View Full Version : Advanced Techniques

Uncle Chip
07/14/2013, 01:47 PM
I am asking for advice not giving it so don't get too excited :lol:

I am a relativity advanced photographer (20 years experience and semi pro) so I am ok with all the still and close up stuff, everything would be in manual on a sturdy tripod,
I am wondering how you go on with photographing the fish, is it just hit and miss or is it more precise? I want a shallow DOF so getting the fish sharp is going to be challenging,
are you on a tripod waiting for the fish to come to you or are you freehand trying to follow the fish?

I have not tried this yet I am just thinking it through and getting advice first,

07/14/2013, 08:15 PM
I think using a tripod you would have to be incredibly patient or at least be pretty confident that you know that the fish is going to be there at some point (i.e. a clownfish hosting in an anemone). Otherwise, I think you'll have more luck shooting hand held. That way, you can move around with your camera and keep your lens parallel to the glass, which will maintain your ability to get a sharp image. You will obviously have way more misses than hits... however, if you shoot enough images, one will eventually be a hit. That is the way I see it anyway, especially with a shallow DOF. A prime lens may be a huge help here, as the speed of the lens will at least allow you to maximize FPS and get one that is exposed, focused, and framed the way you want it.

Most importantly, make sure to post pics here of your results!

07/14/2013, 08:29 PM
I like using off camera flashes. No need to keep a shallow DOF.

http://i133.photobucket.com/albums/q68/jllndmb/Reef/DSC_6384.jpg (http://s133.photobucket.com/user/jllndmb/media/Reef/DSC_6384.jpg.html)

07/14/2013, 08:54 PM
If you're looking for advanced techniques, you definitely want to use strobes. As with any other flash photography, you really want to get the flash off the camera. Using reflectors to bring the light in from above works well in addition with popping some light in from the side of the tank. Of course, if you want to keep the background mostly in shadow, using a reflector above the tank isn't such a good idea as it will illuminate the entire tank.

If you're shooting at your max sync speed (or faster if you're able to use high speed sync with your strobes), I like to ditch the tripod for more flexibility. That said, you're still going to want the fish in the right general area of the tank so your lighting plan works and you have control over the background.

Uncle Chip
07/17/2013, 09:19 AM
I had not got onto strobes :celeb1: as i didn't want to ask too much at once,
I have 3 580s and 2 430s all on pocket wizards full ettls, so these will sync at high speeds,
I still think a shallow dof will make the fish stand out better,

I will have play this weekend and see what I can do,

I have got a 5 foot slider that I could use, this means i could guarantee that the camera is kept parallel to the tank, then use a video head to pan vertically, set it up about 4 to 5 foot away from the tank use a longer lens, and in theory I would be able to track the fish without altering the distance or angle :spin2:

I will have a go hand held first :beer:

07/17/2013, 02:15 PM
Yeah, I like the freedom of hand-held when shooting fish. You're generally at a high enough shutter speed that I just don't think a tripod or even rails (unless you were shooting video) is going to add more than it takes away. Definitely play around with strobes, though. You definitely have all the equipment you need, and they can make for some very dynamic, punchy photos. Shallow depth of field is obviously very good for isolating your subject, but as I'm sure you've seen, proper use of strobes can bring that to a whole new level.

I didn't get a chance to experiment very much before I had to sell my tank, but I'm planning on setting up a new tank after my next move, and I definitely plan on doing a lot more aquarium photography with flash.

07/18/2013, 04:19 PM
As already mentioned, just use a flash and shoot hand held. Makes life a lot easier and the results are a lot better, will take some fiddling to get it just how you want it.

http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3741/8905476898_5cca10a86d_b.jpg (http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/8905476898/)
Female Yasha (http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/8905476898/) by --Aaron-- (http://www.flickr.com/people/[email protected]/), on Flickr

07/19/2013, 08:38 AM
Yea fish are ridiculous to photograph with shallow dof, especially tangs or fast swimmers. I did them free hand, no flash. Of about 100 shots, these were there were about 5 any good.



I have a sub question if thats ok, maybe you can help me out. How do you guys get such black backgrounds while maintaining good lighting on subject? I have lightroom 5 if that helps.

