an essential if you are going to take a lot of fish photos. You will get away without a flashgun if you are photographing a settled, slow moving marine fish in a very brightly lit marine tank without a flash but no flash will severely limit your options. Having one with tilt and turn will help to avoid flash reflections. Unfortunately external flashguns don't work on auto with most prosumer digital cameras but the controls on the back are self explanatory and even using trial and error good photos are soon possible. A dedicated external flashgun used on a true DSLR camera is the ideal choice. Regardless of what you may have been told, flashguns do not scare or harm the fish. I have taken the majority of the photos in this gallery section and I can only recall one single fish even reacting to the flash and that was a goatfish which had been imported on that particular day and so was quite nervous to begin with. A few days later that fish too ignored the flash.
Although not essential they can make life easier when waiting for a fish to come into view, and they will eliminate camera shake when slower shutter speeds are used or if you are stood back from the subject. Most tripods have a built in level so that the camera will be level when taking photos even if the terrain is quite rough and uneven.
Almost an essential thing to have. Even learning the basics will allow you to drastically improve the photos that you have taken and rescue some otherwise useless ones. A good image editor is like having your own digital dark room, common tasks like adjusting the exposure, resizing, blemish removal, cropping are all useful and among the most simple things to learn. More advanced features take a little longer to learn but once you have learned a few tricks your only limitation is your imagination.
Photoshop is the image editor which sets all the standards but it is the most difficult to learn with and it costs in excess of £500. But there are cut down versions available - Photoshop Elements, which lack some of the professional features but still retains all the features that a home user would ever need and it is priced more realistically, some new camera packages even bundle a photo editor free.
The best way to find out what works and what doesn't is to experiment, that is the beauty of digital you get instant results and there is no film to waste. Experiment with the various settings make a note of any changes and with experience your photos will improve. And just because someone else's photos always look perfect doesn't mean that they are, it simply means that the ones you get to see are!!!