07/19/2013, 09:56 AM
Medium to low Aperture, and a flash helps. It also gives a better DOF.

07/22/2013, 11:04 AM
This is for those who are experienced in shooting fish with flash - and I've never shot in a tank with a flash so these are pretty basic questions.

1) How do you set up the shot - that is, where is the flash positioned in relation to the camera and the subject. I just can't imagine its off the shoe of the camera? How far away is the flash typically?

2) My camera (Canon T1i) does not do compensate for the flash in its exposure settings - is there any recommendation on exposure settings? What speed /aperture/ISO do you shoot at typcially?

3) What features should I be looking for in a flash (for aquarium photography)? Can you recommend a good flash for Canon.

thanks in advance!

07/29/2013, 01:13 PM
1) There are infinite possibilities for setting up flash. You can actually get away with a hotshoe flash in the camera's hot shoe. Not the most interesting lighting, but if the lens is nice and close to the glass, you should be OK with reflections. . .I'm pretty sure I've done this before with acceptable results, but the lighting is just uninteresting. With a single flash, just get a flash cable, and play around with different positions. I'll generally keep it level or higher than what I'm shooting and offset slightly to the left or right. You can even come in from the side of the tank for very contrasty lighting. Another option is to bounce the flash into the top of the tank off a reflector positioned over the tank. If you want to get more advanced, you can use multiple flashes.

2) If you're using flash, you can usually shoot pretty low ISO. Aperture really depends on the effect you're going for. At fast shutter speeds and low ISOs, you're the background is going to be underexposed, so the flash is isolating your subject, and you can shoot with a high f-number (often f/18 or higher) to ensure the entire fish is in focus. Keep in mind that when shooting macro you have a relatively shallow depth of field. Lastly, your camera does factor the flash into your exposure. It uses a system called Evaluative Through the Lens (E-TTL). When using flash as my primary light source, I will either use manual exposure and let the camera/flash combination take care of the proper exposure, or shoot with both the camera and the flash(es) in manual. The latter takes some trial and error, since my hand-held light meter isn't exactly waterproof.

3) For flash in general, the big things you're looking for are power and control of your lighting. I'd definitely look for a flash that allows manually setting the flash power as well as automatic modes that allow you to set a Flash Exposure Compensation (FEC). As far as value, Canon's 430EX is a very good flash. Certainly not the most powerful, but should be plenty for most aquariums, and it allows full manual control. A step up from that is the 580EX, which is much more powerful and also allows IR control of other Canon flashes (like the 430EX). There's also a newer model (I forget the model #) that I believe has a radio transmitter instead of IR. You can also go with third party flashes to save some money. In the end, light is light, but you may loose E-TTL. Many will still have TTL, which is a less precise version of E-TTL. Don't be afraid to spend some money on a good flash, though. It's one of the most overlooked assets by new photographers, and when used properly, can do far more good for your photography than most other accessories (including lenses in many ways).

07/29/2013, 10:30 PM
great info - thanks!

08/07/2013, 04:36 PM
I just shoot with whatever is in the bag; all handheld and uncropped.

Without flash and tweaking with ISO/SS/aperture.




What happens when you're stuck at a public aquarium and forget your macro? Stick a 50mm f/1.4D on there and shoot with a flash on the hotshoe.


Or if you remembered to bring both a macro and a flash, shoot with any combo.



08/08/2013, 02:04 PM
Wow those are sharp

08/08/2013, 07:30 PM
@ebn - would you mind sharing your camera settings. those shots are amazing w/o a flash!

08/08/2013, 07:34 PM
+1^ what he said lol

08/09/2013, 03:34 PM
Handheld for me too. Much too much movement for a tripod.
High iso, relatively high shutter speed, and wide aperture. No flash.
I try to move the focus point around as I go to get the eyes in focus.





08/11/2013, 11:07 PM
EXIF data is still intact on those images, but for those who don't have a plugin to see those, here are the settings for the non-flash images.

Blue-spotted Jawfish
f/11, SS: 1/50 sec, ISO 200

f/5.6, SS 1/60, ISO 400

Dispar anthias
f/5.6, SS 1/125, ISO 400

Purple queen anthias
f/4, SS 1/100, ISO 400